Despite the recent snow and icy weather there are reassuring signs of life on Battleston Hill - spring is nearly here! The scent as you step foot on to Battleston is almost overwhelming - Sarcococca, Lonicera (winter honeysuckle) and my favourite – Daphne, all fill the air with their powerful sweet perfume. The unusual flowers of Edgeworthia chrysantha are just starting to open, the luminous spidery flowers of Hamamelis shine out on overcast days and the Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana ‘Chilan Choice’ have kept their bright display of large scarlet berries over winter. You may find our top 10 AGM plants for winter fragrance inspirational for your own garden!
And of course Battleston Hill is famous for its camellias, many of which are in full flower at the moment, most notably Camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’, Camellia ‘Show Girl’ and Camellia japonica ‘Hagoromo’. As well as shrubs, hundreds of snowdrops are looking their best, scattered in drifts across the whole of Battleston Hill, along with hellebores and purple Cyclamen coum (left).
Some exciting surprises along the Mediterranean terraces are the bright red flowers of Grevillea starting to open (Australia/New Zealand section), the yellow pom-pom flowers of Cootamundra wattle Acacia baileyana, (left) the very beautiful Iris unguicularis and the white-pink, bell-shaped flowers of Arctostaphylos rudis (California section).
As well as flowers, at this time of year we’re reminded how valuable evergreen plants are for winter structure and colour. It's remarkable how lush the Australia and New Zealand section is looking – you could almost believe its summer on sunny days (apart from the odd wrapped cordyline). One of the most important tasks at the moment is making sure the winter protection remains in place.
We've wrapped many of the cordylines, the Nerium oleander and bananas (Musa bajoo), and covered the four succulent terraces with polytunnels (left) to keep out the worst of the wind and rain (which seems to be working well so far). Some plants have coped much better than expected with the frosts and snow, plants such as Echeveria elegans, which wouldn't normally be expected to survive below 1-2ºC (32-33ºF) Their leaves have become tinged pink but remain undamaged. Other slightly tender plants such as Acacia dealbata, Dicksonia antarctica and Melianthus major are coping very well too and it will be interesting to see how they recover this spring.
This winter we've begun preparations for the new Chilean glade, which will border the Trials Field, and is a natural progression from the Chilean section of the Mediterranean Walk. The plants are being lifted and relocated, and the ground prepared for planting. We're also extending the Stumpery and Dell so they join together, creating a jungle feel. We're currently sourcing some nice gnarly old stumps and preparing the area for planting. There are certainly some exciting times ahead! If you haven't already, wrap up warm and take a stroll over Battleston Hill. It’s certainly worth a peek.