hillier gardens – rhodo time

May 20, 2010

We visit this large public (once private) garden quite often for site visits and meetings during the process of re designing the long Centenary Borders but, have never been here at this special time of the year. It was good to arrive this visit, with some time in hand, and get stuck into the Brentry Woodland where the main Magnolia and Rhododendron collections grow. This area is quite different in feel to the rest of the gardens, due mainly  to the sandy layer of  top soil over heavy clay and also the gentle sloping site which are ideal conditions for these plants.  There is an inkling of how this species would grow in their native environment.

Rhododendron ‘Lady Bessborough’ above. The stems almost as exotic as the blooms – quite wayward as the lady herself. Lady Bessborough, for example, had two children with her lover, Lord Granville Leveson Goser. He then went on to marry her niece Lady Harriet Cavendish who became stepmother to her own cousins.  Amanda Foreman The Georgians  A true age of sexual discovery.

Rhododendron fortunei hybrid – glorious perfume – some part of this plant arrived in the UK around  1850 with the plant hunter Robert Fortune. Sir Edmund Loder raised the parent of the plant below, Rhododendron loderi ‘Game Chick’ at Leonardslee in 1900.

More beautiful stems. Below is Acer rubescens . . .

with Rhododendron ‘Isabella Mangles’ RHS. Another great name and another Leonardslee hybrid . . whilst looking to the sky, the true magnificence of this species becomes clear . . .

 . . I admit to a great loathing for these plants mixed with a genuine fondness. Playing under a long length of huge, to me at 6 years old, run of magenta flowering rhodos in a rather special playground owned by Lord Petre, has remained a favourite memory (and now I realise that this was a Capability Brown landscape). But, seeing  the same plant in suburban front gardens, have to turn the other way  (clearly it isn’t the fault of the poor plant). At Hilliers, it all seemed apposite and rather exciting – the feeling of being dwarfed came rushing back.

Another stunner Pinus pseudostrobus . . . and below something completely different Malus hupehensis in Ten Acres East on the edge of the Centenary Borders. What a beauty!

A spread of Vinca difformis was looking rather good . .

. . close to as well . .

. . a bee and a plant, Paeonia delavayi, and a poem about love. So I rediscovered Rhododendrons and all was forgiven. There is another post on this garden. Click HERE

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,   

or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:   

I love you as one loves certain obscure things,   

secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries   

the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,   

and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose   

from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   

I love you directly without problems or pride:

I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   

so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   

so close that your eyes close with my dreams. Pablo Neruda



2 Responses to “hillier gardens – rhodo time”

  1. Mmmmmm, like the story about Lady Bessborough. Those aristos, always galloping pell-mell along the wilder shores of love!

    Love the Paeonia delavayi the colour of arterial blood. Might have to get one.

    The garden here at Ty Isaf has suffered over the Winter. Lots of things that normally would have survived have gone. A beautiful, shapely Pittosporum, all the cistus and an ancient Clematis montana with a stem as thick as my wrist. (It rendered the silver birch through which it clambered pink with blossom, and so heavily perfumed that it made my head swim to stand beneath it.) But of course the upside is that the fatalities make room for new plants. Time to make new plans.

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