Eighty varieties of plants are flowering at Wakehurst Place, near Haywards Heath, the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as spring arrives early following weeks of mild weather.
While the country has been battered rain and gales, it has also been a particularly mild winter in the South East. As a result the first daffodils are blooming at Wakehurst Place this week – almost two months earlier than they did last year when plants were held back by prolonged snow and freezing temperatures.
Chris Clennett, Gardens Manager at Wakehurst Place, says most plants are blooming around three weeks early this spring. Normally he would expect to see around 50 varieties in bloom in early February, as opposed to the 80 currently flowering.
Among the colourful highlights are rhododendrons and scented Himalayan Daphne in the Winter Garden, camellias and crocus close to the Water Garden, and carpets of thousands of cyclamen and snowdrops close to the Visitor Centre.
In addition to exotic plants in the ornamental gardens wildflowers, such as primroses, are also starting to bloom around the 500 acre Wakehurst estate, which is set in the heart of the Sussex countryside.
Striking winter stem and foliage plants – such as dramatic red dogwood stems – and Wakehurst’s National Collections of birches and Skimmia are also providing eyecatching seasonal interest.
Chris said: “Last year plants were about a month late flowering because of the snow. This year it is the opposite, with everything coming on quickly because we’ve had mild weather with hardly any frosts.
“The daffodils are extremely early and the camellias and rhododendrons are also attracting lots of comments from visitors, as people normally expect to see them in April.”
He added: “After the last few winters nothing surprises me anymore, and it is always wonderful to see signs of new life appearing around the gardens. After the weeks of floods and storms we hope the flowers will be a breath of fresh air for visitors – and a sign that spring is on the way.”
Guided walks around the gardens are held daily at 11.30am and 2pm (subject to the availability of a guide).