This year marks the 100th anniversary of the spectacular 200-acre Exbury Gardens near Beaulieu in the New Forest.
World famous for its Rothschild Collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and rare trees and shrubs, Exbury is celebrating its big birthday with some impressive new projects and a series of special events.
A new ‘secret centenary garden’ and ‘stream’ of spring bulbs opened to the public in March. Designed by RHS Gold Medal-winning designer Marie-Louise Agius, great grand-daughter of Exbury Gardens’ founder Lionel de Rothschild, the contemporary centenary garden features subtle nods to the family history, and will reach its full glory in late summer.
Visitors can also discover more about the story behind Exbury Gardens in a new history exhibition that showcases photographs of the gardens and staff from the last 100 years.
Keep an eye on the website for special events throughout the year, from exhibitions and special offers to a day devoted to dogs and a New Forest summer fair.
The gardens were apparently described by one visitor as “heaven with the gates open” and are a horticulturalist’s dream. But its appeal is far greater than just for gardeners.
There are more than 20 miles of paths to explore, and children can play spot the woodland creature, with a series of sculptures of deer, rabbits, lizards and meerkats alongside some very real pheasants, deer, herons and kingfishers!
We visited on a cool and cloudy spring day, but it was still spectacular.
The grounds make for a stunning peaceful walk down towards the Beaulieu River. There are so many different corners to explore: formal gardens, informal gardens, ponds, meadows, a bog garden and a rock garden, woodlands with ancient yew trees, shady walks along rivers, and spring carpets of sapphire haze created by bluebells alongside bubbling streams.
There’s a special family ticket and kids love racing along in the wind and rain as happily as in bright sunshine, only stopping to tuck into a picnic at one of the little hideaway spots.
Little ones love the play area, the specially designed family trail and activities, and the steam railway which chugs and whistles its way happily through the rhododendrons.
The Gardens are also dog-friendly. Although dogs have to be kept on a short lead, which can be tough when you’re walking with a boisterous Beagle, Bonios are handed out as a matter of course in the tearooms.
On June 9, 2019, there’s a ‘Devoted to Dogs Day’ with discounts for those who bring along their four-legged friend.
At the exit gate is a small nursery with some specimens of the amazing plants in the collection to take home with you – worth a visit in its own right if you’re in the area.
Tickets and opening times for Exbury Gardens can be found here.