Exbury Gardens, one of the UK’s finest woodland gardens famed for its colourful rhododendrons, will be marking its centenary this year with a series of special events including the opening of a new ‘secret’ garden and a showcase display at the world’s leading flower show, RHS Chelsea.
Created by Lionel de Rothschild in 1919, a passionate collector of plants and a keen supporter and sponsor of the early 20th century plant hunters, Exbury has grown to become a stunning garden paradise filled with rare plants, shrubs and trees. Thanks to its unrivalled collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, it is famed for its riot of spring colour, as well as a vast array of beautiful, mature rare trees. Over recent years the Hampshire garden has been expanded for all-season interest with areas designed to show off summer and autumn ‘flower power’, as well as an extension of its 1 ½-mile Rhododendron Line steam railway.
Visitors will get their first glimpse of a ‘secret’ centenary garden designed by Lionel’s great grand-daughter and RHS gold medal award-winning designer, Marie-Louise Agius. This was planted within Exbury Gardens in 2017 and has been carefully hidden from public view, whilst it grows and matures, for an official launch in summer 2019. Contemporary in style, it contains subtle nods to the family history and has been planted with a particular focus on late summer. The Centenary Garden will be unveiled and accessible to visitors when the gardens open for the season on 23 March 2019.
A stream of spring bulbs – 100,000 yellow and blue (Rothschild family colours) bulbs have been planted in the lawns, weaving around rare trees near Exbury House, to give a centenary colour burst including daffodils, crocus and bluebells.
Exbury’s famous rhododendrons will be showcased in the Great Pavilion at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2019 in a collaboration with experts Millais Nurseries. Exbury and Millais have been working together to conserve some of the more rare and threatened hybrid rhododendrons in their collection. The display will aim to evoke the ‘spirit’ of Exbury Gardens.
An official book on the history of Exbury Gardens will be published outlining the extraordinary story behind this garden which was originally created over just 20 years before the outbreak of WW2. Visitors will also get the chance to learn about the history in a special exhibition at Exbury.
Thomas Clarke, head gardener at Exbury, said: “The 1920s were the golden age of woodland gardening and Exbury, under the careful eye of Lionel de Rothschild and his staff, was at the cutting edge of this movement. The location, climate, existing oak woodland and acid soil all allowed for the creation of one of the finest gardens of its kind in the UK. Combine this with the legacy of the great plant hunters, and the extensive plant breeding programme at Exbury, and we are fortunate enough to have inherited a truly wonderful garden packed full of horticultural treasures.
“The centenary year will see some fantastic new projects unveiled plus a continued focus on our work to conserve and develop the plants and landscape at Exbury for the next 100 years.”
Exbury Gardens, located in the New Forest near Southampton, will open daily from 23 March – 3 November 2019 10am – 5.30pm. Adult tickets £12.50, children (3-15yrs) £4, under 3s are free and a family ticket is £29. Full information at www.exbury.co.uk