The gardens were first planted by the Dalrymple family as an informal woodland garden in 1922: containing botanically and historically significant plant collections from around the world with a wide range of trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials, such as Acers, Rhododendrons and Primulas.
It was difficult to maintain the gardens after the war years and in 1972 it was decided to close the gardens and sell the land.
Tim Selwood, a local young solicitor bought the gardens and set up a charitable trust with an intensive planting and maintenance programme.
Tom Mason was the Head Gardener and Paul Turner, who still works at the gardens as a volunteer, was appointed as a young school leaver to assist him.
In 1986 the Minstead Training Project was established at Furzey Gardens by Martin Lenaerts, a former cistercian monk with a gardening vocation, working with five young adults with learning disabilities. Horticulture is known to offer real benefits through outdoor physical and therapeutic activity, providing important work and social skills and an opportunity for meaningful activity.
Today Head Gardener Pete White leads a team of approximately 30 people with learning disabilities and 20 volunteers each week, working hard to maintain the Gardens and bring on plants in the nursery. The gardens are part of the Minstead Trust family which supports over 200 people with learning disabilities through a variety of services.
In 2012, Chris Beardshaw designed a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show and involved staff, students and volunteers to show what people with learning disabilities can achieve with appropriate support and ambition. The garden won a Gold Medal and an interpretation has been replanted at Furzey Gardens.
Master Thatcher Simon Sinkinson has been an important figure for Furzey Gardens, taking care of all the thatch. He also initially introduced around 40 fairy doors which appeared hidden around the Gardens. Some of these doors still exist, but over time some have had to be replaced as our fairies move or decide to relocate to another part of the garden. Creeping around the base of trees and shrubs is great fun for children and the young at heart.
Come and see the gardens for yourself and discover the hidden gem of the New Forest.