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The Garden through the Seasons

Our garden through the seasons

The Botanic Garden is a great place to explore at any time of the year, a brisk walk on a mid-winter afternoon when the sun is setting or a sit in the shade in the summer when the garden is alive with the sound of excited children and singing birds. Getting to know the garden and see the transition of one year to the next is a real pleasure.

Winter/Spring

The woodland garden is the home to one of the earliest flowering shrubs we have, Rhododendron dauricum 'Mid-winter', which can flower as early as December. Snowdrops (Galanthus sp) are the first sign that Spring is on its way, and we have a lovely bank side smothered in them by the winter garden. Here you might not notice the tiny flowers of the Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa) but you will certainly enjoy its perfume in late winter. Another notable scent, vanilla, at this time of year comes from the tiny insignificant flowers on the underside of the branches of Azara microphylla next to the monkey puzzle.

We have several birch trees with attractive peeling bark in the Oriental collection and Woodland garden. The West Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) along the streamside in our Himalayan dell are particularly stunning. From here you can walk through the gate into our green and leafy Bamboo grove, look out for the Terracotta warrior. Here, the bright stems of dog woods (Cornus sp) set against evergreens such the Oregon Grape 'Charity' (Mahonia × media 'Charity') with its racemes of fragrant yellow flowers are a real joy. By the steps leading up from here you sit and enjoy the heady scent of one of our most highly scented plant in the garden, Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'.

Our bird hide is an interesting place to observe our other winter visitors, such as the Great Spotted Woodpecker and occasional rarer visitors such as Goldcrest. At this time of the year our flock of rare breed sheep graze our meadows in the garden, making way for a wonderful display of wildflowers in warmer months to come again….

By March there are swathes of daffodils and our display pots of tulips and other spring bulbs are a blaze of colour. The Japanese Cherries in the Sakura Friendship garden are normally in flower mid-April, a particularly nice time of year in the garden (the main cherry circle was re-planted Winter 2017 due to disease and may take a few years to return to its full glory, at the same time we improved paths and surfaces in this area). By May the woodland garden is in full swing with Trillium, Dodecatheon and Leucojum, but the real show is in the local Bluebell woods which are just next to the Botanic Garden and well worth a visit.

Summer/Autumn

June sees the Rhododendrons around our grand old monkey puzzle come into flower and summer has certainly arrived. The Giant Himalayan cowslips and Candelabra primula’s in the pond and woodland garden give an outstanding display. The cornfield annual border is at its best too, with Corn Poppy, Corn Flower, Corn Marigold, Corn Cockle and Corn Chamomile giving a vibrant show and buzzing with insects.Time to sit on the terrace in front of the Visitor Centre or find a quiet seat in the garden and just enjoy being outside. The first tints of Autumn start to show in late September, one of the highlight being the sweet sugary smell of the Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) as it turns golden yellow.

Autumn colour can last well into November and is particularly good in the Oriental collection and the North American Arboretum. As the leaves fall they often reveal some surprisingly colourful bark. The Tibetan cherry (Prunus serrula) in our Oriental collection has shining coppery-brown bark, often polished with beeswax by Victorian gardeners. Close by you will also see our Snake bark maple (Acer grosseri var. hersii) next to the "vessels of life" sculpture. In the woodland garden there is another interesting maple, the Japanese coral-bark maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku') and the corkscrew hazel or Harry Lauder's walking stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') with its twisting and gnarled branches.