Winter and spring plant highlights

Our expert horticulturist, Shirley Walker, has these suggestions of what to spot at Eden in the coming months. 

Outdoor gardens 

In February, the unashamed radiance of fiery dogwood stems still dominates Eco-engineering and Myth and Folklore, in sharp contrast to the delicate clusters of hellebores in myriad hues, adorning path edges.

As the days begin to lengthen and temperatures rise, multitudes of miniature iris enjoy the damp, sunny conditions of early spring; trees and shrubs begin to burst into life and the sweet scents of Hamamelis and Nepalese paper plants Daphne bholua (pictured, with horticulturist Emma Pearce) linger on the breeze. 

Wander through the gardens on a fresh spring day, and enjoy British wildflowers at their best, especially in our Wild Cornwall and Myth and Folklore areas – bluebells, primroses, violets and campion, all vie for your attention. In the Japanese swale, behind the Core building, look for the beautiful magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’, with its large, showy, fragrant flowers, opening before the leaves appear. Magnolia ‘Star Wars’ can be found in several locations around the garden – a fragrant, rosy-pink stunner.

Rainforest Biome

Escape the February gloom and venture into the steamy heat of the rainforest – beautiful flowers of the glorybower Clerodendrum, await you there, along with tamarinds, fruiting in the West Africa section. These pod-like fruits are used extensively in cuisines around the world. Chocolate lovers will find ripening cocoa pods on the lower terraces of the Biome. 

Take a little time out to look at our diverse collection of tropical palms, including the lady palm, used to make walking sticks and umbrella handles, and the Madagascan traveller’s palm, with its leaves aligned east to west – a useful compass if you get lost! In Oceanic Islands you will find the unique bottle palm, critically endangered in its native Mauritius, but thriving here and about to flower. Look up and you will see the towering royal palm, whose flowers are white with pink anthers.

The star of the show in April is the stunningly beautiful jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, native to the tropical forests of the Philippines. Its pendant trusses of turquoise, claw-shaped flowers are not to be missed!  

Mediterranean Biome

Spring arrives early in the Mediterranean biome, and in South Africa, bright orange and creamy yellow Chasmanthe are in bloom, pollinated by sunbirds in their native land. Aromatic shrubs are also flowering, including Agathosma; ‘the scent of Africa’ 

If you love citrus, don’t miss the magnificent citron! These huge, warty fruits, with thick fragrant peel are like giant lemons – sadly too big for your gin and tonic glass, but they provide excellent flavouring for confectionery and preserves. 

By April, the Mediterranean rock roses (Cistus) are at their best, their delicate petals like crumpled silk, and the grapevines are bursting into life with ribbons of bright green foliage.

But taking centre stage this month are the tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs, providing a kaleidoscope of vibrant colour. Protected from the weather outside, these stunning displays will last for weeks. 

South Africa continues to bloom with dainty, little lachenalias and the stunning, dusky-pink princess protea, Protea grandiceps.   

If you feel up to venturing a little further, the largest plantation of monkey puzzle trees in the UK awaits you in our Wild Chile area (right up near Pineapple car park). In late spring they look particularly stunning, displaying masses of bright new growth.