Old Rhododendron Garden
Wander into a world of sweet-smelling rhododendrons, flanked by a large grassy glade
Old Rhododendron Garden
At the entrance to this sweet-smelling Garden room, you’ll find a huge ‘Goddess Magnolia’ (Magnolia sprengeri var. diva) soaring above you and flanked by deep plantings of rhododendrons. These hybrids of Himalayan species are some of the first Chinese rhododendrons to be introduced to Britain by 19th century plant hunters Robert Fortune and Joseph Dalton Hooker.
In 1906 this was where Col. Stephenson Robert Clarke began his rhododendron collection in earnest, turning a pretty garden into a nationally important one. Over the years we have added trees, shrubs and lower-level planting, with many of the rhododendrons now underplanted with early-flowering woodland plants that flourish in dappled shade, and with Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, known for its white-iced leaves and pale-blue flowers.
Dig a little deeper
In 1939, plant hunter Ernest Wilson brought a beautiful Magnolia sargentiana var. robusta plant all the way from China to Chenault’s Nursery in France. The magnolias you see blooming in our Garden today were propagated from that original tree and produce large goblet-shaped pink flowers.
On the left of the Garden you will see a large grassy glade, cut in the early 1970s and named after Jack Vass, our Head Gardener between 1968–79, who propagated many of the rhododendron hybrids here.
You’ll also find the Hoheria angustifolia ‘Borde Hill‘ here. This slender tree with serrated leaves came from New Zealand and is covered with masses of small white flowers during the summer months.
Rhododendrons are not the only feature of this densely planted and wood-like area and you will also discover many different magnolias, from M. sieboldii, M.s. subsp. sinensis ‘Grandiflora’ and M. ‘Susan’ to Magnolia dawsoniana. These grow alongside Asian planting which includes acer and oak trees and strands of bamboo.
In May the air is scented by wild garlic (Allium ursinum), interplanted with forget-me-nots and followed later in the month by the creamy-pink flowers of Paeonia ‘Picotee’ and Geranium ‘Brookside’.
Plants of Interest
- Magnolia sprengeri var. diva
- Magnolia sargentiana var. robusta
- Davidia involucrate
- Rh. griffithianum
- Rh. barbatum
- Rh. fortunei
The ideal place for children to explore, learn and find joy in nature
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Our Garden & Grounds
Set within 383 acres of heritage listed Parkland, our formal Garden captivates and delights visitors with a series of intimate 'Garden rooms'. Beyond the formal Garden you can explore Woodland walks, the South Park and our lakes with outstanding views across the Sussex High Weald.
As a small, independent Garden Charity, we rely on your kind generosity to help fund our projects and to continue to grow sustainably, protecting our natural heritage for generations to come. 'Reinventing Borde Hill' is our most ambitious project to date and your support will help us to achieve exciting plans to benefit our local community.
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