Sunday 8th May 2016 Isabella Plantation and private garden Sarum.

Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park,

The Isabella Plantation is a 40 acre woodland garden set within a Victorian woodland plantation planted in the 1830s. First opened to the public in 1953, it is best known for its evergreen azaleas, which line the ponds and streams and are at their peak of flower in late April and early May. Located in the gardens are the National Collection of Wilson 50 Kurume Azaleas (introduced to the west from Japan in the 1920s by the plant collector Ernest Wilson), large collections of rhododendrons and camellias, plus many other rare and unusual trees and shrubs which provide interest all year round. It has recently benefited from £1.6 million lottery funding which has enabled restoration, restructuring and replanting of its collections. The garden has recently been described as 'the best garden in England'.

Sarum, Worplesdon, Guildford
The private garden of Rod and Mary White. Rod is a rhododendron species expert who visited many of the best collections in the country with John McQuire and the late Dr Mike Robinson (who jointly wrote The Pocket Guide to Rhododendron Species). Rod and Mary sought a family house with suitable soil where they could move and develop their extensive collection of rare plants. They bought Sarum which at the time had a completely overgrown 2.5 acre garden, and they spent the next two years clearing it, with an almost non‐stop bonfire. They have since laid out a good looking plantsman’s garden with some of the best forms of species, incorporating extensive companion plantings to add interest and give ground cover.
For the last two years, Rod has been Steward at the Early Rhododendron Competition at RHS Wisley.

Monday 9th May 2016 Savill Gardens or Valley Gardens and private garden Pyrford Court.

Savill Gardens and Valley Gardens, Windsor Great Park
The Savill Garden, Englefield Green is where Sir Eric Savill first created his woodland garden in the 1930s. The Savill Garden is a true wonder. It's a garden for all seasons and a place of beauty and colour that's loved by horticulturists and enthusiasts alike. Visitors can journey through 35 acres of interconnecting gardens and exotic woodland. Every garden has its own unique attraction, and during May the collections of rhododendrons and magnolias are at their best.
The Valley Gardens, 250 acres of landscaped garden and woodland containing isolated clumps of native oak, beech, sweet chestnut and Scots pine that were planted as far back as the early 1700s. Sir Eric Savill and Hope Findlay developed it further in the 1940s. Partly inspired by the garden's structure of parallel valleys, they planted whole collections of particular plant groups together. Today, the Valley Gardens, with the Savill Garden, provide a home to National Collections of MagnoliaMahonia, PernettyaRhododendron species, Glenn Dale azaleas, hardy ferns, Ilex and Dwarf conifers. The most famous of the valleys is the Punch Bowl. A natural amphitheatre of multi‐coloured azaleas, it erupts into a riot of colour in early May.

Pyrford Court, Woking,
Pyrford Court comprises about 20 acres of formal and informal ornamental gardens with a woodland garden and an ornamental lake. The site was laid out from 1906 by Lord and Lady Iveagh. Lady Iveagh was strongly influenced by the writings of, and may have consulted Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) who lived not far away at Munstead Wood. There is an extensive collection of early rhododendron hybrids, plus a superb collection of Wisteria which should be looking at its best. Plant Heritage are actively involved with the rare plants which have been re-discovered here. Pyrford Court is a very private garden, not normally open to the public, and has been recommended by Jim Gardiner of the RHS. Noel Duffy, the Head Gardener, has worked wonders in the garden in the 3 years since he was appointed.

Tuesday 10th May 2016 Private gardens The Coach House and Ramster.

The Coach House, Cranleigh.
The private garden of Tony and Carolyn Townsend. The garden consists of 22 acres on the south side of the North Downs. The Townsends bought the derelict Coach House and overgrown garden in 1979. After converting the property into a lovely house, they started on the gardens and after the great storms of 1987 and 1990 took down many large trees. During the last 15 years they have cleared undergrowth and Rhododendron ponticum to reveal old plantings dating from approx. 1920, and have made extensive new plantings of rhododendrons and magnolias, cornus and hydrangeas. They have made ponds and even rebuilt a stone folly bought from Chelsea Flower Show to give wonderful distant views to the South Downs. Carolyn is Chairman of the Friends of the RHS and has recently joined the RCMG.

Ramster, Chiddingfold,
Ramster was laid out by Gauntlett Nurseries of Chiddingfold in the 1900s and is famous for its stunning collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias which flourish under the mature woodland canopy. With influences from the Japanese gardens, it now stretches over twenty acres. The carpets of scented bluebells contrast exquisitely with the fiery display of azaleas and rhododendrons in May. In the bog garden a mass of colourful primulas cascade down the rill, and stepping-stones weave a path under the leaves of the giant gunnera. Always peaceful and beautiful, the changing colours are reflected in the pond and lake. In the 1990s former RCMG Chairman John Bond was instrumental in establishing the Group’s Hardy Hybrid Rhododendron Collection here, preserving many old British varieties before they were lost.

We are very grateful to Miranda Gunn who is hosting our AGM and our celebratory lunch prior to visiting her wonderful garden.