Archive for the ‘Spring Colour Watch Blog’ Category

Spring colour: what’s looking good now? By Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager.

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

The sun has come out and the weather has warmed up – and most importantly, the spring colour has bounced into life! The colour doesn’t take long to spot once you’ve entered the Old Arboretum via the top entrance by the Great Oak Hall. A few of today’s favourite examples are below – with large images so that you can enjoy them as much as I have done!

Two camellias first greet you as you enter the Old Arboretum – Camellia x williamsii ‘Bow Bells’ and Camellia Japonica ‘Adolphe Audusson’.  Camellia x williamsii ‘Bow Bells’ is one of the earlier specimens to flower in spring and produces single pink flowers amongst its dark green foliage. Camellia Japonica ‘Adolphe Audusson’ is a large shrub with rich red flowers and yellow stamens.

Camellia x Williamsii 'Bow Bells'

Camellia Japonica 'Adolphe Audusson'

You can’t miss the next example of spring colour – and one we’ve already dedicated a separate blog post to – the Magnolia sprengeri ‘Diva’. This specimen is 24 metres tall and a ‘Champion’, which means it’s the largest of its kind in the UK (as measured by the Tree Register of the British Isles).

Westonbirt's Champion Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva'

Continue on a loop around Circular Drive and you’ll come across more magnolias bouncing into bloom with the warmth. This Magnolia kobus, also known as the Northern Japanese magnolia, has beautifully fragrant white flowers and slender petals.

Magnolia kobus

On and off the path on Circular Drive there are also some great examples of Westonbirt’s rhododendrons in bloom, with many to follow as we approach the peak flowering season in May.

The small Rhododendron ‘Crossbill’ has pretty orange-tinged flowers and looks great with the towering Magnolia sprengeri in the background. Wander from the path to really appreciate this specimen close-up.

Rhododendron 'crossbill'

And finally, two more rhododendrons to take in on this short but flower filled route: Rhododendon basilicum, with its large showy leaves and creamy white flowers and Rhododendron phaeochrysum v. agglutinatum.

Rhododendon basilicum

Rhododendron phaeochrysum v. Agglutinatum

You can find out more about these beautiful trees and other spring blooms at

Don’t forget – you can visit for half price on Wednesdays in April and May with our ‘Westonbirt Wednesdays’ offer!

Spring Colour Watch Blog: bright is beautiful, by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Victory Glade rhododendrons
Take a look back over the previous twelve weeks of this year’s Spring Colour Watch Blog, and you’ll see a succession of bold colours.

1.Circular Drive2. Circular Drive
From the earliest days of spring, we saw large pink blooms amongst the bare branches of the magnolias. Now, the arboretum is a very much greener place. Leaves are emerging on the oak trees around Circular Drive, providing a lush backdrop to the flame-coloured rhododendrons and deep tones of the bluebells.

3. Circular Drive4. Circular Drive
Add a blue sky to the mix and you’ve got quite a kaleidoscope. There are some great views to been seen around the arboretum as the leaves fill out the outline of the landscape.

5. View Circular Drive6. View Savill Glade
Much of this was carefully planned by the arboretum’s original creators from the 1840s onwards. They were following W. S. Gilpin’s picturesque principles of landscape design: picturesque it certainly is and much of the Forestry Commission’s work at Westonbirt today is carefully planned to continue this.

7. Rhododendron Nero8. Rhododendron Barbara Wallace
The biggest of the rhododendrons continue to emerge. Rhododendron ‘Nero’ on Loop Walk and Rhododendron ‘Barbara Wallace’ on Circular Drive look particularly good in the sunshine – we’ve had plenty of that this week!

9. Acer Glade10. Acer Glade
11. Acer Glade12. Acer Glade
Some of Westonbirt’s best loved trees, the Japanese maples from which we take our logo, also sing out in the sun. Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum is a great place to explore with a camera, with leaves which are large and golden, small and red or feathery and green. Take a look at last week’s blog to see how the maples in Silk Wood compare.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog: maple colours to challenge autumn! by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The current red and pink leaves of some of Westonbirt’s Japanese maples tease of autumn colour – but the sea of bluebells underneath reminds us that it is spring.

Westonbirt Arboretum is known across the world for its autumn colour, particularly of the Japanese maples, but a spring walk here offers a different insight to these trees.

Take a walk around the Japanese Maple Collection and Maple Loop in Silk Wood and you’ll see a mix of lush green, dark red and bright pink maple foliage. What makes this picture even more stunning is the carpet of bluebells underneath.

Some of the best maples for spring colour include Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, a large shrub with deep purple leaves in spring and summer; Acer palmatum ‘Deshojo’, with vivid red spring leaves and Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’ with golden-yellow spring leaves.

Maples have been selectively bred over many hundreds of years specifically to bring out these wide variations in colour. Some have been selected to give a great autumnal show of colour, whilst others have been selected to provide the bright fresh spring display we can see at Westonbirt at the moment.

The other benefit of this great variety is that maples come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, to suit all gardens and tastes. Westonbirt Plant Centre has great choice of acers which you may find hard to resist having seen in the collection – make sure you pop in when you visit.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog: glorious trees, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Dove Tree branch

Spring colour is abundant amongst the tree collection at the moment.

Dove Tree 2Dove Tree 3Dove Tree 1
Main Drive is a good place to start and is home to some great specimens of Davidia involucrata, also known as the Dove Tree or Handkerchief Tree because of the white bracts that surround the small spherical flowers.

Red Horse ChestnutHorned maple
Along the way, look out for the flower spikes of Aesculus x carnea, or Red Horse Chestnut (pictured above left). The flowers are just starting to bloom and should be looking good this weekend if the forecasted good weather comes to fruition.

Also look out for the Horned Maple, Acer diabolicum (above right). The flowers look like bright green and red tassels.

KatsuraCornus kousa
If this week’s weather has put you in any doubt about spring’s arrival, you need look no further for reassurance than this Cercidiphyllum Japonicum (known as Katsura, pictured above left), which has a snug coating of soft new leaves all the way along the main branches.

You’ll have to step off the path so see the first tiny bracts emerging on Cornus kousa (above right). The view below was also taken in this area of the Old Arboretum and should help you track it down. You could also use the interactive map.

View from Main Drive
As you can see, bluebells still feature prominently in the landscape at the moment – more unusually, white variations can also be found frequently enough not to feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Amongst cornus kousa branchesWhite bluebells
Enjoy our spring trees this weekend – it may be damp under foot but the arboretum is now a very green and leafy place.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog: rhododendrons with stories to tell, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Rhododendron header
This week we have really been able to start to revel in the heritage of some of Westonbirt biggest and brightest spring blooms, the rhododendrons. All of the pictures in the blog were taken this week, from 30 April onwards.

Rhododendron 'Sun of Austerlitz'RhododendronRhododendron-'Mary-Hoogan'
Plant hunters such as Sir Joseph Hooker, George Forrest, Ernest Wilson and Joseph Rock introduced new species from China, Burma and Japan.

Rhododendron AzaleaRhododendron-Azalea-2
The raising of rhododendron hybrids first started in the 1820s and boomed in the early 20th century as more regions of China and the Himalayas were explored and more species were discovered. The Holford family at Westonbirt were keen to keep up with the trend. 

Rhododendron017RhododendronRhododendron 'Glory of Littleworth'
All around Savill Glade, Main Drive, Circular Drive and the start of Loop Walk, there is evidence of this zeal for collecting.

Rhododendron 'Blue Tit'Rhododendron
Many of the rhododendrons you’ll come across have names that hint at their interesting origins, perhaps named after people, places or the plant hunters themselves:

Rhododendron ‘Alison Johnstone’ (pictured above) is named after the wife of George Johnstone, a horticulturalist who created the garden at Trewithen in Truro after he inherited the house there in 1904. He bred this hybrid, and was rewarded for his efforts with the RHS award of merit in 1945.

Rhododendron ‘Kewense’ (pictured above) is so called because it is one of many hybrids raised at Kew in the 1870s.

Rhododendron griffithianum (hybrid pictured above) originates from the Himalayas. Its namesake, William Griffith, was a botanist who collected more than 9,000 species in his career – according to his contemporaries the most by any single individual.

He is said to have been one of the first Europeans to visit the Himalayan region. During a life of many and varied occupations he was at one point director of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens.

These are just some of the stories behind our wonderful rhododendrons. With 800 species including the azaleas, the rhododendron genus is one of the largest. This gave great scope for hybridisation and the varied collection still enjoyed by our visitors each spring.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog: scented and spiky, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

This week the Old Arboretum offers some spiky spring specimens, lovely scented blooms and some historic rhododendrons which are getting a little bigger than the arboretum’s creators intended.
The fiercely spiked berberis genus of plants provides a variety of spring colour.

Pictured below left is the rich flame coloured berberis x lologensis barberry hybrid from Argentina, which is hard to miss on your right as you walk between the last two stops of the seasonal trail.

Also pictured is berberis valdiviana which is one of the fiercest I came across this week!

The most deliciously scented blooms I came across were those of viburnum carlesii, which can be found towards the southern end of Loop Walk, on the footpath that loops off towards the bottom of Jackson Avenue.

The more delicately scented flowers of the witch alder, fothergilla major, are featured as a stop on the Old Arboretum seasonal trail.

These slow growing American witch alders are named in honour of Dr John Fothergill, who created one of the earliest and most extensive collections of American plants in the 18th century thanks to his patronage of William Bartram, the American botanist, with whom he corresponded.

At an earlier stop on the seasonal trail you will find a rather large specimen of Rhododendron williamsianum from China.

It is usually described as a dwarf species, but as you’ll see, this 100 year old specimen would fill many of our modern day suburban gardens!

It is unusual amongst the many rare and historic rhododendron hybrids planted in the late nineteenth century by Sir George Holford as it has small heart shaped leaves, rather than the large elongate leaves of most specimens.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog: such a lot of spring!

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

There has been rather a lot going on as far as spring colour watching goes this week. Here are two takes from two members of the Forestry Commission team at Westonbirt on the best of what our 240 hectares have to offer right now…

Unusual flowers and lovely leaves in the Old Arboretum, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Shouting loudest in this carefully planted part of Westonbirt’s landscape at the moment are the rhododendrons. Rhododendron augustinii and R. ‘Prince Camille de Rohan’ are looking particularly splendid and are easy to find near Dukes Cut as you walk along Loop Walk.

If you are heading down Main Drive, you’ll see a rhododendron blooming right next to a Wellingtonia – you’ll see some interpretation nearby which talks about this tree as ‘our big baby’ – it has rich orangey bark which contrasts with the rhododendron’s purple blooms. Also pictured is the delicate Rhododendron davidsonianum ‘Serenade’, on Loop Walk.

There are some other unusual flowers to look out for, in the form of hybrid fruit trees such as this magenta flowering hybrid crab apple (Malus x purpurea) near where Pool Avenue meets Jackson Avenue and this willow leaved pear (Pyrus salicifolia) on Holford Ride – named for obvious reasons.

Aside from flowers, we are now able to celebrate leaves as the arboretum comes into a lush green phase. Look out for our maples, such as this Acer palmatum ‘Momoira Kohya San’ on Loop Walk, or just take a stroll through Acer Glade where many shades of red and green are emerging.

There are also new leaves appearing on the tulip trees on Jackson Avenue – the leaves have a most unusual shape and are a reminder of the green-tinted shade they’ll offer in the blistering summer sunshine later in the year.


A wander along Willesley Drive in Silk Wood, by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Attention in Silk Wood this week turns to Willesley Drive; the long path leading up from the Plant Centre to the junction of Green Lane and Broad Drive.

The spring seasonal trail takes in the length of the drive. As you wander along, you cannot help but feel that spring is here: fresh, bright green leaves are coming into leaf and the flowering trees along the spring seasonal trail are either in bloom or on their way.

As you turn in from Broad Drive, the first stop on the trail you come to takes in the Yoshino cherry, one of the most popular white flowering cherry trees, and the snowdrop tree.

The close proximity of these two spring flowering trees contrasts with their very different origins.

The snowdrop tree (Halesia carolina) on the left, is a wild woodland species from south-eastern USA, while the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) on the right, is a highly cultured hybrid resulting from a cross between spring cherry (P. subhirtella) and Oshima cherry (P. speciosa).

The cherry flowers first with almond-scented white flowers, the snowdrop tree will flower in May, its pendulous bell-shaped flowers living up to its name.

Yoshino-cherry-Silk-Wood-16-April (34)Yoshino-cherry-Silk-Wood-16-April (32)

Another flowering cherry greets you further on down the path, the Prunus ‘Shirotae’, or Mount Fuji cherry, which was introduced to Britain in the 1900s – the first specimen was planted at Westonbirt in March 1931. Although it doesn’t survive, there is a tree dating from 1941 which appears to be a descendant, having been home grafted here at Westonbirt.

Prunus-'Shirotae'-Japanese-cherry-Silk-Wood-16-April (39)Prunus-'Shirotae'-Japanese-cherry-Silk-Wood-16-April (37)

A tree just on the verge of coming into flower is the manna ash at the next seasonal trail stop.

Manna-ash-Silk-Wood-16-April (47)Manna-ash-Silk-Wood-16-April (45)

Although similar in appearance to our native ash, this manna ash (Fraxinus ornus) belongs to a group known as the flowering ashes for their showy, insect-pollinated flowers which appear as white plumes in early spring.

It is a smaller tree than our native species and has grey, rather than sooty black buds. The name ‘manna’ comes from the sap that contains an alcohol known as mannitol, which is used medicinally and as a sugar substitute. In Italy, plantations of manna ash are cultivated to produce the substance commercially.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog: Bluebells! by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Bluebells are the spring buzzword of the moment – and they are out now in Silk Wood!

You’ll spot the odd few on the banks as you walk up Waste Drive, but it’s the paths turning off Palmer Ride where you’ll really see bluebells out in full.


The best are as you turn onto the Native Tree Trail and The Link. Here you’ll find bluebells scattered amongst anemones, with a few primroses popping up for the occasion.


Bluebells are a signifier of ancient woodland and can be found across the arboretum, but particularly in Silk Wood where records show woodland activity, such as traditional coppicing, dating back to the thirteenth century.

You can find some great information on bluebells on the Visit Woods website, including some more unusual bluebell facts!

Until the end of May, the seasonal trail in Silk Wood is also host to an exhibition of spring meadow photography by Cotswolds photographer Barney Wilczak.

Barney Wilczak The Link

The exhibition joins up Westonbirt’s Grade I Registered Downs grassland habitat with its trees and woodland.

Snakeshead Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris

The Downs area plays an important role in the landscape design principles of the arboretum and is thriving with native wildflowers and wildlife.

Meadow buttercup, Ranunculus Acris

The photography exhibition aims to highlight the significance of this grassland habitat to visitors on the seasonal trail. Through the Westonbirt Project, Westonbirt Arboretum is working to restore all of the Downs landscape to its original grassland state.

superb lowland hay meadow featuring many common spotted orchids

The trail starts from Waste Gate and follows Palmer Ride and The Link, before turning down Willesley Drive.

Visitors can see images of wildlife and wildflowers found in meadow grassland – including common spotted orchids, cuckoo flower and snake’s head fritillary; mounted with descriptions of why they are central to grassland life.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum
Find out more about Barney Wilczak’s photography and his book The Meadow

Spring Colour Watch Blog: floral delights in the Old Arboretum, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Magnolias are still out in abundance. Although our famous ‘Diva’ and some of the other earlier flowering specimens have for the most part dropped their flowers, on Specimen Avenue and elsewhere, there are blooms aplenty with many buds still to open. We also continue to expand the spectrum of rhododendron blooms. The bright pink specimen pictured is Rhododendron ‘Prince Camille De Rohan’.

We shared some of Silk Wood’s cherries with you last week. In the Old Arboretum they also have plenty to offer. On Main Drive Prunus pendula ‘stellata’ (with its distinctive star-shaped flowers) along with a tall, slender Japanese cherry cultivar known as ‘spire’ sit opposite each other in full bloom.

There are several specimens of the Japanese cherry, prunus ‘shirotae’ in the Old Arboretum too. Impressive for their large white blooms, there are some dazzlingly bright examples on Morley Ride.

As if their autumn display was not enough of a contribution to the attraction of Westonbirt throughout the year, our Japanese maples are now beginning to flower. Soft, bright, new leaves are accompanied by delicate flowers which are magnetic to bees – on Holford Ride you can hear the hum of insects around the Full Moon Maple.

Don’t forget that Westonbirt Arboretum is offering half price admissions every Wednesday in April and May, so you can visit for £4 adults, £3.50 concessions and £1.50 child admission. There will be guided walks on Wednesdays at 11am so you can see the best of spring colour with our knowledgeable volunteer guides.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog, cherries in Silk Wood, by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Take a detour from Silk Wood’s spring seasonal trail stops along Palmer Ride or The Link, and you can check the progress of the Cherry Collection. Buds can be found on most of the trees here – some are already in bloom but the full show will be seen as we go into April.

Looking good at the moment are the cherry plum cv, Japanese cherry, Yoshino cherry and Prunus subhirtella stellata.

The cherry plum provides an added palette of colour with its rusty red leaves. Many of the flowers on this specimen have already blossomed, but a few dainty light pink ones remain amongst the coloured leaves.

Lots of buds are still to open, so the Cherry Collection has plenty to offer for a while yet. You can find out more about Westonbirt Arboretum’s cherries on the Forestry Commission website.

Keep an eye on the Westonbirt Facebook page for regular updates on Westonbirt’s spring colour throughout both Silk Wood and the Old Arboretum. This week, tiny woodland wildflowers and the first of the bluebells are starting to appear – dainty gems amongst the shade.


Don’t forget that Westonbirt Arboretum is offering half price admissions every Wednesday in April and May, so you can visit for £4 adults, £3.50 concessions and £1.50 child admission. There will be guided walks on Wednesdays at 11am so you can see the best of spring colour with our knowledgeable volunteer guides.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum