The Furzey Gardens Charitable Trust owns eight acres of peaceful gardens in the New Forest village of Minstead. The gardens offer woodland walks, interesting planting and lovely views across to the Isle of Wight. There is also an art gallery and a tea room.
The informal woodland gardens were first planted in 1922 and they now house an extensive collection of plants, including many rare varieties.
Notable plants include the azaleas which put on a great show of colour in May and the rare and early flowering moupinense rhododendron which delights visitors in February and March. The Chilean Fire Trees (Embothrium Coccineum) brighten up the garden with their flame coloured flowers in the summer months.
Many of the trees and shrubs have been selected because of their fine autumnal colours, especially the Amelanchier, Disanthus, Enkianthus, Hamamelis, Liquid Amber, Parrotia, Sorbtts and Sargentiana. Plants chosen for their fragrance include Viburnum Carlcephalum, Rhododendron Luteum and Osmanthus.
The lake is a peaceful feature at the bottom of the gardens. It is stocked with plenty of fish including Golden Rudd, Golden Orfe, Mirror Carp and Roach. In spring you may be lucky enough to see ducklings dabbling in the reeds.
All around the grounds are 30 little fairy doors to find and explore and there are also tree houses and wooden walkways for children to have fun on. A crawl tunnel, swings and an old boat all add to the magic.
The Forest Cottage
The Forest Cottage at the top of the gardens is thought to have been built in 1560 with timbers from the Tudor boatyards at Lymington. The floorboards of this attractive building were once ship decking.
Visitors are welcome to look inside and upstairs in the cottage is a storytelling room which parents are able to use.
The cottage gardens are formal in style and many vegetables are grown in the plot. The formality of the garden contrasts with more informal planting elsewhere.
Thatch plays a large part at Furzey – there’s nearly 1000 square metres of it! The Cobb cottage and gallery are thatched with wheat reed, Furzey House with freshwater reed and the round shelter near the lake is lined with heather. The Thatching Experience next to the gardens shows how thatched roofs are created and sometimes there are also demonstrations from master thatcher Simon Sinkinson of this ancient art.
The Minstead Training Project
The Trust has a sister charity, the Minstead Training Project, which provides residential care and horticultural training to young people with learning difficulties. Students often work in the gardens and nursery, and plants raised by them can be bought in the Nursery Shop. Money from entry fees goes towards this worthwhile project.
Furzey Gardens Show Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2012