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Explore Western Australia

Our horticulturist Catherine talks through some of the botanical wonders in the garden.

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March highights

Outdoor Gardens 

The scent of spring is in the air – catkins quiver on hazel and willow, and flowering bulbs carpet the Blue Border, White Border and Plane Tree Steps with a succession of fragrant Narcissus, Crocus, Muscari, Erythronium, or dog-tooth violets, three-petalled Trillium, Iris and deliciously scented hyacinths.

By the Visitor Centre and Zigzag Steps, banks of beautiful hellebores can be found in a range of delicate hues, while in the peace and tranquillity of the Japanese Garden, Edgeworthia and Prunus ‘Nigra’ are both in full bloom… and don’t miss the stunning Magnolia ‘Star Wars’.

Rainforest Biome 

Our rainforest trees look stunning at this time of year as they begin to put on their fresh spring growth. One of our biggest trees, Triplochiton scleroxylon, from tropical West Africa, can be seen reaching for the skies, along with the enormous Bismarck palm.

The beautiful jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, flowers this month by the entrance to the Biome, displaying its pendant trusses of turquoise, claw-shaped blooms. The Malaysian Home Garden is always worth exploring, where pineapple ginger, torch ginger and Indian jasmine are flowering amongst the lush planting.

Elsewhere, members of the Arum family, Aracea – glossy red Anthurium and pure white Spathiphyllum or peace lily are in bloom. Their ‘flowers’ are a combination of spathe and spadix, known as the inflorescence – a distinguishing feature of all aroids.

Mediterranean Biome 

The character of the Mediterranean Basin is shaped by ancient olive trees – powerful symbols of the Ancient World, evoking the spirit of the Mediterranean, and this spring we can boast some truly venerable new arrivals – olive trees from Portugal and Spain, ranging in age from 600 to an astonishing 1500 years old.

The terraced olive groves are carpeted with aromatic herbs and spring-flowering bulbs, and the dense vegetation of the maquis is at its most colourful, with gorgeous Cistus and their tiny relatives, yellow helianthemums, in bloom, along with highly perfumed white Spanish broom, spiny yellow Calicotome, Phlomis italica and the beautiful silvery bindweed, Convolvulus cneorum.

This is also a great time of year for Citrus, with the sweet orange and clementine in blossom and smelling wonderful. In South Africa, Erica caffra, aromatic Agathosma, Protea grandiceps (princess protea) and the towering Wachendorfia are in bloom, while in Western Australia, the grass trees are flowering for the first time – look out for the enormous flower spikes rising up from the foliage.

Highlights over the coming year…

What to look out for in spring

Outdoor Gardens

Fresh blues predominate in early spring, with gorgeous displays of Scilla, Anemone, Pulmonaria and Iris. The scent of blossom from Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ fills the air in the Japanese Swale, while drifts of Erythronium and late-flowering Narcissus adorn the Plane Tree Steps. 

The Plants for a changing climate beds are the very essence of spring, as the handsome Euphorbia characias displays its chartreuse-green blooms amongst spring bulbs. Giant alliums appear in beds and borders alongside Aquilegia, Camassia, Campanula and Digitalis

Rainforest Biome

The beautiful jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, displays its turquoise flowers in early spring followed by purple Ipomoea and peace lilies, Hibiscus and Heliconia

The Rainforest Canopy Walkway provides access to life in the forest canopy, with its splendid collection of orchids, and our quirky luffa vines are in fruit

Mediterranean Biome

Rock roses (Cistus), adorn the Mediterranean landscape in early spring and tulips are beginning to flower in a blaze of vibrant colour. 

In Western Australia, the iconic grass trees sit among Acacia, Banksia, Grevillea, Hardenbergia, Melaleuca and Callistemon, while the black and green kangaroo paw blooms beneath. 

In the Perfume Garden, the beautiful Damask rose is in flower, with its heavenly perfume, and South Africa is showing off its princess protea, Protea grandiceps. In late spring, Persian buttercups, Ranunculus asiaticus bloom, just as the tulips begin to fade.

What to look out for in summer

Outdoor Gardens

There are some exciting additions to Bright Sparks this year, with new species of fiery Kniphofia, Watsonia and Dierama. Changes in the landscape see lavender and sunflowers in close proximity, providing a wonderful view from below. 

The Plants for a changing climate beds come into their own during the summer months, with magnificent Puyas, Agaves, and a myriad of tender flowering plants to admire, and in the Veg Garden, Global Gardens and Cornish Crops, there are always tasty new varieties to be found. 

Rainforest Biome

The ginger family always put on a show at this time of year – pungent, aromatic and beautiful, you will be able to see ginger itself, turmeric, torch ginger and many others. 

The Aerial Walkway provides access to a host of orchids hiding in the treetops, and in Tropical Crops there are always novelties to be found, like the warty gourd, Momordica charantia

Giant waterlilies from tropical South America, Victoria cruzian, are displaying their beautiful flowers, nestled among enormous leaves. See a video of them online.

Mediterranean Biome

King proteas, brugmansias, and the bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, can all be admired this summer, along with a host of wildflowers adorning California and Western Australia, creating rich tapestries of colour and texture. 

New for this year is an exhibit showcasing many types of beans, including borlotti, haricot, faba, navy, broad and yard-long beans. There will also be an edible flower meadow, and a Mediterranean vegetable garden, containing a few curiosities, like agretti, chenopodium and rapunzel

The beautiful Perfume Garden with its collection of aromatic plants provides a feast for all the senses.

What to look out for in autumn

Outdoor Gardens

Bright Sparks continues to look great, with late-flowering species and cultivars of Kniphofia and Crocosmia. Berkleya, Grevillea and Fasicularia provide interest in Plants for a Changing Climate, while salvias bring vibrant colour to the Sense of Memory Garden

Liquidambar, zelkovas and acers are resplendent in rich autumn colour, and in the Veg Garden, Cornish Crops and Global Gardens, the last of the summer harvest is being gathered in, to make way for an array of brassicas and other winter veg.

Rainforest biome

In the humidity of autumn, coffee berries are beginning to ripen, and chocolate bears masses of small pods. 

The beautiful blue ginger, Dichorisandra thrysiflora, is flowering profusely in Amazonia, and in West Africa, our agroforestry exhibit tells the story of saving the soil, producing more food and making money for local communities.  

There is plenty to see in our spice exhibit, with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and vanilla

Mediterranean Biome

In South Africa, Amaryllis belladonna is looking gorgeous, and banksias are beginning to flower in Western Australia, including Banksia menziesii. There are chillies galore, representing cuisines from different cultures, and juicy tomatoes for different uses. 

In the Perfume Garden, night-scented jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum, is flowering, and the grapevines are ablaze with autumn colour. Warm shades can also be found in Western Australia where kangaroo paw, Anigozanthos, are in full flower. The vigorous climber, Podranea ricasoliana, is in bloom, and the first snowdrops and Narcissus have begun to appear in the Mediterranean landscape.

What to look out for in winter

Outdoor Gardens

Shimmering grasses, like the beautiful Deschampsia flexuosa, glow beneath the spooky white stems of Rubus cockburnianus, while fiery dogwood stems illuminate Eco-Engineering and Myth and Folklore.

The Street and Ice rink are decorated with a festive array of horticultural delights, and the scents of Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’ linger in the air. 

Drifts of sweetly-scented Narcissus ‘Treglisson’, bred here in Cornwall, decorate beds and borders, while delicate hellebores adorn path edges. 

Rainforest Biome

The Life in the Treetops area has been planted up with 52 different species of orchid, including the beautiful Brassia

Amidst luxuriant foliage, tropical gems, Solandra maxima and Calliandra haematocephala bloom, along with the stunning purple Crinum. The cola tree,  Cola acuminata, is displaying its beautiful, bell-shaped flowers, and the glorybower, Clerodendrum, is putting on a show. A new collection of bromeliads adorns the Rainforest Canopy Walkway.

Mediterranean Biome

‘Christmas trees’ of vibrant Cyclamen herald the arrival of the festive season, and a bed overflowing with paper-white Narcissus provides a cool contrast to over 50 different species of tender Salvia.

The scarlet and gold inflorescences of Aloe ferox, light up South Africa, along with a host of beautiful proteas, ericas and zantedeschias, enhanced by the ‘scent of Africa’ – the aromatic Agathosma. Bulb species are beginning to appear across the Biome. 

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