This week, we look at some of the sights along the route of the seasonal trail in the Old Arboretum, from hellebores in shady spots, to the bright rhododendrons and azaleas which are now emerging.
The hellebores on Main Drive are all too easy to miss. Luckily, the second stop on the Old Arboretum seasonal trail halts nearby at the 2011 planting of Rhododendron schlippenbachii.
Although these historic royal azaleas are not in bloom – and in fact may not flower this year due to their youth – if you turn around you’ll find a delightful selection of hellebores, in a selection of colours from cream to purple, close to the ground just across the path.
Although Rhododendron schlippenbachii may not bloom this year, many other azaleas and rhododendrons are starting to appear, from the relatively small, delicate, pale pink blooms of Rhododendron ‘praecox’ to the larger deep red blooms of Rhododendron ‘Melissa’ Grex.
It is worth taking a slight detour from the trail to take a look at Rhododendron ‘Melissa’ Grex, as at the moment you’ll see black plastic wraps on the branches. This is a form of propagation called air layering which enables us to grow new saplings from our historic trees and shrubs. Take a look to your left as you pass Dukes Cut Gate on the seasonal trail.
Many other interesting specimens have started to come into their own this week.
Firstly, Illicium simonsii, which you may recognise from a recent ID challenge on the Westonbirt Arboretum Facebook page. Look out for these pale yellow flowers which can be found just before the second stop on the trail, off Main Drive – the flowers are quite small so if you want to make sure you don’t miss this plant, search the Westonbirt Interactive Map before you visit, or pop into the Great Oak Hall to use it and get a location.
Further along the trail, as it heads along Mitchell Drive towards the final stop, there are a few hidden gems. You’ll need to keep an eagle eye out in the direction of the road to spot the small flowers of Magnolia stellata ‘rosea’ which have started to appear.
Small and star shaped, this magnolia is one of the first to bloom this year, with many other burgeoning buds to be found throughout the Old Arboretum, not least on our champion Magnolia Sprengeri ‘Diva’. Watch this space for updates on that one – it is probably the most famous of Westonbirt’s magnolias, and for good reason!
This week’s misty weather has led to some interesting effects for photographers to capture. This katsura tree, also just off Mitchell Drive, is well known for its heady candyfloss scent as the year progresses. Pink spring shoots combined with lichens and moss are already a feast for the eye. Drops of moisture caught on a cobweb add a glittering effect.
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum