We’ve been away from the Garden of Eden for a short time, visiting friends in The South. It was our first four night break since last May and was a welcome recharge, especially as visits to The Hillier Arboretum and Exbury Gardens were on the agenda, as well as three garden open under the National garden Scheme. I’ve visited the former many times, indeed I used to live within walking distance, and still have a Myrtle I bought there in about 1989, but had never been to Exbury. It was such a treat, to visit in perfect weather and with the camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas just coming into their full glory. At Hilliers it was the glorious magnolias that were the stars of the garden. This crazy season has delayed the blooms until the frosts seem to be over, and the flowers were abundant and perfect. This is the silver lining after the severity of the winter and the wetness of last summer, a blessing for the patiently waiting.
Now we live on neutral soil and have several rhododendrons and azaleas just budding, I looked with renewed interest at the shapes and forms of the flowers and shrubs, as well as the colours. I found myself drawn to the smaller forms of rhododendron, but have yet to find a magnolia I don’t like! I discovered a couple of magnolias I would cheerfully grow, although I may need to save hard for both and plant a shelter belt! I enjoyed seeing the massed azaleas in both gardens but on reflection, I prefer the smaller rhododendrons to the vivid azaleas.
The camellias were stunning. The beauty of the flower form is almost as if it were carved from wax and I understand how it would be easy to lose your heart to a collection of camellias. I am almost glad my garden is a little too exposed for them, as I have no idea which would be my favourites, there are so many beautiful forms. I would cheerfully grow any of these in my garden