The latter part of 2018 saw us, as a nation, commemorate a number of centenary events linked to the First World War. By the very nature of the original events these were sombre events, and rightly so.
By contrast, 2019 will allow us to commemorate such uplifting centenary events as the first non-stop transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown, and Lady Nancy Astor taking her seat in the House of Commons as the first women member of parliament.
Additionally, hidden in the depths of the New Forest, there is a garden that was the passion of a banker, also celebrating its centenary. The banker, in question, was Lionel de Rothschild a passionate collector of plants and a keen supporter and sponsor of the early 20th century plant hunters and the garden Exbury. The garden was created in 1919 and was developed over the following 20 years to become a stunning 200-acre garden paradise in the New Forest filled with rare plants, shrubs and trees.
The centenary is being marked with the unveiling of a new ‘secret’ garden and a showcase display at the world’s most famous flower show, RHS Chelsea.
Visitors can now get to glimpse the new Centenary Garden designed by Lionel’s great grand-daughter, and RHS gold medal award-winning designer, Marie-Louise Agius. This was planted within Exbury Gardens in 2017 and has been carefully hidden from public view, whilst it grew and matured. Given the scale of the rest of Exbury Gardens, and that it’s had a 100 years to mature to what is seen today, the Centenary Garden is necessarily more intimate in scale. It is planted on the site of one of Lionel de Rothschild’s former tennis courts!
Grown in secret – Centenary Garden
It is contemporary in style, focusing on late flowering summer perennials, interwoven between a strong vertical planted structure, with the existing Yew hedging proving an evergreen backdrop. The central area is sunken – enhancing the 3 dimensional space – with the Rothschild 5 Arrows in black Caledonian slate set into York stone paving. At the far end of the garden is a curved timber bench surrounded by cloud-pruned evergreen azaleas, a modern salute to the core history of the Gardens.
Thomas Clarke, head gardener at Exbury, said: “The 1920s were the golden age of woodland gardening and Exbury, under the careful eye of Lionel de Rothschild and his staff, was at the cutting edge of this movement. The location, climate, existing oak woodland and acid soil all allowed for the creation of one of the finest gardens of its kind in the UK. Combine this with the legacy of the great plant hunters, and the extensive plant breeding programme at Exbury, and we are fortunate enough to have inherited a truly wonderful garden packed full of horticultural treasures.”
“In this centenary year we are delighted to be unveiling some fantastic new projects plus a continued focus on our work to conserve and develop the plants and landscape at Exbury for the next 100 years.”
Exbury Gardens, located in the New Forest near Southampton, is open daily until 3 November 2019 10am – 5.30pm. Adult tickets £12.50, children (3-15yrs) £4, under 3s are free and a family ticket is £29. Full information at www.exbury.co.uk
Exbury Gardens aims to enable visitors with disabilities and additional mobility needs to use and enjoy the gardens, railway and facilities.
Trevor Judd is an experienced photographer specialising in the photography of flowers, nature, and landscapes.
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice” – Robert Frank