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Seasonal Walk: August

High summer in the garden is about enjoying the outdoors, but on the way through the glasshouses visit Senna corymbosa (1) with its rich yellow flowers and medicinal links. Continue through the double doors onto the terrace. Turn right past the bedding, tropical and cacti displays and left again past the parrots walking down into the Alpine yard where the blue flowers of Echinops ritro (the globe thistle) (2) dominate the centre of the limestone rock garden.

Continue down the slope and walk out onto the large lower lawn. Under the cedar is a bed containing the rich velvety red flowers of Lobelia tupa (3) all the way from South America. Walk along the front of the Herbaceous border with its good displays of Clematis and anemones, besides the steps in the middle of the border are stands of Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’ (4) with their multi purpose colourful, scented and insect attracting flowers. From here either walk up the steps back to the edge of the main lawn, or proceed to the end of the border and exit the lawn by the fountain and turn left walking back up hill for 30 metres to see Belamcanda chinensis (5) an unusual yellow flowered iris relative in the Chinese Pinetum bed.

From here walk down to the fountain area and turn right down the slope and left at the foot of the slope onto the long straight Cameron Way, there will be something to see on the scree bed beside the rock garden, but don’t forget to look towards the tennis courts, beside which is a patch of Eucomis comosa (6) with its pineapple-shaped flower spike – a most unusual but hardy bulb. Don’t miss the vegetable amphitheatre on the right at the foot of Cameron walk behind the willow screen before you turn left past the nursery gates and then right again into the grass and trials gardens. There is a wealth of late summer flower power in this are including dahlias, Echinacea and Monada ‘Beauty of Cobham’ (7) well-named with its profusion of long-lasting pink mint-like flowers.

You could then measure your height next to the sunflowers in the Growing schools garden in the far corner of the site before returning up Wilson walk towards the fountain. On your right is a large shrub with white flowers like candles on tiered branches. This is one of the American buckeyes, Aesculus parviflora (8), which is a little planted but very useful late summer flowering large shrub. Other gems in the area include the white-flowered oak-leaved hydrangea, Eucryphia glutinosa and the Indian bean tree Catalpa bignonioides. At the fountain turn sharp right and walk up alongside the main lawn, from here you will be looking down onto the American bank for a better view of several of these plants.

Don’t miss the fuchsias and roses around the Lawn Aviary on te way back to the terrace for a well earned cup of tea and cake – or an ice-cream!

The guide book, tree guide and a range of interpretation sheets can be viewed in the front entrance and are available for purchase from Reception.

Seasonal Walk: May

Spring in full swing!  It has been a glorious start to spring with the magnificent magnolias in bloom and the unusually dry April has encouraged later flowering bulbs and shrubs to bloom earlier, making for a very interesting May.

Beginning in the sub-tropical house on the right hand side of the steps is Crinum pedunculatum (1) this mammoth lily-like plant can reach up to 3 metres in height and spread and is grown as street planting in Australia.  Turn right making your way through the Mediterranean House, taking a moment to take in the sights and aromas before heading into the Arid House where you will see the glorious tree-like Opuntia elatior (2) with its red flowers which is around 50 years old.  Then from the end of the terrace, turn left and head down Douglas Way, just before the fountain on the right in the Chinese Pinetum you will come across Kolkwitzia amabilis ‘Pink Cloud’ (3) and with its delicate dusky pink flowers you can see why it is commonly known as the beauty bush.

From the fountain take Wilson Walk that runs above the rock garden.  On the right is the amazing handkerchief tree with its long white bracts and on the left in the American Bank is Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ (4) with its cascading branches of flowers surrounded by large white showy bracts.  Follow the path to end of Wilson Walk bearing left and you will be in the Grass Garden where there is a swathe of bearded Iris ‘Godfrey Owen’ (5) positioned in full sun, ensuring the rhizomes get the good bake that they need to flower well.

From the Grass Garden head back the way you came in and turn left to see the riot of colour that is the Azalea Walk.  Rhododendron ‘Golden Eagle’, (6) which has brilliant, vivid red-orange flowers, is on the corner of the bed closet to Wilson Walk.  With almost every colour imaginable, we have an array of azaleas to suit all tastes and don’t forget to breathe in the heady scent as well!

Head back up the garden now either along Cameron Path or Farrer Walk until you come to the end of the rock garden and back up towards the fountain.  Take Jekyll Walk path on the left and walk along the west lawn to see the Herbaceous Border.  On the left of the steps are Astrantia ‘Hadspen Blood’ (7), and as the cultivar name suggests it is a sultry dark red colour.

You are almost at the end of the tour so continue to the end of the West Lawn and follow the path round to the Alpine Yard where you will see the lovely Wisteria sinensis (8) trained up a sunny wall, it’s just dripping with flowers.  A perfect floral treat to end the tour.

The guide book, tree guide and a range of interpretation sheets can be viewed in the front entrance and purchased from Reception.

Seasonal Walk: April

April Walk mapSpring is now really starting to get going with bulbs and shrubs flowering in most parts of the garden. New to the garden this month is the auricula theatre which you will be able to enjoy on the route of this walk round. Under glass you may see some of the cacti flowering in the arid house.

This tour begins in the sub-tropical house and you'll have to look carefully. On the left hand side of the steps is Amomum dealbatum(1). This unusual member of the ginger family has long arching leaves which reach 2.5m whilst the white flowers occur at the base of the plant. This plant has been used as an antidote to poison. As you leave the sub-tropical house look to your left to see our home grown pineapples in flower.

Turn right as you leave the sub-tropical house and make your way to the end of the terrace. Opposite the parrot cage is our new auricula theatre which will continually be restocked throughout the month with the choicest members of our auricula collection, for example Primula auricula 'Scorcher'(2). From the end of the terrace turn right and go through the alpine yard where a number of plants will be coming into bloom. Follow the path round to the west lawn which is currently looking splendid with naturalised daffodils. Continue along Gerard Walk to the rock garden where you will not be able to miss the magnificent Magnolia x soulangiana(3). The next plant has the common name of skunk cabbage and announces itself by its strong scent so follow your nose down Farrer Walk to the bog garden where you will discover the yellow flowers of Lysichiton americanus(4), some love it, some loath it! Bear left and leave the bog garden. In the border ahead of you is the giant snowflake, Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant'(5).

Now you have passed the halfway point of the tour so it is time to head back up the garden by Wilson Walk, climb the steps to the right and a the top turn left on to Paxton Prospect. On your left you will see a tree covered with star-shaped white flowers. This is Amelanchier laevis(6). Continue on to the fountain for the final two plants, the dark pink flowered Primula sieboldii 'Nuretubane'(7) and round the corner the red petioled Daphnephyllum macropodium(8). This plant may not have the showiest flowers but it is of interest because it is listed as being borderline hardy. It looks in pretty good shape after the coldest December since records began! Living proof that it sometimes pays to be brave with your planting choices.

Next month, spring in full swing!

The guide book, tree guide and a range of interpretation sheets can be viewed in the front entrance and purchased from Reception.

Seasonal Walk: March

After the coldest winter since 1885 we experienced a mild February which has set us up nicely for early spring. Bulbs are shooting up everywhere and the buds of flowering shrubs and trees are getting plumper by the day. The glasshouses offer tropical scents and unusual flowers from around the globe.  The tour begins in the tropical house where it is impossible to ignore the pendulous pink flowers of Medinilla magnifica (1), an aptly named plant indeed! M. magnifica is from the rainforests of Indonesia and is unusual in that it is an epiphytic shrub growing on other plants without taking any nutrients from them. On your way through the sub-tropical house be sure to look out for the Yesterday, today and tomorrow plant (Brunfelsia pauciflora) a plant who's flowers change colour as they mature. Also, look up! There are some flowers in the canopy.

Turn right as you leave the sub-tropical house and leave the terrace past the parrot cages and turn  right, to the alpine yard. Here there are a number of plants awaking from winter slumber but the one we're after is our native Pasque flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris (2), situated in the planters under the cherry tree. The furry buds give way to bell shaped flowers of deep to pale purple. Leave the alpine yard and head to the west lawn where there is naturalised planting of crocus and daffodils. Follow Gerard Path along the edge of the lawn to the rock garden. To your left, in the winter border, you will see Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete' (3) along with a number of late-winter flowering plants and winter stems. Enter the rock garden where the bed around the pond is home to the lilac flowered Primula denticulata (4). Follow Farrer Walk where you may be lucky enough to see some early flowering rhododendrons. Take the right fork on to the tarmac path. Turn left at the nursery gates and follow the path up. This path is flanked on both sides by planting, including the nodding snake heads of the native Fritillaria meleagris (5) and the low growing Anemone blanda (6). Hard to spot but a good close look will discover dainty deep purple flowers with prominent yellow stamens.

Come back up the garden through the woodland walk and enjoy the simple pleasure of the third native plant of the tour, Primula vulgaris (7). It may not be the showiest of plants but the cheery, pale yellow flowers act as a harbinger of the British spring year after year. Turn left and we finish our tour with the hanging yellow inflorescence of Stachyurus praecox (8). Why not view our spring bulb display in the lawn aviary?

Next month spring will be at its peak with flowering trees, shrubs and more bulbs.

The guide book, tree guide and a range of interpretation sheets can be viewed in the front entrance and purchased from Reception.  Ask at the admission desk for a copy of this walkabout.

Seasonal Walk: July

There are some colourful gems in the garden this month, including the very first plant - Guzmania conifera (1) - sitting on the Bromeliad ‘tree’ in the Tropical house, with its cone-shaped spike of orange-red flowers.

Next, continue through into the Sub-tropical house, and enter the garden via the terrace. Turn left and pass the café, continuing along Forest Walk towards the Rose Garden, to find a collection of fuchsias at the Lawn Aviary entrance. Take a look at Fuchsia fulgens (2) from Mexico and Costa Rica, which, with its sun-bird-pollinated clusters of long, orange-red flowers and the largest leaves in the genus, may be unlike any fuchsia you have seen before.

Leave the Rose Garden behind and turn left down past the woods to reach the Grass Garden, where the apricot-yellow flower spikes of Kniphofia ‘Tetbury Torch’ (3) can be admired. Continue downhill to the southern corner of the garden to discover the Growing Schools Garden, a demonstration of plants that could be grown with children. Admire the edible crops of Triticum aestivum (wheat) and Hordeum vulgare (barley) (4), the latter used for brewing beer, but also surprisingly ornamental with its many bristle-like awns.

Retrace your steps back up to the lower Grass Garden, taking the exit on the left through the orange-stemmed bamboos. Turn left at the subsequent junction, and follow the path towards the ‘Vegetable Theatre’ (behind the woven willow screen), with its purple-podded peas and other unusual varieties. On exiting the patch, take the first right off Cameron path to find an area of Gunnera manicata (giant rhubarb), but turning immediately left towards the Rock Garden, where water lilies thrive in the pool.

Exit the far-end of the Rock Garden via the narrow path on the left to rejoin Cameron path. Immediately turn right to climb up to the fountain, then take a sharp left down onto the West Lawn, and stroll along the vibrant herbaceous border. Look out for the slender white spikes of Veronicastrum virginicum 'Album' (5), the red and yellow flowers of Alstroemeria 'Moulin Rouge' (6), and in the border behind, Genista aetnensis (Mount Etna broom), swathed with yellow, pea-like flowers. Further along you will reach the South American bed, and the heather-like Fabiana imbricata forma violacea (7).

On reaching the Study Centre turn right into the Alpine Yard, enjoying the variety of colourful alpines, before ascending back to the main terrace. Continue along to the semi-circular succulent bed, where the glossy red-black rosettes of Aeonium 'Zwartkop’ (8) can be found amongst other drought-adapted plants such as agaves and echeverias. Finally, return indoors via the barrel arch entrance, and take in the spectacular display of pelargoniums basking in the Mediterranean house.

The guide book, tree guide and a range of interpretation sheets can be viewed in the front entrance and are available for purchase from Reception.

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