|Early flowering magnolias outside Jermyn's House|
Spring is definitely in the air today so get out and visit a garden! Why not head for Sir Harold Hillier's former home in Hampshire - a glorious 180-acre garden, just outside Romsey? And although this famous plantsman, who trained with his father as a nurseryman, is more commonly associated with the chain of Hillier nurseries around the country that carry his name, the garden and arboretum he created during his life is worth more than a passing visit because it has something to see throughout the seasons, and now is the time to see glorious displays of early flowering spring blossoms and great drifts of daffodils.
|The garden is currently filled with spring colour - drifts of daffodils and many types of magnolia are in bloom|
This garden is a credit to Hampshire County Council, which has run the garden since it was given to them by Hillier in 1977. It is immaculately maintained and constantly evolving. At the moment the Centenary Border - which provides a blaze of colour in the summer months - is being replanted. But there are so many different spring flowers in bloom elsewhere in the garden that the upheaval created by the replanting at the heart of the site does little to detract from the blaze of colour elsewhere.
The Winter Garden is looking particularly good and is filled with hellebores, camellias and some exceptional early flowering magnolias; the Himalayan Garden is sporting many fine camellias and early rhododendrons; and Magnolia Avenue, adjacent to Jermyn's House, where Sir Harold spent most of his life, is looking stunning. Elsewhere in the garden, there is already the promise of abundant summer colour as leaves are beginning to form on the trees and perennials are beginning to thicken on the ground.
|Vibernum Farreri in the Winter Garden - which smells wonderful|
This is a remarkable garden when you consider that Sir Harold only moved here in 1953 - it boasts more than 42,000 plants and is home to one of the largest collections of champion trees anywhere in the country. It is also home to more than 10 national plant collections. But what's really worth noting, is that it's open throughout the year, and careful planning by the Council means that there is always something to see here, even in mid winter. Spring, summer and autumn are just the icing on the cake! There are also talks, walks and other events held here throughout the year.
|Acer Negundo - an interesting texture!|
The gardens are open every day from 10.00 - 18.00 and admission is £9.10 for adults. But if you're likely to visit more than a couple of times, it's worth buying an annual pass for £31.00, which also gives you free admission to the Botanical Gardens at Kew, Wakehurst Place, the National Botanic Garden of Wales and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, especially when you consider that a single adult entry to Kew costs £16.00!
Colour and texture is all part of the excitement of this garden. Sir Harold Hillier collected plants from all over the world and you'll find many species here that are unique, but just as impressive as the range of plants is the labelling. When you find a plant you don't recognise, you'll also find a label to tell you what it is!