Journal ARS Article
Vol. 50: No. 2: Year 1996
The Gardens of Exbury
The world famous Exbury Gardens in the New Forest in Hampshire, England, continue to be improved and built upon their heritage begun many years ago. When Mr. Lionel de Rothschild purchased the property in 1919, the garden area was small in comparison with today. It finished just beyond the cupressus trees which had been raised from seed taken from a cone that had fallen from a wreath placed on the Duke of Wellington's coffin as it moved through the streets of London on its funeral procession to Westminster Abbey.
From 1922 the Gardens began to expand with a massive planting programme; areas cleared and dug with many tons of humus added to the soil ready to receive the many plants from around the world brought to our shores via the efforts of the great plant hunters. Also during this time, Mr. Lionel made over 1,200 crosses of rhododendrons and azaleas many of which can still be found in the 200-acre garden today.
As with many gardens, there was a period of neglect during World War II. However, the good news was that unlike other gardens that never recovered, Exbury, under the guiding hand of Edmund de Rothschild (Mr. Lionel's son), has gone from strength to strength adapting to meet the new and various demands which the second half of the 20th century has placed upon it. In 1955 the Gardens opened to the public allowing us all to enjoy the atmosphere and beauty of Exbury.
Some features to look for include the Azalea Bowl, Home Wood Walk, Witcher's Wood and the Rock Garden.
The Azalea Bowl
On the way to the Azalea Bowl one passes through an area known as Home Wood; this is the oldest part of the Garden and includes the cupressus mentioned earlier.
In the Yard Wood two new ponds have been built, one surrounded with hydrangeas and a collection of bamboo. The other has a wide range of water marginals and herbaceous material such as Gunnera chilensis, Digitalis ferruginea, various Lythrum sp., Filipendula sp., Rheum sp. and Rodgersia sp. Over 40 different types of plants in all. Last year was their first season; this year should see them increasing and making their presence felt.
Although these are both new they are already settling down and attracting many different types of dragon fly and damsel fly, etc.
Ninety percent has been replanted with alpine rhododendrons of which half are species and half hybrids. During the spring it is a picture of blues and violets with the occasional larger rhododendron, such as R. yakushimanum, or various ornamental conifers creating a change of height, leaf shape and colour.
Exbury is not clothed in a time warp but continues to change and expand. A number of new gardens and features have been developed and planted and more continue to be planned. In 1994 Nicholas de Rothschild (Edmund de Rothschild's son) redesigned the Rose Garden using such diverse plants as Dicksonia antarctica, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wisselii', Santolina, Wisteria and the new range of patio roses. Although fairly small, the effect during the summer is stunning.
Finally, a sign of the commitment shown by the Board of Exbury Gardens is the taxonomic programme and computerisation of the plant records. Although expensive and time consuming it is revealing many plants thought lost and enabling a more logical planning for the future.
*Name not registered.