At last, we finally went to the sub-tropical gardens at Abbotsbury….. and we certainly weren’t disappointed – although it was a very long day! I was first on the coach at Portchester - having left home at 8.15am – and last off….. I didn’t arrive home until well after 7pm – phew! But it was worth it!
Our driver, Ian, was brilliant. He was yet another of the officially retired guys, who still fill in when Colliseum Coaches are particularly busy (we do like having them, they always seem to be more entertaining) and he had booked us into Stewart’s Garden Centre (off the Wimborne Road) for our coffee break. They don’t open until 10am so he offered to fill the extra time by taking the scenic route….. Instead of straight down the A31, we meandered through the New Forest to Fordingbridge and down to Ringwood to rejoin the main road ….. a very pretty detour. Throughout the entire journey he pointed out things of interest and generally did his “tour guide”, thus making the journey very much part of the day out!
We had rain overnight so the morning started on a rather grey note, but it was to brighten up as the day went along …… and it certainly did! It turned into an absolutely glorious day – blue skies and a few fluffy clouds – with a brisk wind that no one noticed once we were in among the trees.
I teamed up with Mary and off we went on a voyage of discovery ….. the garden covers many acres and, although we followed the “trail” arrows for about three hours, we certainly didn’t see all of it ….. there were lots of side paths left unexplored. I don’t know how long the garden has been established but, judging by the size of the tree ferns in particular, it has been there for many, many years. Most of the huge. Positively venerable trees were labelled, as were a lot of the shrubs and perennials but, we found many of the plants that we were interested in had no identification, which was a tad frustrating ….. but I suppose it would be a mammoth task to label everything, and it might look a bit intrusive (thank goodness for digital photos and reference books – or Google!).
For the most part, the garden is like walking through a woodland – except the “wood” is made up of exotic specimens! One needs to walk slowly and really look at what you are walking through. It is full of surprises. The ground is very undulating and it seems that every dip has a pond at the base of it ….. all dark and mysterious with ancient tree ferns and huge gunnera leaves towering overhead – I loved it! Round the next corner the ground rises and on top of the “plateau” are a couple of crystal clear lily ponds – complete with Koi carp. A little further on and the level slopes away into a south facing “scree” filled with all the spiky jobs – lots of yuccas, puyas, aeoniums, (presumably bedded out) dasylirions, aloes, beschornias, fucraes, opuntias and some fabulously coloured facicularia (Mandrill’s bottom!)
The other excellent thing was that we were not disappointed by their plant sales. It was a very good range of exotic stuff – mostly raised by them – to choose from. Needless to say, the spare seats on the coach had many plants “belted in” to keep them safe on the journey home! I found a new variety of pseudopanax (my fifth) and kniphophia rooperii, which has been on my hit list for ages – very pleasing! All in all, it was a superb trip for the thirty of us who made it.
Thanks to Fareham Horticultural Association (who bore the brunt of the loss), we finally got to tick the Abbotsbury box!
November/December is the time to think about compiling a list of fuchsias you intend to grow next year.
There are coloured pictures of a wide range of plants on numerous fuchsia club websites that will give you an idea how many different varieties there are to choose from. Whether they are selected from the hardies list to plant in the open garden to give many years of enjoyment throughout the season, or if preferred, there are those that are slightly more susceptible to cold temperatures and will therefore require the sanctuary of a greenhouse or similar protection during the winter months.
The range of colour combinations these delightful flowers are capable of producing are almost limitless. Be assured, there is something available to suit nearly everyone’s requirements. The average outdoor variety will be in bloom more often than not from early summer right through to the arrival of the first frost. Once established, fuchsias will need very little attention, apart from in the event of a very hot and dry summer when they may require the occasional drop of water.
Both the hardy varieties and the more tender ones are also easy to take cuttings from to increase the number of plants in your collection.
The BBC website has a news article dated 28th May 2012 warning gardeners about the dangers that may be present in compost. Please read and pass this information on to other gardeners, even if they do not grow fuchsias.