4 March 2014
Spring is starting to stir at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, as nature gets ready to bring an explosion of colour to the stunning Victorian-designed landscape, which is cared for by the Forestry Commission.
Magnificent displays of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias will stand alongside wildflowers and other tree and shrub species at their spring best, to create a kaleidoscopic show of colour, shapes and patterns.
This year, Westonbirt is inviting visitors to celebrate the coming of the season by looking out for five of the arboretum’s most distinctive signs of spring, so that they can witness the unfolding of the new season in its full glory.
A vast array of plants will emerge at Westonbirt Arboretum over the coming months, including the five highlighted species which Westonbirt’s experts have chosen to showcase the breath-taking beauty of spring among the tree collection:
- Look out for rhododendrons, flowering as February turns to March, transforming Savill Glade into a celebration of colours and scents. Look out for the pink blooms of Rhododendron calophytum, which is particularly early flowering - its Latin name means ‘beautiful plant’, and it certainly lives up to this, both in bud and in bloom.
- At around the same time, visitors should seek out the arboretum’s range of camellias, with the pink flowers set against dark green foliage greeting them as they enter the Old Arboretum. When first introduced to Britain camellias were kept in glasshouses to protect them from the elements. Over time, these resilient plants became commonplace outdoors, including at Westonbirt, where over 100 specimens contribute to a stunning spring show.
- The next to display their stunning beauty are the magnolias, from the blousy pink blooms of the magnificent champion tree Magolia sprengeri ‘Westonbirt Diva’ to the small, white, delicate blooms of Magnolia kobus.
- The fourth sign of spring at Westonbirt are the newly flushed bright pink leaves of the Sunrise Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x neglecta ‘Erythoblastos’), a cross between the sweet or yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava) and the painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica).
- It is then the turn of the iconic bluebells to herald the arrival of spring, transforming the ancient glades into a carpet of blue hues - a sight to behold at Westonbirt where the bluebells can be found set against the burning reds of the Japanese maples.
Dan Crowley, Dendrologist at Westonbirt, said:
“Spring at Westonbirt Arboretum is a real treat that many people haven’t experienced as it is not our best known season. By highlighting five key species that put on a spectacular spring show, we are hoping that visitors will be able to really enjoy the delights of the season unfolding.
“Following a very wet and mild winter spring is now stirring – we’ve already seen some of the early flowering rhododendrons and cherries flowering. Unless the wild British weather brings in an unexpected hard frost we expect to have stunning blooms as spring arrives at the arboretum shortly.”
Throughout spring, visitors to the arboretum can enjoy a range of activities and trails, as well as enjoying half priced admission every Wednesday during March, April and May’s Westonbirt Wednesdays. The programme of events includes something for everyone, from a family Forest Discovery Day to celebrate Mothers’ Day, Awakening Woods and Arboretum Adventure days, guided walks for nature lovers and ‘Walkies!’ for dog-owners, to photography workshops and chair-making courses.
To find out more, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-spring.
Gina Mills, Communications Manager, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, on 01666 881321 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dani Marlborough, Senior Consultant, Spirit Public Relations, on 0117 944 1415 or email: email@example.com
NOTES TO EDITOR
1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to five national collections, the arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains nearly 15,000 labelled specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of over 27,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford and later developed by his son George Holford. Unlike many arboretums, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk.