Exbury Gardens in the New Forest are beautiful throughout the year, and are particularly renowned for their spring displays of rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias and azaleas. This year however is shaping up to be very special, with fewer than usual heavy frosts in March meaning many plants are decked from head to toe in bloom. And it is the colour pink that is providing much of the wow factor at the moment, with camellias, magnolias and cherries all at their best.
Exbury Head Gardener John Anderson is delighted with the display: ‘A mild spring is good news for the Gardens and the early flowering plants. The magnificent Magnolia campbellii are in full bloom in the Home Wood and Witchers Wood. There is arguably no better sight at this time of year than its huge pink blooms standing out against a blue sky. We have some of the tallest specimens in the country, some under planted with Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and its pink blooms. For many visitors this vision of pink is an unexpected treat on their woodland walk. But our flowering cherries will also be in bloom for the Easter holidays, as will thousands of pink, red and white camellias on our three Camellia Walks.’
But if pink is literally at ‘the top of the tree’, then ‘yellow’ is also making a big splash underneath, with the floor of Exbury’s woodland a carpet of primroses and daffodils. ‘Prima rosa’ means ‘the first flower’ and Exbury can boast one of the finest displays of primroses in the south. Jubilee Hill in the Yard Wood has a carpet of primroses which run down to a bubbling stream, with mighty oak trees standing like giants punctuating the display. ‘This area of the Gardens is very different to the remainder of Exbury as there are fewer rhododendron and azalea plantings, and the spring woodland garden feel is accentuated’ says John. ‘It is arguably looking at its best now.’
Exbury’s renowned Daffodil Meadow is also beginning to flower, and with 6000 additional bulbs planted over the winter (and a further 6000 bulbs to be planted annually until the Gardens centenary in 2019) it is another spring highlight. John notes: ‘Visitors love to get close to the Daffodils, and the sea of yellow with the Beaulieu River backdrop provides a wonderful photographic opportunity.’
John’s must-see tips for Easter include the giant Rhododendron macabeanum flowering in the Winter Garden with its magnificent dark-green leaves, up to 30cm in length and large bell-shaped flowers; Rhododendron ‘Red Admiral’ flowering in Home Wood; the dark red camellia ‘Bob Hope’; pink camellias ‘Debutante’ and ‘Anemone Falls’; white camellias ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Masterpiece’ and Magnolia ‘Apollo’ flowering near the entrance. ‘One of the beauties of Exbury is that you don’t have to walk too far to find something of great interest’ said John. ‘We also have buggies that can take visitors to see the best of the early spring colour, not forgetting the Steam Railway that will be running with a special Easter Bunny theme from Good Friday through to Easter Monday.’
‘My last top tip is to see the Exbury Lachenalia Collection in the Five Arrows Gallery. Easter Monday is the last day to see what is arguably the finest display of its type in the country, a collection assembled and nurtured by Gardens President Nicholas de Rothschild.’
Keep up-to-date with Exbury’s flowering conditions and John Anderson’s Head Gardener’s page by visiting the website www.exbury.co.uk, where weekly flowering images are uploaded.