QBARS - v24n1 A Trip to Some Famous English Gardens

A Trip to Some Famous English Gardens
John D. Johnston, Asheville, N.C.

Exbury was the high spot of our garden explorations in England this spring. Mrs. Lionel de Rothschild and Major Edmund de Rothschild gave us a cordial welcome, and posed for an historic photo in front of R. yakushimanum and the F.C.C. plant of R. 'Crest', both in glorious bloom (FIG.6). This R. yakushimanum is one of the original two imported by Mr. Lionel, the other being an F.C.C. plant at Wisley.

Mrs. Lionel de Rothschild and Major Edmund de Rothschild
Fig.6.  Mrs. Lionel de Rothschild and Major Edmund de
Rothschild in front of R. 'Crest' F.C.C. and R.
Photo by J.D. Johnston .

They escorted us around the garden, pointing out many lovely Exbury crossings. Mrs. Lionel remembered many details about each crossing and the excitement as they were brought to bloom and then named, perhaps for some member of the family. We felt that she knew each plant personally. She pointed out a Rhododendron that has survived a German incendiary bomb, and a particularly fine R. falconeri . The gardens were a blaze of beauty with their twenty seven miles of paths wandering through wooded areas and lakes. The Naomis were especially beautiful. with blossoms of every shade and hue. We were interested too, in the layering of such plants as R. 'Oxydol,' R. 'Crest', and R. 'May Day'.

Mr. F.P. Knight
Fig. 7.  Mr. F. P. Knight beside a fine plant of R. 'Lang-
worth' at Wisley. Photo by J.D. Johnston

The Royal Horticultural Society's Gardens at Wisley (FIG.7) is unique in that, in the trial grounds, each plant is an award winner. Mr. Frank Knight, Director, pointed with pride to a large R. 'Mrs. Furnival', F.C.C. of 1934, that was a solid mass of color. We were impressed by R. 'Pink Cherub' (a cross of R. yakushimanum and R. 'Doncaster') R. 'Constant Nymph' (Mr. Knight's own cross) and R. 'Rickshaw'

R. 'The Master' at Charles Hill Nursery
Fig. 8.  R. 'The Master' at Charles
Hill Nursery
Photo by J.D. Johnston

Several months before, when planning a tour of rhododendron gardens, Mr. Knight had furnished us with a list of gardens, and we set out after the Chelsea Flower Show on May 22nd for the southwest of England. The nurseries were near London: Waterer's at Bagshot, Knaphill, where Mr. Waterer showed his R. 'Constant Nymph'; and the original R. catawbiense which came from our North Carolina mountains; Charles Hill Nursery, where Mr. Mogridge was justifiably proud of their R. 'The Master' (FIG. 8) and R. Olga'. The exquisite R. 'Goldsworth Pink' was just back from the Chelsea Show, and so large it required seven men to move it.

Savill Garden had a natural setting of woods and lakes for displaying its large collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. The Loderis at Leonardslee were spectacular; especially R. 'Loder's White' with a huge blue R. augustinii for contrast. The great size and the abundant bloom of the Loderis, and the informal planting around the house make it an unforgettable picture In Killerton Garden we saw the largest R. 'Cynthia' and R. 'Roseum Elegans' of all. Mr. Jack Lilly at Trelissisk was pleased to show his fine R. 'Beauty of Littleworth' and a fragrant R. 'Coronation Day'.

Trengwainton will always be remembered for a spectacular R. falconeri at least thirty feet high and twenty five feet in diameter that was in full bloom. There were also many species similar to R. sinogrande , and with outstanding indumentum. The lovely classical garden of Stourhead with its lake temple, and grotto was enhanced by many large Loderis (especially R. 'Loderi King George'), R. elliottii , and R. cinnabarinum . A R. arboreum was an unbelievable forty feet high and ninety yards in circumference. We thought Kew Gardens and Richmond Park had an unusually fine display of Azaleas at this time. The Welsh Bodnant with its rugged mountains, rushing streams, and tall trees was the antithesis of a quiet English garden, but the rhododendrons and azaleas were equally at home in both. We were pleased to see plantings of rhododendrons in the small front yards of houses all over England wherever there was a space.

These gardens were all that our time allowed, but then, hopefully, there's always another trip.