Three groups of plants – one group of enthusiasts worldwide
A large group of members (including some from the Wessex Branch) came to see the wonderful garden at Sherwood which has been home to the National Collection of Magnolias, as well as deciduous Azaleas and Berberis, for many years, We anticipated a feast of Magnolia blossom; we were not disappointed. Vaughan Gallavan has been Head Gardener there since 1981, and knew all the plants personally - no mean feat. in view of the many hundreds that have been planted since then.
Sherwood has been up for sale for a while now, and is no longer open, so we were very grateful to Dr John Quicke for allowing our group to tour the garden. Because we were so many, we wandered at will with some of us following Vaughan who was available to answer questions. The garden is very large and would repay a full day of exploration, but we only had two hours.
Although there were some plants in the garden dating from the 1930s, and we noted a large and venerable Rhododendron racemosum, most planting was done over thirty-five years or so and some of the trees had grown to a very large size. A Poplar, planted to dry out a boggy area at the bottom of the valley, had grown enormous. The magnolias of note were M. Apollo, in the Jury hybrid group, and a lovely pure white M. Sayonara above. We also passed a large shrub of M. Butterflies with its characteristic flattened shape and buds standing up like candles. They had not opened but were covering the bush. It is not an easy magnolia to flower well, and this specimen was obviously very happy in its open position.
A path running above the valley led to another large group of magnolias. The acid green opening flowers of M. Limelight were very striking. One of my favourites is a small tree of M. denudata var wilsonae with white flowers and a distinct dark red blotch at the base of the flower. Although the flowers are relatively small, they have a grace and poise that is hard to beat. Further on, another valley with a pond at the bottom leads down to the main drive and boasts good yellow forms of Rhododendron maccabeanum and a beautiful R. Mrs Lionel de Rothschild. The valley the other side of the drive has Magnolias Lanarth, Darjeeling and Betty Jessel planted together which makes for interesting comparison. By far the largest is M. Betty Jessel and this was still in flower, whereas M. Lanarth had finished and there were a few flowers left on M. Darjeeling. Numerous other Rhododendrons and Magnolias were flowering all around, and standing out among these were the dark purple flowers of M. Margaret Helen. Vaughan is to be congratulated for keeping the garden healthy, tidy and well labelled. One hopes the future of this great garden at Sherwood can be secured under new ownership.