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International spring show expected at Westonbirt

17 March 2015

As arboretum team propagate new species to add to the collection.

As the spring season approaches, The Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt prepares for a stunning international spring display.

Halesia carolina at Westonbirt ArboretumWhereas Westonbirt’s famous autumn display is led by its Japanese maples, spring is a more varied affair.

The seasonal show is a testament to the diversity of the collection with trees from around the world producing a spectacular display of colour and smells.

As the spring season develops Silk Wood beckons its colourful spring calling with carpets of bluebells, a display enhanced by the striking backdrop of the new foliage on the Japanese maples.

The Himalayan Rhododendron arboreum provides a celebration of colour and scents in Savill Glade and the champion Chinese Magnolia sprengeri ‘Westonbirt Diva shows off its 21m tall spring display of abundant pink blooms.

While visitors take in the spring season in the collection, propagation takes the limelight behind the scenes. This spring the team will be busy propagating species collected from the different climate of North America, following a seed collecting expedition to add to the National Collections, improve research potential and enhance future seasonal displays.

Some of the species collected from the US will be trialled over the coming years to see how they fare in our climate. This could help indicate what additional species could make up the future seasonal landscape at Westonbirt.

Forestry Commission dendrologist, Dan Crowley said:

“Spring at Westonbirt is the perfect time for visitors to not only witness the stunning display Westonbirt has to offer, but also to appreciate the breadth of species that contribute at this time of year - and their stories too!

“While the trees put on an incredible floral and foliar show for visitors, behind the scenes we’re busy propagating new species from a recent trip to America. We eagerly look forward to seeing how they’ll fare in our climate and potentially enhance future seasonal display. It’s quite an art - each species must be treated individually, based on the plants natural environment, in order to help each one germinate and to gain a good start in life.”

The propagation process takes place throughout the spring and once germinated, the seeds are pricked out and grown on. Each species is considered individually as the team work out all the different elements needed to give it the best chance to germinate and grow. This can involve temperature, compost type, stratification procedures and more to try and recreate its home environment.

The team are also testing out a new approach this year and planting a few select hickory species directly into the soil in the arboretum, rather than potting up in the propagation unit.

Other spring showstoppers to look out for over the coming months, include the Halesia carolina, from South Eastern USA, nicknamed little silverbells due to the masses of bell-shaped white flowers it bears, the Picea orientalis ‘Aurea from Georgia, a beautiful conifer cultivar with dramatic golden foliage, the Enkianthus campanulatus, from Japan with its late show of clusters of small cream bell-shaped flowers with red veins, the arboretum’s collection of camellias originating from Asia and not forgetting the USA’s Aesculus x neglecta ‘Erythroblastos’ commonly known as the sunrise horse chestnut with its bright pink flushed new foliage.

To find out more, visit where an up-to-date gallery of images, shared via Westonbirt’s Facebook page, will highlight how the beautiful spring blooms are developing.

Forestry Commission release no: 16481

Last updated: 10th July 2017

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England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.