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Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

Plant collection – Spring highlights

The Gardens grow over 11,000 different taxa (types of plants) in over 40,000 plants and holds 13 National Plant Collections, set in a complementary mixture of formal and informal landscapes and garden styles.

Although a relatively young collection, its historical significance is recognised by a Grade II listing in English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.

The Gardens are supported by a distinguished group of expert advisors including the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Royal Horticultural Society, the Forestry Commission and the Hillier family.

  • Mahonia aquifolium ‘Cosmo Crawl’

    Mahonia aquifolium 'Cosmo Crawl'

    (ma-HO-nee-uh a-kwee-FOH-lee-um)

    This is a form of the North American species known as the Oregon Grape. The common name is due to the small, round, edible fruits that resemble grapes. The fruits are still grown as a food crop in the States. A very decorative, evergreen species whose leaves take on purple tints in autumn. Spring flowers are very attractive too. The form ‘Cosmo Crawl’ is a particularly prostrate grower, good as a ground cover in sun or shade.


  • Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Tortuosa’

    Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Tortuosa’

    (shee-no-MAY-leez spee-see-OH-suh)

    A twisted and contorted form of the Japanese Quince. The fruits that follow the large pink flowers can be cooked in the same way as the true quince and this can be made in to jams etc. The bright yellow fruits also have another use, they can be used in Pot Pourri! Leave the mature fruits in a small bowl and as they start to decay they give off a sweet, very pleasant aroma.


  • Prunus cerasifera ‘Rosea’

    Prunus cerasifera ‘Rosea’

    (PROO-nus ke-ra-SEE-fer-uh)

    This is a pink flowering form of the Cherry Plum. A very floriferous small tree that can be used as a feature tree or pruned to form part of a hedge. Cherry plums do produce a small, black fruit, but these are generally tasteless. The hybrids known as Mirabelles are grown for their tasty fruits and are a cross between the cherry plum and another Prunus species.


  • Narcissus ‘Odham’

    Narcissus ‘Odham’

    (nar-SIS-us )

    It’s at this time of year when you can reap the rewards of those hours spent planting bulbs in the autumn. The Garden’s collection of Daffodils is looking spectacular and gives a good example of the varied types available. While strolling around the Gardens you will see dwarf varieties on the alpine beds, naturalized native species in the meadows, tall single flowering varieties on the herbaceous beds and a selection of big, blousy, double flowering cultivars dotted around. Narcissus ‘Odham’ is certainly big and blousy! A lovely double white with the occasional yellow tint. When planting it is advisable to plant tall varieties slightly deeper, so to encourage a strong, stout stem to help the flowers stand up against the wind.


  • Rhododendron ‘Chink’

    Rhododendron ‘Chink’


    This is a really lovely, small Rhododendron! An early flowering type, sometimes flowering as early as the beginning of March. It is said that there are better yellows on the market, but I find this a delightfully colourful and floriferous plant. A hybrid between R. keiskei and R. trichocladum. First grown by the Crown Estates.


  • Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’

    Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’


    Magnolias are another group of plants that has become very popular in recent years and thus seen an increase in the number of varieties available. The Stellata types or Star Magnolias are perfect for pot culture or for smaller gardens. The form “Royal Star”, differs from the type (this means the true species) in the fact that it has twice the number of petals and thus the flowers are very much like a double flowering water Lilly.


  • Acacia pataczekii

    Acacia pataczekii

    (a-KAY-see-uh pat-a-CHEK-ee-eye)

    There are not many species of Acacia that are hardy in our climate and certainly even less of a choice as you head further north, but this species has proved itself, having survived this last, very cold winter! This species is less flamboyant in flower than A. dealbata, but the small flowers seem to work when combined with the silvery, eucalyptus-like foliage. Most Acacias in this country will be flowering around this time of year, so be aware that late frosts can damage flowers.


  • Prunus incisa ‘Oshidori’

    Prunus incisa ‘Oshidori’

    ( PROO-nus in-SYE-suh )

    With a huge array of flowering cherries available these days, it’s very difficult to choose the one thats perfect for that spot in the garden! This species, known as the “Fuji Cherry”, is probably one of the less troublesome types. Prunus incisa comes is several good forms, from a dwarf contorted shrub to a medium sized, upright tree. They are generally a smaller growing species and thus suitable for small gardens. The form “Oshidori” has delicate, double, pale pink flowers and can start flowering as early as mid march.


  • Magnolia ‘Lois’

    Magnolia ‘Lois’


    This is one of the best of the yellow flowering Magnolias! A fast growing cultivar that seems to thrive in both acid and alkaline soils. Yellow magnolias are all the rage in the gardening world at the moment and this unfortunately means they are rather on the expensive side. Magnolia acuminata is a North American species with a naturally yellow/green flower and it is this species that has been used as one of the parents of most yellow flowering cultivars.


  • Corylopsis glabrescens

    Corylopsis glabrescens

    (kor-uh-LOP-sis gla-BRES-senz)

    This glorious, spring flowering shrub just cannot be ignored! The racemes of lemon yellow, miniature bells are very attractive and have the bonus of a subtle, sweet scent.

    This is an easy to grow, woodland shrub that is suitable for almost any location. However, if trained as a wall shrub can look amazing up against a house or along a wall/fence. Native to Japan, this species was introduced in 1905.


  • Malus Butterball

    Malus ‘Butterball’


    This is a very beautiful Crab Apple! A snow storm of flower in spring is followed by masses of golden fruits later in the season. The fruits can remain on the tree in to the beginning of winter and thus this is a crab apple with a very long season of interest. Butterball is a great small tree and can even be grown in a large pot, for those with very limited space. Crab apple jam can be made from the small fruits. The flower colour in crab apples can range from white to dark pink and almost red. They can have large single flowers or multi-petalled double flowers. Fruits can be tiny like blackcurrants or large like cooking apples. All in all, Crabs are super trees to bring colour to the garden.


  • Exochorda The Bride

    Exochorda x macrantha

    The Bride’ (ek-so-KOR-duh ma-KRAN-tha)

    An elegant shrub with graceful, arching branches and large white flowers in April and May. Delicate, soft green foliage which turns to shades of yellow and orange in autumn. Best suited to a sunny, open position or makes a great rambling wall shrub. The Bride, is such a good name for this most floriferous shrub, with its gown of white from mid to late spring.


  • Cornus Floribunda Sweetwater

    Cornus florida ‘Sweetwater’

    (KOR-nus FLOR-id-uh)

    This is a very attractive form of the North American flowering Dogwood! Here in the Gardens we have the largest collection of this species in the country, this is due to most collections of any considerable size being susceptible to a viral infection, however here in the Gardens we have sustained a large collection with no sign of the problem. Flowering Dogwoods are not the easiest of flowering trees to grow. They really only do well on acid soils, need shelter from strong winds and are quite slow growing. However, when they flower the show is fantastic.


  • Maianthemum Racemosum

    Maianthemum racemosum

    (may-an-the-mum ray-see-MO-sum)

    Sometimes known as False Solomon’s Seal. An herbaceous perennial found growing wild in the moist woodlands of North America. The plumes of tiny flowers, that appear in spring, exude the most sweet perfume. This is a plant for a woodland garden as well as a plant for herbaceous borders and the marginal areas of bog gardens. Red, shiny berries form in autumn.


  • Illicium Floridum

    Illicium floridum

    (ill-LISS-ee-um flor-ee-DAH-num)

    Closely related to the plant that gives us the oriental spice ‘Star anise’. The deep red flowers are rich and colourful with the basic structure very similar to that of a magnolia, to which it is related. The leaves give off a pleasant citrus smell when crushed. Native to the acidic woodlands of North America.


  • Paeonia delavayi

    Paeonia delavayi

    (pay-OHN-ee-uh del-uh-VAY-ee)

    This is one of many species of peony called ‘Tree Peonies’, due to the fact that they produce a woody stem, however they are considered a shrub. There are many colour forms of this Chinese species. The most sort after is the very rare black form, then dark reds, yellows and all shades in between. The original species was discovered by the eminent plants man Pierre Jean Marie Delavay over a hundred years ago.


  • Rhododendron ‘Golden Oriole'

    Rhododendron ‘Golden Oriole'


    In just a short time, this area of Brentry Woods will be full of colour! The deciduous Azalea collection is superb. Golden Oriole is one of the first of these deciduous types to flower. Azaleas and Rhododendrons are now all classified as one group, although there are some differences between the two. Azaleas are generally small leaved, they can be evergreen or deciduous, but many more species are the later compared to Rhododendrons which tend to be evergreen.


  • Magnolia ‘Gold Star’

    Magnolia ‘Gold Star’


    This is a really outstanding variety of yellow magnolia! Its is easy to see the ‘Star Magnolia’ M. stellata, in this hybrid’s parentage. The golden yellow flowers are said to be frost resistant too, which is always a plus for a magnolia in this country. The North American species Magnolia acuminata is the other parents in the mix and the source of the yellow colouration. Magnolia breeding is a long process and can take as long as 12 years to see your first flowers and sometimes even longer with the larger flowering species. However, growing magnolias from seed can be fun and germination is usually quite easy with a little stratification (cold treatment).


  • Dipelta floribunda

    Dipelta floribunda

    (dy-PEL-tuh flor-ih-BUN-duh)

    This is a really beautiful Chinese shrub. In cultivation since 1850, but seldom seen in gardens. Closely related to Lonicera (Honeysuckle) the fruits that follow the flowers are quite unique and attractive. They resemble slightly, the fruits of the Elm, being made up of two shield-like discs. The flowers are often said to resemble those of Kolkwitzia, the Beauty Bush.


  • Berberis x stenophylla

    Berberis x stenophylla

    (BUR-bur-is sten-oh-FIL-uh)

    This group of spiky shrubs isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they certainly look fabulous at this time of year with their colourful, small flowers produced en masse. This hybrid a cross between B. darwinii _ B. empetrifolia was made in 1864. There are several good colour forms with the stunning ‘Lemon Queen’, being the best yellow. Do check out other species around the Gardens, they can make a great alternative to Privet and Laurel in a garden hedge.



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