Discover the fascinating facts and details about some of our rare and historic plants.
Our spring plants of interest form part of 100 plants of interest identified as part of our centenary celebrations. You can pick up a map and guide at the gardens and look for the numbered markers to help you identify the plants that are of current interest.
An easy to grow, trouble free shrub for acidic soil, Enkianthus perulatus is grown for its masses of delicate white bell-shaped flowers that appear in spring and the beautiful fiery red colour of its leaves in autumn. Native to Japan, it is compact and slow growing, forming a wide compact dome and is ideal for a sunny or partly shaded spot. We have some specimens dating back to the 1920s and 1930s still in the gardens and this one on the top lawn makes for a real show stopper, especially in autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Commonly known as the Empress or Foxglove tree, Paulownia tomentosa is a fast growing tree native to China, grown primarily for its giant leaves and panicles of stunning purple foxglove shaped blooms produced in early spring before its leaves. Left to grow, it will form a tree of 12 metres, but severe pruning in late winter will produce giant leaves in spring, some up to 30cm across (although this will be at the expense of flowers for that year).
Common name: Empress or Foxglove tree
In April 1899, intrepid plant hunter Ernest Wilson was despatched to China to bring back a sought after specimen, the hankerchief tree (Davidia involucrata). The tree had first been located in Szechwan by a French priest, Abbe David (after whom the tree is named) and Wilson was despatched with a map of such small scale that it covered an area of 20,000 miles. He eventually found the location, to discover to his horror, only a tree stump, it had been felled to make way for a smart new wooden house. However, a month later his luck changed and he suddenly came across a magnificent hankerchief tree in full flower and so it was able to be introduced to the UK. This interesting ornamental tree will grow to a height 6 metres in 20 years. Tolerant of pollution and growing in most positions as long as it has moist, well drained soil, it is grown primarily for its astonishingly large white bracts that hang like handkerchiefs from its branches in May, hence the common name of handkerchief tree. The attractive, heart shaped foliage emerges purple-green and has a spicy, incense fragrance. As a bonus, the leaves turn shades of orange and yellow in autumn.
Common name: Hankerchief tree
A beautiful wisteria, dating back to 1935, covers our long wisteria arch, with some parts over eight feet across. The original arch rotted away and in 2009 it collapsed, dropping the entire plant! The wisteria was severely cut back and the arch completely rebuilt and it is now pruned twice a year by a volunteer gardener to keep it in good order. As you can see, this has not affected the scale of this deciduous climber with its wonderful pea like mauve flowers, which appear in late spring before the leaves. The flowers are followed by brown velvety bean like pods which persist well into autumn.
Common name: Chinese Wisteria
Commonly known as the White Fringe Tree because of its delicate white flower panicles, Chionanthus virginicus is a member of the Olive family. It is native to the Eastern United States and prefers a moist fertile soil. Spectacular when in full bloom, the flowers appear in late spring with a delicate scent.
Common name: White fringe tree
Cercis siliquastrum, commonly known as the Judas tree, is a small deciduous tree which is the only cercis native to the Mediterranean. It is grown for its prolific display of deep pink pea like flowers in spring and, providing it is planted in an open sunny position, it will flower in spring in the UK almost as prolifically as it does in the Med. A beautiful rounded medium tree or large shrub, this cercis will grow to 4.5 x 4 metres in 20 years. Flowers are followed by purple tinted seed pods in July and the leaves are green and heart shaped, emerging after the flowers and turning to yellow in the autumn. Bark is a rich, dark brown.
Common name: Judas tree
A specimen of “Tally Ho” was given to Bay Dalrymple, the original owner of Furzey Gardens, by someone at Embley Park in Romsey. This hybrid has gorgeous flowers of bright orange-scarlet in early summer, well after most other species and hybrids have finished flowering. A light brown felt covers the new growth. Best in light shade to protect the summer blossoms, “Tally Ho” is not so hardy in the North of England, but has ideal conditions in the sheltered micro-climate of Furzey Gardens.
Known as the Wedding Cake Tree because of its distinctive, horizontal, tiered habit, this tree makes a lovely focal point. It has bright green leaves with bold creamy white margins, which turn red purple in autumn and produces clusters of white flowers in June, followed by small black berries. Although it tolerates dappled shade, it performs best in fertile moisture retentive soil in full sun. This species was brought to the UK from China and Japan, and “Variegata” was introduced in about 1880 by Veitch’s Nursery of Exeter.
Common name: Wedding cake tree
Known as the Japanese snowbell tree, Styrax japonicus is native to Japan, China and Korea and is a popular tree for small gardens. Its wide, spreading branches are covered with cascades of bell-shaped, white scented flowers in late spring and summer and the pale green leaves turn a fantastic shade of yellow before falling in autumn.
Common name: Japanese snowbell tree
More commonly known as the Hemsley Snowball, Styrax hemsleyanus is native to China and is one of the prettiest small trees. A medium-sized deciduous tree with large rounded leaves, it has long strings of beautiful white, bell-shaped flowers borne in drooping racemes to 15cm in length in early summer. It thrives in good soil and shelter.
Common name: Hemsley snowball
Known as the Japanese Horse Chestnut, this large tree grows up to 30 metres in height. It is similar to our native horse chestnut but its leaves are considerably larger, on young trees, as much as 40cm long and 15cm wide. It bears panicles of creamy white flowers in June, followed by smooth cased good sized conkers in September. The timber of this tree, although lacking strength, often shows a wavy grain and is used in Japan for house fittings and articles of domestic use.
Common name: Japanese Horse Chestnut
Rhododendron “Cynthia” is a lovely old hybrid with strong rosy crimson flowers with extensive darker markings, growing in large conical trusses on a dome shaped bush. This is a popular variety flowering in May-June. It is very vigorous and can attain a height of 180-200cm in 10 years, but our specimen is considerably larger, due to the fact that it is an original specimen of Furzey and nearly 100 years old! “Cynthia” is a Rhododendron hybrid, dating back to the 1840s/1850s when it was developed by John Standish and Charles Noble of Sunningdale Nursery in Tavistock, Devon.
Rhododendron “Sappho”, known as Hachmanns Sappho, is an upright, open rhododendron with elliptic, glossy, dark green leaves and rounded clusters of mauve buds opening to stunning white flowers with beautiful maroon markings in early summer. Hans Hachmann was a famous German hybridizer of rhododdrons in Hamburg and his rhododendrons are particularly popular in Northern Europe and the USA.
Common name: Hachmanns sappho
This azalea is unusual because it is deciduous, i.e. loses its leaves in the autumn. Deciduous azaleas have a stronger root system and will tolerate poorer conditions and slightly less acidic soils then their evergreen counterparts. Widely known as the Swamp Azalea or Swamp Honeysuckle, Rhododendron viscosum has beautifully scented white honeysuckle type flowers in June to July. It is a very hardy plant that likes moist soil and the benefit of losing its leaves is that there is wonderful autumn foliage colour. It grows to 120-150cm in 10 years and prefers a fairly sunny position.
Common name: Swamp azalea
From a botanical point of view, evergreen azaleas are part of the rhododendron family, but typically they only have 5-7 stamens in the flowers instead of 11-13 stamens present in other rhododendrons. Rhododendron stenopetalum is a very distinctive small azalea, with unusual long, narrow strap-like leaves and spidery rose lilac flowers with darker markings, hence its common name of Spider Azalea. The stems and branches are quite brittle, however and require protection from wind, frost & passing animals! It is native to Japan and, because of its distinctive leaves and neat habit, makes a very lovely foliage plant to enjoy all year.
Common name: Spider azalea
Known as the Great White Cherry, Prunus Tai Haku is a medium sized vigorous spreading tree. It flowers profusely, with large pure white flowers held in bunches all over the tree, just as the coppery young leaves emerge in the middle of April. Well known from historic records and drawings in Japan, this spectacular cherry was thought extinct until the 1920s, when a tree was identified in a Sussex garden by Collingwood “Cherry” Ingram, a world authority on Japanese cherries. All the Prunus Tai Haku in the world, including those in Japan, are descended from the Sussex specimen.
Common name: Great White Cherry tree
Pieris forrestii is the forerunner of Pieris Forest Flame which is commonly grown in many gardens. Pieris are dense evergreen shrubs thriving in similar conditions to rhododendrons, their closely related cousins and have scarlet young foliage and white vanilla scented flowers in the spring. Pieris forrestii is named after the plant explorer, George Forrest, who introduced it to the UK in the 1920s from his travels in the Himalayas. We are lucky enough to have both a record of his original plant catalogue number F8945 held in the gardens, as well as an original specimen from the 1920/30s.
Commonly known as the Tulip magnolia, this is one of the most popular of the early flowering trees in the UK, grown for its huge pure white, goblet-shaped flowers, which are flushed purple-pink at the base and appear before the leaves. This is an excellent magnolia for smaller gardens, as it remains a shapely shrub for many years, and even when it is mature, is a manageable small tree. This tree is an original specimen planted at Furzey Gardens in 1939.
Rhododendron griersonianum was named after R.G. Grierson, a Chinese Maritime Customs official at Tengyuh who was a friend of George Forrest, the famous plant hunter and this beautiful rhododendron was found by Forrest in June 1917 in W. Yunnan, near the Burma border. It is regarded as one of his finest introductions, but needs protection from early and late frosts, so the position in this sheltered part of Furzey Gardens is ideal. It is late flowering with bright rose to scarlet conical tapered flowers and lovely long narrow leaves with pale brown felting on the underside. It was originally planted in Furzey Gardens in the 1930s.
Rhododendron thomsonii was named by Victorian plant hunter Joseph Dalton Hooker after his lifelong friend, Thomas Thomson (1817-1878), who was a Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. This stunning plant has deep blood red bell-shaped flowers in April-May. As the plant matures, it develops into a superb large shrub with smooth peeling bark. Flowering will commence when the plant is growing well and aged about 6 years old. This particular specimen at Furzey Gardens dates back to the mid 1930s.
This plant is an original 1930s introduction by the famous Victorian plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward and is one of the largest specimens in the country. We are lucky enough to find the original lead label – with Kingdon Ward’s catalogue number, KW5687- buried in the gardens here at Furzey. It is a superb large shrub with smooth peeling bark, dark green leaves and deep blood red flowers in April/May.
We have an original specimen of this lovely rhododendron dating back to 1933 when the gardens were newly opened to the public. With scented foliage and pale yellow flowers in June, this smaller rhododendron originates from NW Yunnan and SE Tibet.
This petite azalea grows to 60-80 cm (in 10 years) and has a dense upright habit with small leathery, oval leaves. Our plant is an original specimen so is considerably larger! This compact evergreen shrub tolerates drier conditions and produces lovely medium pink flowers opening along the branches in April.
Common name: Rock rose rhododendron
We are lucky enough to have an original specimen of Rhododendron keysii here at Furzey Gardens. This originates from the great plant hunter, Frank Kingdon Ward’s Tibet and Bhutan expedition in 1924-25. Our original specimen is not in great condition because it is so old, but there are several others planted around the garden. With dense clusters of stunning waxy tubular flowers in shades of deep red, salmon, orange and yellow, this is a very distinctive rhododendron with thinly textured leaves and strong and upright habit.
This lovely camellia is an original specimen, believed to date back to the 1920s. Delicate 6cm wide soft pink flowers smother the dark green foliage when it flowers in late winter to early spring, the plant itself growing up to 3m in height. This lovely medium sized shrub is very important in camellia breeding. It was crossed with Camellia japonica by J C Williams at Caerhays Castle in Cornwall in 1923 to produce the acclaimed Camellia x williamsii. Williamsii’s named varieties are regarded as the best for general gardening with a spectacular show of long lived flowers.
Originally recorded as having being introduced to Furzey Gardens in 1933, Magnolia kobus is a deciduous small tree originating from Japan. Its fragrant white flowers are one of the first colours to emerge in April, sometimes March, after a long dark winter. The flowers are large, pure white blooms measuring up to 10 cm wide. Each bloom is individually comprised of six distinct snow white petals. This is not a tree for the impatient gardener though, because it can take up to 12-15 years for flowers to emerge.
Common name: Kobushi, Thurbers magnolia
Recorded as first being introduced in to Furzey Gardens in 1933, Osmanthus delavayi is an evergreen shrub native to the Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan regions of southern China. Scented white jasmine like flowers appear on arching branches in April and May among glossy dark grey green leaves with finely serrated edges. This specimen is one of the original garden shrubs, planted in the 1920s/30s, hence its large size. While Osmanthus delavayi can occasionally grow up to 6m tall, it usually retains a more compact and rounded bushy shape. It thrives on well drained soil in dappled shade, so its position here in the garden is ideal.
This lovely candelabra primula thrives in moist shady areas, so is ideal to naturalise in our damp areas near the pond. In 1924, several varieties of the “Bartley” strain of Primula pulverulenta were available from the nearby Bartley Nurseries, including a soft pink and crimson variety called “Hew Dalrymple”, named after the brother of Bay Dalrymple, who originally created Furzey Gardens. Now there is only one Bartley variety commonly available, with tiered whorls of large, yellow-eyed sugar pink flowers. However, if you look closely at the Primula pulverulenta growing at Furzey Gardens, you may spot different colour combinations, which may be some of the original 1920s varieties.
Introduced in to the UK in 1906, it is more commonly known as the Candelabra Primrose, or Bulleys Primrose, after Arthur Killin Bulley, a botanist and natural historian in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Interested particularly in the cultivation and preservation of rare plants from the Far East, Bulley employed several plant collectors, such as George Forrest, Frank Kingdom Ward and R.E. Cooper, to obtain them for him. This beautiful candelabra primula was brought back by Forrest and displays large leaves, and colourful whorls of soft orange flowers on tall stems in June and July. This primula is native to NW Yunnan and S Sichuan in China, where it is said to cover whole mountain meadows.
Common name: Candelabra Primrose
This deliciously scented primula has lemon yellow waxy bell like flowers, suspended on tall white powdered stems, flowering from June to August. This particular primula was introduced to the UK by plant hunter Frank Kingdon Ward in 1924 and is named after his first wife, Florinda. It is nicknamed the Tibetan cowslip as it originates from SE Tibet, and is also the largest of the cowslips. It thrives in damp soils which do not dry out, such as bog gardens and stream edges, so is ideal growing in the damp conditions near the pond area at Furzey.
Common name: Tibetan cowslip
A part shade lover, Primula japonica is best grown in humus-rich, consistently moist, neutral to acid soils. Commonly known as the Japanese primrose, it grows to 45cm tall, bearing a rosette of broad, crinkly light green leaves and candelabra like whorls of pink, magenta or white flowers with golden eyes on tall, erect stems from late spring to early summer. The flower colours go particularly well with the beautiful range of pink and mauve azaleas we have flowering at the same time near the pond area.
Common name: Japanese primrose
This mixture of candelabra hybrids originates from the RHS garden of Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire, where they grow down the streamside. They come in acid bright colours of orange, yellow, pink and mauve and were cross bred from their original plantings of P. pulverulenta, P. beesiana, P. japonica and P. bulleyana. They thrive in boggy ground, so great for our damp areas near the pond and look great in a mixed planting with other moisture loving plants such as hostas and ferns.
A highlight of the late spring bog garden, Primula x bulleesiana is a hybrid cross between P. bulleyana and P. beesiana, with both parents being native to the Himalayas and China. The delicate flowers range from salmon to terracotta and include cream, rose, red, lavender and purple. These candelabra primulas thrive in damp shady environments and are a brilliant option for adding colour to the shade garden.
Common name: Candelabra primrose
Native to Northeast India, this is a magnificent plant with enormous glossy dark green leaves up to 30cm in length, with whitish down beneath. The large flowers, in dense rounded trusses, are bell shaped, pale to deep yellow with a purple blotch in the throat. This is one of the largest specimens of Rhodo macabeanum in the UK.
This is a wonderful large shrub with deep red flaking bark and wonderful broad leaves up to 45cm long with a cinnamon coloured felt beneath. It produces large clusters of bell-shaped, cream to pale pink flowers with purple markings at the base in spring. New leaves and shoots are coated in fine, brown hairs. Rhodo falconeri was discovered by botanist Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, Old Pheasants Eye, grows to 35cm tall, with narrow, channelled leaves. Flowers are single and fragrant, 4cm wide, with pure white petals and small, red-rimmed yellow cups, opening in late spring. This variety is over 100 years old and is recorded as having been first planted in the gardens in 1923, so it is one of the earliest introductions to the gardens.