Saturday 14 July 2012

Bicton Park Botanical Garden

The Italian Garden at Bicton Park Botanical Garden.
The RHS Woody Plant Committee met yesterday in Devon and afterwards paid a visit to Bicton Park Botanical Garden to see the great collection of trees there. The gardens at Bicton Park were first laid out in by the Rolle family in the 1730s, as a grand landscape for the now disjunct Bicton House. There are formal areas, including the Italian garden seen above with formal bedding at the top near the former orangery, and some good glasshouses, including the palm house dating from the 1820s. Much of the rest of the 60 or so acres is more informal, with the trees forming a parkland landscape through which a small train carries visitors. It is an unfortunate fact that the grounds have such distractions, including a mini-golf horror, and although very neatly kept the place lacks horticultural zest. With the title of 'botanical garden' appended one could hope for some decent labelling, but this is rather conspicuously lacking - a great disappointment.

Regardless of this, there are some very good trees there, with numerous champion or near champion specimens, making it well worth the visit. The Pinetum is especially rich in interesting species, with an enormous Abies cephalonica (41 m) and some beautiful specimens of Picea orientalis, to my mind the finest of all spruces. Mexican pines do well, and there are noteworthy examples of some from the southeastern United States that generally do not thrive in this country, though they would be considered runty on their native heath. Among them is Pinus echinata, which Owen Johnson (in his Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland 2011) aptly characterizes as "Very rare and very dull."  As seems to be traditional for WPC outings, it was wet at first and better later...
The beautiful curvilinear palm house from the 1820s.

Cones of Picea orientalis.

A very good specimen of Prince Albert's Yew, the South American podocarp Saxegothaea conspicua.

Perhaps the most famous horticultural feature of Bicton is the monkey-puzzle avenue leading to Bicton House - now Bicton College - first planted in 1844. Bicton Park and Bicton College are now two separate properties, but share their horticultural past, and the Araucaria form a backdrop to many views from Bicton Park.

1 comment:

  1. I have distant memories of Bicton College from years ago!


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