The Exbury Gardens
Exbury was purchased in 1918 by the late Lionel de Rothschild and by the time of his death in 1942 he had made the beautifully wooded tract into the famous Exbury Gardens. Although there are many varieties of trees and shrubs in the garden rhododendrons predominate and without monotony. The garden comprises many acres with the main roads macadamized. Numerous trails lead off the main roads to many large plantings of beautiful rhododendrons.
The rhododendron stud book is liberally sprinkled with Exbury hybrids. To many enthusiasts the name Exbury is justly synonymous with quality rhododendrons. The wide range of color in these hybrids as well as the many different habits of growth and blooming periods are a tribute to the skill of the gardens creator. These hybrids are as eagerly sought for in Great Britain as in the United States.
The first rhododendron seen in flower on a visit in late April was R. 'Carmen', didymum x repens ). This is a dwarf plant not over a foot tall and two feet across and was literally covered with blood red bells. Nearby was R. 'May Day' ( haematodes x griersonianum ) used as a border or edging plant in full bloom with striking bright scarlet flowers. This variety was still in good flower when the garden was again visited nearly a month later. R. 'Fortune' ( falconeri x sinogrande ) a good yellow with magnificent foliage had been seen in the rhododendron show at Vincent square where it won the Loder Challenge Cup as the best hybrid in the show. This honor was justly won but its true magnificence was seen in the garden where it seemed to rule the rest in stately, regal splendor. R. 'Gypsy King' was a very good red with good foliage and tight conical truss. Other reds that rank highly amongst the Exbury hybrids would include R. 'Grenadier', R. 'Romany Chal', R. 'Fusilier', R. 'Bibiani', R. 'Adelaide', R. 'Chanticleer', R. 'Gypsy King' and R. 'Gaul'.
R. augustinii , chasmanthum , davidsonianum and yunnanense were liberally used in the garden with very good effect. These easy growing, floriferous species can and should be much more used in our own gardens. They serve a dual purpose for they can be enjoyed indoors as cut flowers as well as on the plants in the garden. This cutting does not materially effect the amount of blooms for the following year. Mention must be made of R. 'Eleanore' ( desquamatum x augustinii ) a very free flowering hybrid. It flowers at an early age and its mauve and blue flowers appear almost a month ahead of R. augustinii . R. 'Electra' ( augustinii x chasmanthum ) must also be mentioned with this group since it is possibly a better blue than either of its parents.
One of the outstanding achievements at Exbury are the 'Lady Chamberlains' and 'Lady Roseberrys'. They are planted on both sides of a walk and have grown to some ten feet in height. To trod down this walk and look up into thousands upon thousands of hanging orange to terracotta and pink Lapageria like flowers was a treat never to be forgotten.
Another outstanding achievement must include R. 'Naomi' ('Aurora' x fortunei ) in all its named forms. They all have good foliage with a neat compact habit of growth. The flower, are quite large in good trusses in various shades of pink shaded from cream to biscuit. They are also scented, and will prove themselves to be very valuable garden plants.
Another visit to Exbury on the 19th and 20th of May found many of the later blooming hybrids in flower. R. 'Lady Bessborough' ( discolor x campylocarpum ) in the F. C. C. variety has rich cream flowers of good size with a reddish marking at the base. The variety 'Roberta', equally as good has pale pink flowers. R. 'Lady Bessborough' crossed with R. wardii produced R. 'Hawk'. The best plant of this has saucer shaped rich yellow flowers in a good truss. It flowers at a fairly early age and makes a compact ideally formed plant. 'Lady Bessborough' when crossed with griersonianum produce 'Day Dream'. There were five or six of these a bit different one from the other equally as good as the plant which received the A.M. The flowers are quite large and open a reddish biscuit and slowly turn to real biscuit yellow. R. 'Idealist' ('Naomi' x wardii ) with pale cream flowers in graceful trusses on well shaped compact bushes and R. 'Carita' ('Naomi' x campylocarpum ) with about the same habit but pale lemon flowers will be valuable as good garden plants.
R. 'Mariloo' ( lacteum x 'Dr. Stocker') unfortunately were not in flower but everyone who has seen it says it is very good. There are two forms as yet labeled A and B. The A plant has a huge branch of funnel shaped flowers in a good truss of pure yellow. The B plant has extra large perfect shaped trusses of good quality in pale yellow with a large dark blotch at the base of the lobes.
The late May and early June flowering hybrids of course were not seen but I will mention a few that are highly recommended. These are not mentioned in sequence of preference but include R. 'Sir Frederick Moore', R. 'Ivanhoe', R. 'Bonito', R. 'Kingcup', and R. 'Angelo' to name but a few.
There were many, many other good Exbury hybrids and this article undoubtedly has omitted many which will rank as highly as those mentioned. Suffice it to say that a selected Exbury hybrid can be considered as a seal of excellence and quality.
In closing this article mention must be made of the deciduous Exbury azaleas. This race of azalea hybrids excels all others in every respect. Even the poorest of the seedlings that were seen coming into flower for the first time are probably better than many of the named hybrids we know today.