Juliet's Jottings

Spring Wildflowers - 29th April 2016

P1230149"I know a bank where the wildflowers grow...." , to misquote the Bard, and this is the time to come and see them. There are sheets of primroses in the Gardens (right), particularly on Jubilee Hill and on the bank by the Iris Garden. I have never seen them so prolific - it seems that the wet conditions this past winter have suited them. Their beautiful, simple form and soft colour outshines by far the more garish polyanthus, so  beloved by garden centres. They also make excellent garden flowers, gently self-seeding and making an excellent weed-suppressor, as they keep their leaves throughout the year.

BluebellsBluebells are also out: there has been a lot of concern voiced in the press about the fact that Spanish bluebells are hybridising with our native bluebell, but as far as I can tell almost all the Exbury bluebells are native. They differ in being more slender, with bells on only one side of their gracefully curved stem, whereas the Spanish bluebell is stouter, very upright, and with bells around the stem. If you look into the flower the native bluebell has creamy white pollen, but the Spanish type is blue. There are carpets of bluebells in several places in the Gardens (see left).

Other, less obvious, beauties like sweet violets are also out and can be found in patches; while daisies and dandelions are extremely common and often regarded by gardeners as weeds they provide valuable nectar for foraging bees and hoverflies early in the year. In fact, lots of "weeds", Sweet violetsor wildflowers such as forget-me-nots, speedwell, celandines and wood anemones are vital in early spring when the hibernating insects emerge and start looking for nectar. It is important to leave patches of them for the benefit of wildlife, which otherwise struggles to find enough sustenance. This was not so important in the days when flowering meadows were common and roadside verges left uncut, but nowadays private gardens have become an increasingly important resource for wildlife.

‘What could be better on a trip down to the New Forest than a walk in a beautiful garden, a ride on a steam train (which my grandson adored!) and a chance to see the Beaulieu river close up? A memorable day out and a gem of a place’

Rob Gregory, Oxford

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