The Prince of Wales has officially opened a new Centenary Garden at Exbury Gardens, marking 100 years since the banker and plantsman Lionel de Rothschild founded the now world-famous New Forest landmark.
Created in 1919, Exbury has grown to become a stunning 200-acre garden paradise filled with rare plants, shrubs and trees, and renowned for its colourful rhododendrons. Lionel’s passion for collecting and breeding plants, and his support and sponsorship of the early 20th century plant hunters, was key to its horticultural diversity.
During a visit yesterday (Wednesday 10 July), His Royal Highness was given a tour of the new Centenary Garden by its award-winning designer Marie-Louise Agius, Lionel’s great grand-daughter. He also met members of the Rothschild family who still live at Exbury, the gardening team, estate staff and volunteers.
Contemporary in style, the Centenary Garden contains subtle nods to the Rothschild family history and has been planted with a particular focus on mid to late summer. It was planted two years ago in an old tennis court, almost at the centre of Exbury Gardens, and was carefully hidden from public view whilst it grew and matured. Now open to visitors, its scores of beautiful shrubs, climbers and perennials are in full bloom, providing a peaceful and fragrant spot for the public to explore.
His Royal Highness was introduced to members of the team who built the new garden, as well as the gardeners and local volunteers who now tend it, before unveiling a commemorative plaque.
To mark his visit The Prince of Wales planted a drought-resistant ornamental beech tree (Fagus orientalis) within Exbury’s grounds, following in the footsteps of Her Majesty The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Margaret and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who have also planted trees at Exbury.
Lionel de Rothschild, grandson of Exbury Gardens’ founder and current chairman of Exbury Gardens Trust, said: “We are deeply honoured that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has opened the new Centenary Garden. Over the past one hundred years, members of the Royal Family have been welcomed a number of times to Exbury Gardens to enjoy their beauty and to plant commemorative trees.”
Yesterday's event was attended also by HM Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Nigel Atkinson, High Sheriff of Hampshire Sarah Le May, New Forest District Council Chairman Councillor Allan Glass and Hampshire County Council Chairman Councillor Charles Choudhary.
Marcus Agius, chairman of the Board of Directors of Exbury Gardens, said: “We are delighted that His Royal Highness met our gardening team and the volunteers who work so diligently to keep Exbury Gardens looking beautiful throughout the year, as well as the contractors who constructed the new Centenary Garden. This is a garden that has been built to stand the test of time and we are thrilled that visitors can now explore and enjoy it.”
As well as the opening of the new Centenary Garden, centenary celebrations at Exbury have included an award-winning Exbury Gardens display at the recent RHS Chelsea Flower Show with Millais Nurseries, a new history exhibition at Exbury’s visitor entrance, and the planting of over 100,000 bulbs which bloomed in time for the 2019 season opening.