February 2022

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.

Hello!  My name is Catherine and I’ve been visiting Furzey Gardens for a decade since my daughters were small.

We loved going out to find the fairy doors and enjoy the beautiful views.  As a keen photographer and gardener, I relished the opportunity to photograph as many of the lovely plants as I could.

Towards the end of 2019, I heard that Furzey Gardens were looking for volunteers to support the work they do.  Being a garden volunteer felt like the perfect fit for me and in January 2020, I joined the team.

Catherine Brightwood / Crocuses

I have loved my time volunteering as a gardener, especially the fulfilling sense of being part of a dedicated team working towards a positive outcome.

It has improved my physical fitness and helped me to manage my mental health by spending time outdoors in mindful activity.  I also love the opportunity to continue taking lots of photographs.

February has been a month of extremes at Furzey, with the weather ranging from glorious sunshine to raging storms. The cyclamen that I uncovered last month have benefitted from the ivy being removed and are rewarding us with their stunning colours.

I spent many happy hours, transplanting foxglove seedlings from an area of the garden which is out of bounds to visitors, to a bed nearer the pond. It was very satisfying to spend time spacing the plants to look like natural drifts.

I’m looking forward to Summer when the plants will be fully grown and I really hope that they might flower. It’s such a lovely feeling to know that those foxgloves will return year after year for visitors to enjoy.

Cyclamen and Foxglove

The much-anticipated swathes of colour in February have not disappointed. Thousands of crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops carpeted the gardens this month. The tiny nodding heads of narcissus cyclamineus were a real treat.

I was very relieved to see that they miraculously survived the force of storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, which delayed the seasonal re-opening of the gardens by five days. The storms did give us one huge job to do, clearing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of branches and twigs blown down from the trees. We were very lucky that no trees were lost.

Snowdrops and narcissus cyclamineus

With such an array of colour blanketing the grass, the eye is naturally drawn to ground level. However, if you remember to look up, you will not be disappointed. I was captivated by the delicate clusters of vivid yellow flowers on the Sassafras Tzumu trees. These trees are from China and are very rare in the UK.

As I walked down to the arboretum, I saw hot pink magnolia buds which looked stunning against the bright blue sky. Near the wisteria arch, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw my first bee of the year, quietly resting in the sunshine on the first blossom.

More spectacular colour in the gardens this month came from the beautiful Azalea and Camellia blooms. I think the most special one has to be the Camellia x williamsii ‘Bartley Number Five’. This Camellia was bred by the Dalrymple brothers, who owned Furzey gardens and the nearby Bartley nurseries in the 1920s.

Even on a grey, windy day with the rain hammering down, there was a lovely surprise. I could smell the most amazing fragrance, like honey poured over vanilla ice-cream. It was coming from the tiny firework-like flowers of the Sarcococca Hookeriana. I couldn’t stop smelling them. It was amazing that such a heady scent could come from such tiny flowers, soaked by the rain!

Magnolia bud and Camellia x williamsii ‘Bartley Number Five’

On a sunnier day, with the unbroken birdsong offering an easy escape from the world, I took a walk around the pond. Two pairs of ducks were happily paddling and there was a real sense of peace.

Watching catkins gently dancing in the breeze was a real moment of mindfulness. I hope you get chance to come and visit the gardens in March. With new buds bursting open and spectacular colour everywhere, I highly recommend a visit.

Come and escape from everything and spend time in nature. Whatever the weather, there is beauty to be found.

Catkins and a bee enjoying the blossoms

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