The Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group

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South West Branch Visit to Haldon Grange 27 April 2016

We gathered at the carpark in front of the house and immediately felt an atmosphere of a garden that had been created and loved by plantspeople.

There was an air of ramshackle about the place; hand written signs on board, a very rustic hut from which tea and coffee was served, plants for sale with Burncoose labels still on them (prices cut off), many of which were of great size and most reasonably priced. We were given laminated maps of the garden and a brief introduction by owner Ted Pythian and his son Andrew who does most of the work in the garden now. The older parts of the garden date back over one hundred years, and the old house is now a Best Western Hotel. Haldon Grange itself was built about one hundred years ago in twelve acres of the pleasure grounds and Ted & Mary Pythian rescued the derelict gardens when they moved in thirty years ago.

We set off down to the left of the house to some newly planted beds beside old disused greenhouses. Passing under the three hundred year old ‘Haldon Oak’ we came to a mossy dell below the lake, and there was Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ over arching the stream. Beside a small cascade was a lovely plant of Rhododendron ‘Trewithen Orange’ with beautiful foliage, untouched by any blemishes. From beside the lake, the view up an extensive and immaculate lawn to the house is stunning, especially when standing beside a beautiful Japanese Maple with its golden unfurling leaves above a carpet of bluebells, fritillaries and other wild flowers.

The path led past a beautiful cinnabarinum hybrid rhododendron with clear pink flowers, other rhododendrons and a plant of Magnolia globosa with its pendant white flowers to a great white cherry ’Tai Haku’ in full flower forming a full stop to the vista. A path to the left of this led past other shrubs as it went uphill included a large clump of Staphylea colchica in flower.

An opening to the left leads down to a five acre newly planted arboretum with young trees in a varied assortment. At the top is ‘Mount Pleasant’ with views to Exeter and Exmouth, but which has a screen of conifers which rather bizarrely will block the view. Back into the garden are old Rhododendron arboreum hybrids of large size, and old trees including the largest Photinia I have seen and an immense suckering clump of Drimys winteri. This must be the oldest part of the garden.

We arrived back at the car park, and some of our company had tea and cake served from the hut beside the plant sales area, and I succumbed and made off with a very tall plant of the rare Cornus hongkongensis which only just fitted into the car.

A quirky but splendid and well loved garden was the verdict of the visit and very much a family affair.

John Marston

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Cascade below the lake
Japanese Maple with wild flowers beneath
Japanese maple with bluebells and fritillaries
Looking towards the older plantings
Magnolia globosa
New plantation
New planting area
On the main lawn
Rhododendron Trewithen Orange
Rhododendron cinnabarinum hybrid
Rhododendron with silver indumentum
Tai Haku (Great White cherry)
The 300 year old Haldon Oak
The lake
The lawn below the house
Unknown hybrid Rhododendron