As the days shorten towards the winter solstice the focus of interest concentrates on the indoor displays and our tropical and sub-tropical glasshouses come into their own.
After a warm up in the tropical house admiring the fish begin your tour in the sub-tropical house where the colourful bracts of the Bougainvillea (1) will transport you to a tropical beach. The festive season is heralded by angel’s tumpets (Brugmansia arborea), which is still in flower despite the low light levels. Completing the exotic picture is the bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) with its blue and orange contrasting flowers. Christmas tradition can be seen on the display bench in the Mediterranean house, where poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima)(2) makes a festive show with its red bracts. In the centre of the house are two plants from distant Mediterranean habitats – Tecoma capensis (3) from the Cape province of South Africa and Banksia ericifolia (4) from Australia. In the adjoining barrel arch entrance is a Fuchsia paniculata (5) showing a fine display of bloomed blue-black fruit.
If you are brave enough to venture outside early camellias are in flower on the terrace including Camelia japonica ‘Lady Loch’ (6) and Camelia sasanqua cultivars. Turn along the terrace and leave past the parrot cages, walk down the pintum tarmac path. The blue sausage-shaped pods of dead man’s fingers (Decaisnea fargesii) may still adorn the now bare silvery branches in the Chinese bed. At the bottom of the hill by the fountain turn right. The bed on the right behind the low beech hedge is the winter border looking at its best from November to April. The well known yellow flower spikes of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ (7) brightens up a shady spot under the trees. Lower down the slope the acid green flowers of the native Helleborus foetidus (8) are complemented by the stems of the dogwoods in a classic plant combination.
Throughout the gardens you will also find a wide range of coloured and textured barks, particularly on birches and acers. Why not see how many you can spot on the way back to the terrace past the acer bed and lawn aviary?
Coming next month tough but dainty Cyclamen coum, winter bark and stem colour and precious scented winter flowering shrubs.
The guide book, tree guide and a range of interpretation sheets can be viewed in the front entrance and are available for purchase from Reception.