Eye-popping spring bulbs, beautiful cherry blossom and trailing wisteria are among the treats that visitors to the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) gardens can look forward to in 2021. With garden closures meaning many missed out this year, it's a second chance to get out into the fresh air and lift the spirits with a glorious burst of spring colour.
The new year also heralds some significant new developments coming to fruition, from the opening of the charity's fifth garden RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford, Greater Manchester, the first new addition to its portfolio in 20 years, to the flagship new RHS Hilltop - the Home of Gardening Science at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey.
All four RHS gardens will bring in spring with a dazzling array of bulb displays. Starting with snowdrops in January, followed by fields of crocus and daffodils (February/March), brightly-coloured tulips (March/April/May) and many other varieties.
In addition, the RHS Gardens are among 160 public sites across the UK to be planting flowering cherry trees across the year as part of the nationwide Sakura Cherry Tree Project symbolising friendship and cooperation between Japan and the UK. The donation of trees is supported by Japanese private sector businesses, and coordinated by a dedicated 'Sakura Team' who have selected three varieties for colour variance, blossom timing and historical significance: Beni Yutaka (pink), Tai Haku (white), and Somei Yoshino (pale pink).
Efforts continue to encourage more wild bees to the RHS Gardens with the installation of wild bee nest boxes (donated by charity Praise Bee). Each box contains tubes of paper 'straws' where eggs laid by solitary bees such as the red mason bee, an important pollinator, can develop over winter into new adults that emerge in spring.
As visitors step into the garden, a new water feature and surrounding path will connect to the sandstone rock garden.
Planting up of the new Sun Border will continue throughout spring and be completed by Easter. This south-facing situation is ideal for sun-loving selections including incense cedar, bay, agapanthus, nerine and amarine hybrids. It will also feature over a hundred hebe cultivars that are part of a plant trial to test their hardiness. A seating area will provide a superb vantage point for the view along Harlow Carr's dramatic Main Borders down towards Streamside.
A new collection of over 20 monkey puzzle trees will be planted near the Bramall Learning Centre in an area where trees were previously lost to ash dieback. Historically, these exotic specimens may have struggled to survive in northern England but the changing climate means they can now be grown at Harlow Carr for the first time. Their planting is part of a wider plan to grow a broader range of tree species to limit the impact of more extreme weather conditions and new pest and disease threats.
In addition, a new heritage orchard will include 17 apple cultivars representing the best from the local area. The trees will be underplanted by meadow flowers to attract important pollinators.
A new wooden footbridge across the Queen Mother's Lake featuring slatted sides shaped to enhance the surrounding landscape is expected to be built in 2021.
Spring visitors will be greeted by the sight of over 120,000 daffodils along the road approaching the garden and inside, along with containers bursting with tulips around the front entrance. Camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias will bring warm splashes of pink and red to the woodland areas.
In the Floral Fantasia area, new plant trials include what promises to be the most comprehensive outdoor, comparative spring pansy trial co-sponsored by the British Protected Ornamental Association (BPOA), with over 270 cultivars being put to the test (April). In addition, the sweet pea trial, showcasing a number of new cultivar introductions from six leading UK specialists and including ground cover, trailing and hedge types, will fill the air with scent from late May. These will be supported by pea sticks, following the interest visitors have shown in using these traditional methods.
The FleuroSelect Year of the Calendula 2021 trial will follow the very successful Rudbeckia 2020 trial with some of the winning Rudbeckia cultivars being grown again.
Also in Floral Fantasia, a new rose bed will demonstrate what can be achieved in small gardens. This features the new bedding plant rose 'Precious Series' in three colours and has four standards above 16 bushes. Some 1,800 Cyclamen coum (Jan-Mar) and tulips edged with catmint (Apr-May) will give the bed a year round dash of colour.
In late summer, new dahlia displays will bring vibrant colour throughout the garden with stunning cultivars including 'Andries' Orange', 'Sunset' and 'Purple Sensation'.
Work continues to create the first Linear Arboretum at an RHS Garden with around 200 new specimen trees including 120 flowering cherries set to be planted across the garden this year. The team expects to plant 200 trees per year for the next five years in what curator Robert Brett describes as Hyde Hall's 'Capability Brown moment', set to significantly change the garden's character and landscape over the coming decades.
Ushering in the first signs of spring, galanthophiles will delight as drifts of white snowdrops cover the surrounds of the lake, underpass and Rock Gully. Guided tours of the collection and all the other early flowering gems will run over the peak snowdrop period in February.
Come spring, the bedding by the Welcome Building will feature a profusion of rich purples and blues (Tulipa 'Merlot', Muscari 'Joyce Spirit' & Muscari 'Superstar') complemented by the pale lemon of Tulipa 'Vanilla Cream', while the greenhouse in the fruit and vegetable garden will be bursting with freesias and Narcissus 'Paper White Grandiflorus' to create a scent explosion.
Other seasonal highlights will include the celebrated Collingwood 'Cherry' Ingram collection, joined by 15 new flowering cherries, the elegant wisteria cloaking Rosemoor House and wow factor of the drumstick alliums in the Hot Garden.
Newly designated National Plant Collections of Ruscus, hardy nerines and Iris will be on display, helping to ensure the conservation of these garden favourites.
A successful appeal has raised enough funds for a new shelter in the Devon Apple Orchard which will be built this year by local craftspeople using the traditional rural skills of stonemasonry, carpentry and thatching. As well as providing refuge from the elements, the shelter will offer beautiful vistas out to the lake and house interpretation panels about the heritage apple varieties grown there. It is expected to open before autumn comes.
Curatorial staff have been working with local volunteers on a long-term project to restore part of the Rolle Canal, which runs parallel to the River Torridge along the western perimeter of the garden. Work will continue in 2021 to restore more of the historic leat and lime kilns, with the aim of opening the first phase to the public towards the end of the year. The curatorial team also continues with the long-term project to open up more of Rosemoor's previously unseen woodland areas and increase its plantings of native broadleaf trees.
The flagship new RHS Hilltop - The Home of Gardening Science will open in June 2021. For the first time, this landmark state-of-the-art development will give visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the charity's science work researching gardening challenges ranging from extreme weather to pests and diseases. The Centre includes three purpose-built laboratories, a herbarium with digitisation suite, two learning studios and a teaching garden, while a new library and archive will enable the RHS to open up and share not-seen-before collections of botanical art, horticultural books and other records.
Wrapping around RHS Hilltop will be three new gardens designed by world-class garden designers -the Wildlife Garden and World Food Garden by Ann-Marie Powell and the Wellbeing Garden by Matt Keightley. Combined, these gardens will cover over 17,000 square metres and include 150,000 bulbs, 53,000 perennial plants and over 300 new trees.
The Wildlife Garden draws inspiration from the natural environments of the British Isles and will demonstrate how plant diversity can help wildlife, while the World Food Garden, a contemporary 'plot to plate' experience, will feature a maze-like series of raised beds and an outdoor demonstration kitchen. In contrast, the Wellbeing Garden will be a series of 'garden rooms' enticing visitors to explore the many ways gardens can be used for physical and psychological therapy, natural health care or simply to relax in.
As swathes of spring colour sweep across the garden, visitors will be able to enjoy some unusual new bulb cultivars. These include 45,000 Camassia leichtlinii 'Silk River' (Apr-May) whose large creamy white flowers will carpet The Lane leading up to RHS Hilltop; Leucojum aestivum 'Bridesmaid' (Mar-May), an earlier and longer flowering Leucojum cultivar; and show stopping Fritillaria persica 'Purple Dynamite' (Apr-May) which can be found at the top of the Rock Garden.
In addition, new plantings of white-flowered Cornus kousa and blue camassia will be going into the area where the fruit and vegetable gardens are currently to connect The Lane with the rose garden.
The new Trials Garden will open in June, relocated from Portsmouth Field to its new home on the site of the former Plant Centre. Plants that will be put through their paces during 2021 include sweet peas, Hebe, Dahlia and Nemesia.
Finally, the second phase of the Welcome Landscape will open in early summer, which will frame the east faade of the famous Arts and Crafts Wisley laboratory which has been hidden from view since the 1960s when it was obscured by the old garden entrance buildings. It will be surrounded by new planting, formal lawns and topiary pieces.
In May, the grand opening of RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford, postponed from July 2020, will establish a new destination for world-class horticulture in the North West of England.
Gardeners eager for a look at the first new RHS Garden for 20 years will be rewarded with inspirational modern design and thought-provoking planting. The Paradise Garden by Tom Stuart-Smith will be a particular highlight, with Mediterranean and Asiatic plantings and a spectacular lily pond at its heart, while the Kitchen Garden designed by Harris Bugg Studio offers a new take on grow-your-own, with sections dedicated to agroforestry, classic and ornamental productive gardening.
Next to these gardens, all set within the historic 11-acre Weston Walled Garden, will be a Wellbeing Garden, Learning Garden and Orchard Gardens. Beyond these lie the Worsley Welcome Garden and new Lake, Chinese Streamside Garden, the historic Ellesmere Lake, Victoria Meadows and Middle Wood, including a seven acre Woodland Play space for kids of all ages.
Beyond the RHS gardens, RHS members gain free entry during selected periods to over 200 Partner Gardens which will be looking forward to welcoming visitors in 2021.
New highlights for 2021 include the opening of the restored walled garden at Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire, a new contemporary design for the Flower Garden border at Cawdor Castle Gardens in the Highlands and a new trough garden and more than 3,000 organically grown perennials at Yeo Valley Organic Gardens, Somerset, making the meadow even more stunning late into the year.
This story was published on: 19/12/2020
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