In this, the centenary year of Furzey Gardens, volunteer Catherine Brightwood will be writing a monthly blog to share her experience of working here.  Join her as she highlights some of her favourite plants and photographs throughout the coming year.

April has been a month of rapid growth at Furzey.  With early April showers giving way to more beautiful sunshine, the Gardens were suddenly dominated by fresh new growth.

Vivid green leaves emerged on the huge oak trees.  Tiny shoots growing into luscious plants.  The most obvious were the hostas – their small, spiralling shoots rapidly flourishing to become huge, lush leaves.  We mulch thickly around the hostas and have a plethora of hungry birds to keep pests under control.  This means that we rarely have a problem with slugs and snails and there is no lattice work to admire!  I offer you a friendly challenge to come and try to find a hole in the leaves.


Hosta shoots and hosta leave with no holes

The mystical ferns and bluebells appeared this month.  In folklore, bluebells were said to ring when fairies were summoning their kin to a gathering.  As Furzey is full of fairy doors (and therefore fairies!) it was wonderful to see the delicate display of bluebells – a fleeting purple carpet across the grass.  Watching the tightly-coiled fern fronds unfurling was also magical.  I adore the glade of ferns at the bottom of the Gardens, near the play area.  I have even planted my own fern garden at home, as I love them so much.

Mystical ferns unfurling and magical bluebells

The damp, verdant greens gave way to an explosion of colour with the azaleas starting to bloom.  Their colours are absolutely mind blowing.  Hot pinks, vibrant yellows, pastel pinks and radiant purples.  You really do need to witness the array of colours to believe how wonderfully vivid they are.  As well as looking at the beautiful colours, visitors were listening to the sweet birdsong; smelling the incredible fragrances; touching the soft new growth of tender leaves; and, of course, visiting the tearooms to taste the delicious cream teas!  April really has been a very mindful month, with the gardens being fully explored by visitors using every available sense.


Azalea Luteum and radiant purple azalea

Indeed, the Easter holidays saw lots of families visiting the gardens.  The tearooms were busy serving food and drink to visitors sat out in the beautiful sunshine.  It was the perfect time to show off the azalea luteum, with its beautiful, bright yellow, funnel shaped flowers.  It is highly fragranced and we have already been treated to its amazing sweet scent wafting across the Gardens.  Visitors have also been admiring our candelabra primulas.  Last month, I was mulching around the emerging green leaves of these beautiful plants.  By the end of April, they were already in flower.  I was tasked with transplanting some of them to a new bed, and I noticed how the wonderful pinks and purples of the primulas were perfectly complimented by the vibrant backdrop of azaleas.


Candelabra primula and pink azalea

I did some weeding beneath one of the most interesting trees in the Gardens, which I hadn’t heard of until joining Furzey.  It is the Judas tree – cercis siliquastrum – which comes from the Mediterranean.  It is remarkable because it has flowers which grow straight out of the trunk and branches of the tree.  This is known as cauliflory.  They really do look like something from another planet!  Planted on the opposite side of the path, by the thatched Furzey House, you can find the cercis griffithii tree from Afghanistan, which has equally beautiful pink flowers.

Cercis siliquastrum, Judas tree and Cercis griffithii

There is so much to look forward to in May.  The wisteria will soon be flowering; the cottage garden is being planted; rhododendrons are covered in buds; and the gunnera will continue to grow.  We have birds nesting around the lake, so I’m looking forward to seeing the broods coming out and joining us in the Gardens.  I hope you have the chance to visit us soon.

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