Although we open to day visitors on 1st April, there are a good many people wandering around the gardens already. They’re mainly our garden group members, alerted last week that the incredible Magnolia Cambellii x Robusta was in flower, and savvy season ticket holders who walk the gardens year round.
The best things to see now are on the path to the walled garden (which is still taking its time to wake up to spring) and on the Front Drive leading into Peep-In.
The absolute star of the garden is the outrageously, awesomely beautiful Cambellii. Sadly the lawn around it is thick with its waxy petals. Having wowed the crowds (well – up to six people at a time) for two weeks, it is now on its way out. The Magnolia Stellata opposite on the edge of the avenues is about to break and other Magnolias scattered through the Avenues are already heavy with blossom.
On the same path, Camellias Alba Plena, Donation and Adolph Addison are gearing up for a major show, with a backdrop of contrasting Rhododendrons already in vibrant colour. Look out for Rhododendron Sheldonii – these vibrantly red varieties are just beginning to flower and should be stunners for a couple of weeks to come.
Further south, there’s a pretty Prunus Okame in flower, with hellibores and daffodils sprinkled around it in the grass – an idyllic little woodland tableau on a more delicate scale than the flamboyant Rhodies.
The Front Drive is more a series of competent soloists rather than the full orchestra at present, although bristling buds indicate that is soon to change. Rhododendron Arboreum, and others, are beginning to bloom high in the trees where they get the most sunlight.
In Peep-In, the herbaceous border leading to the fallen woman is a mass of lovely hellibores, blue lungwort and young Rhododendrons in delicate white flower.
When you reach the fallen woman, established Rhodies in yellow, cream, white, pastel pink and near red beckon through the leafless trees. My camera does not even begin to capture the magic of enticing glimpses of colour drawing one ever deeper into the wood.
It’s just a week until we open to day visitors. They have a real treat in store for them!