As with any garden, the weather at Exbury plays a huge part in how the garden is presented to the visitors and of course how the plants behave. This happens in a myriad of different ways from how they form buds for next year’s show of flowers, prepare for winter by producing autumn colour and not to mention how quickly or slowly the grass grows or the amount of weeding that is needed. With all these and many more factors to be considered, it has been a very challenging season so far to say the least. After a very dry winter (virtually no rain in Febuary, March and April) and exceptionally high temperatures in July and the a very cold start to August followed by heavy rain and high winds it is no wonder the plants are felling the pressure. This has suffered the loss of several large trees and caused several more large limbs to fail causing considerable damage!
Over the year I have found that wet weather followed by a strong wind of above 30mph in the summer (when the trees are in leaf and in active growth) can do much more damage than say 50 to 60 mph in winter when trees are dormant and free of the sail effect the leaves create. The clean up operation has already been under taken although the loss of any tree is sad. The excitement to replant and establish the next generation of trees is soon enough to take your mind off things!!!
High summer is also a great time in the garden if, like me, you are keen on the fantastic range of exotic foliage plants that really come into their own once August gets going. The sundial garden has some fabulous example of Paulonia tomentosa (left), which if left to its own devices is a large tree but here we coppice ours creating fabulous giant green leaves three times their normal size.
More exotic and unusual foliage plants can be found below top pond including the exuberant foliage of Sheffelera taiwaniana (a tree from the cool misty mountains of Taiwan - see right). Believe it or not, is a relation of our own native Ivy but many times its height. Sheffelera impressa (a young plant grown from seed by myself and a gift to Exbury 5 years before I started to work here!!) also has a fine sub tropical look about it. My personal favourite is Fatsia polycarpa with is deeply incised palmate leaves looks straight out of a primeval jungle.
We recently had a visit from the recorded for the British tree register (yes someone does really visit gardens parks and arboretums throughout the UK measuring trees!!) and to our surprise Exbury now officially has six champion trees (that is to say the tallest in cultivation at the time of publishing of course!!). Here you can see me proudly standing beneath Quercus hemispherica and Carya aquatic, both very rare and both happen to be from the southern states of the USA .
We also have the tallest Metaseqoia glyptostroboides ‘Goldrush’ (right) which has not been planted here long but is really enjoying life next to the top pond.
Other plants of interest throughout August are the small genus Eucryphia there are only 7 species and a hand full of hybrids and cultivars, they are a particularly attractive grop of woodland trees or large shrubs that all have white or pinky flowers with prominent staymen. They come from the cool wet forest of Tasmania and Chile and are right at home in the new forest where they are a perfect companion to our better known plants such as Rhododendrons and Azaleas.
Our Hydrangea paniculata beds along the main drive are almost at their best and unlike their Japanese cousins thrive in the full sun creating a stunning effect that is hard to beat and give a great show for many weeks