Thursday, 22 March 2012

Spring in the Valley Gardens

Magnolia campbellii
 One of the few books of horticultural interest in my school's library was a copy of Lanning Roper's The Gardens in the Royal Park at Windsor (1959). It tells the story of the creation and early days of the Savill and Valley Gardens under the guidance of Sir Eric Savill and Hope Finlay, generously illustrated (for those times) with pictures of the work in progress and the results. In consequence those two gardens have always been of interest to me, with visits stretching back almost thirty years. I was lecturing today for the Advanced Tree Course of The Plant School, held in the Savill Gardens Visitor Centre, so once it was over this afternoon I took the opportunity of getting out into the warm sunshine and had a lovely turn round the Valley Gardens.

As expected, the large-flowered magnolias were at their peak, exquisitely beautiful but very difficult to photograph well, with their flowers held high on the canopy against a slightly hazy sky. Smaller magnolias, early rhododendrons and camellias were also flowering well, but the big magnolias stole the show and, unexpectedly, perhaps because it was so mild, scented the air around, so the woodlands were softly fragrant.

Magnolia sprengeri ex 'Diva'

Magnolia campbellii forming a large canopy tree.

Labelled "Magnolia hybrid".

Less unexpected, though I'd never seen them in full glory before, were the vast drifts of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, with areas densely filled with N. cyclamineus and N. bulbocodium var. citrinus as well. Not a Narcissus cultivar in sight, so the beauty of the wild species is unalloyed and the effect is ravishing.

Unadulterated by cultivars; meadows of Narcissus pseudonarcissus
Narcissus cyclamineus

Camellia 'E.T.R. Carlyon'

Pinus montezumae

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