Garden News

Butcher's Broom - 4 April 2017

P1040901Butcher's Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is a rather strange native plant which you can find growing along the River Walk. It is an evergreen low-growing, stiff, spiky shrub whose stems used to be used for cleaning butcher's blocks. The "leaves" with their sharp points are in fact not leaves at all, but modified stems known as cladodes. At this time of year, if you look closely at them, you can see a tiny greenish flower emerging from the underside of each "leaf". The plants bear male and female flowers  on separate bushes, although nowadays you can get hermaphrodites, with both sexes on the same plant.

The female flower (right) lfemale flower enlargedooks like a tiny white star with a purple centre, and this later develops into quite a large red berry, hence the alternative common name of knee holly. It will grow in deep shade and on poor soil so can be quite useful in difficult spots in a garden. As well as being bird-distributed, it spreads by rhizomes so in time it can make quite a good clump.

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‘We recently had some friends from London to visit and were looking for something to entertain our young children for the day. We decided to give Exbury Gardens a try and I thought it was wonderful. We had Sunday lunch in the restaurant and the food was far superior to other local attractions so compliments to the chef. Walking through the gardens was beautiful with lots of little pathways to explore. I have lived in the Romsey area for many years and always thought Exbury was a little out of the way but it only took me 20 minutes from the motorway. We will definitely be a regular visitor from now on.’

Philip Moulds, New Forest

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