Exbury Gardens in the New Forest, one of the country’s best loved woodland gardens, will be reopening its gates on 9 March for the 2024 season with acres of daffodils, spring bulbs and camellias to explore, and scores of orchids and rare leopard lilies on display.
Visitors are in for a flower power treat as Exbury’s Daffodil Meadow, boasting thousands of naturalised blooms leading down to the picturesque Beaulieu River, will be bursting into colour along with the River of Gold, a lawned walkway fringed with over 100,000 yellow and blue spring bulbs.
The Gardens’ renowned camellia and magnolia collection will be in bloom, and recent very wet weather means the plants are covered in lots of buds, a sign they should be on track for a brilliant flowering season. Indoors, an exhibition of lachenalia plants, also known as leopard lilies, and orchids will be on show in the Five Arrows Gallery. Entrance to the exhibition will be included in the gardens’ admission price.
2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of Exbury’s famed Azalea Bowl, a visitor favourite that blossoms in April/May in a kaleidoscope of reds, shocking pinks, purples and whites. Planted in 1964 by former head gardener Freddie Wynniatt it surrounds a large pond in the Gardens. It has witnessed numerous marriage proposals and is probably the most photographed spot at Exbury. The Gardens team will be running special azalea-themed guided tours and visitors will be encouraged to send in their photographs taken in the Azalea Bowl over the years for a special commemoration page on Exbury’s website.
Head gardener Tom Clarke said: “It’s a real privilege to be curating the Azalea Bowl as it’s such an iconic horticultural landscape, a real crown jewel at Exbury. And with the high rainfall we’ve been having, it looks set to be a great spring. Our plant collections have lots of buds so it looks really promising for a fantastic start to the season.”
Other 2024 highlights will include:
March – Half price entrance to the Gardens for mums on Mother’s Day, 10 March.
June - In collaboration with the Friends of The New Forest Airfields, a children’s art exhibition to coincide with the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Exbury House was requisitioned by the Admiralty, commissioned as ‘stone frigate’ HMS Mastodon and used for D-Day planning.
Also in June will be the 300th anniversary of landscape designer William Gilpin’s birth. A proponent of the Picturesque style, he promoted the idea that ‘nature knew best’ and encouraged Exbury’s owner at the time, William Mitford, to open up a view from Exbury House to the Isle of Wight, install a ha-ha and create the Glade, all of which still remain today.
Dads can also get half price entrance to the Gardens on Father’s Day, 16 June.
July – For Dragonfly Week, experts Ruary Mackenzie Dodds and Kari de Koenigswarter will be leading walks and talks on these fascinating insects centred around Exbury’s Dragonfly Pond, a British Dragonfly Society hotspot.
August/September – seasonal spotlight on hydrangeas with guided tours by Exbury’s garden team, and over the summer holidays there will be Garden Games for younger visitors throughout the grounds.
Exbury Gardens is open daily from 9 March until 3 November 2024 10am – 5.30pm. Arrival time slots must be booked online in advance at www.exbury.co.uk Admission prices – to 31 March, and then 1 July to season close, £13 standard adult and £5.50 child. 1 April- 30 June £16 standard adult and £6 child. Under 3s free