Spring Break / Escape to Endsleigh

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A full blown assault on the senses

Spring arrives early here in the South-West, often several weeks before the rest of the country. Though we are still in the last days of February, walking around the garden at Endsleigh, spring is very definitely underway. There is still a nip in the air but the fresh green buds and fresh hope of spring are all around, the chorus of birdsong has returned, the drumming of woodpeckers trying to attract a mate echoes around the valley and the occasional buzz of bumble bees, brave enough to venture from their nests, reward the early flowers. Daffodils, those heralds of spring, appear in hosts all around the garden, primroses abound, wild garlic is pushing up its pungent leaves throughout the dell and will soon, I’m sure, be making its first appearance on the menu in the restaurant. Periwinkle and crocus pepper the banks with rich purples and magenta cyclamen enliven the bases of trees not yet hidden in shade. The first Magnolias are already in flower, pitting their delicate flowers against the risk of late frost, always a nail biting moment. The perfect blooms of camellias lift the shade of the woodland gardens and sprinkle the paths with petals, confetti like, in pinks, reds and whites. Rhododendron buds swell in readiness for their explosion in late spring and hazels hang heavy with chartreuse catkins.

The picture now is one of unbridled optimism and rightly so as this is just a foretaste: as we move into March and then April, the accelerator well and truly hits the floor. Camellia, magnolia, rhododendron and azalea swathe the valley in intense colour. Wood anemone, campion, wild garlic, bluebells, kingcup and primula smother the banks and perfume fills the air. It is not a scene for the faint-hearted. Trees burst into life, ferns unfurl their croziers and the primordial leaves of gunnera push forth, the colour of the flowers tempered by the green of the leaves but at this time of year this is no less intense. The green of spring is like an invigorating elixir, energising and enlivening the senses.

In the formal areas of the garden, bulbs offer colour through the spring: tulips, scilla, iris, leucojum, ipheon and muscari flowering earlier in the long border with asphedoline, camassia and alliums following on. Euphorbia chariacas and griffithii offer the supporting cast and the foliage of summer perennials fill the border preparing for their chance to shine later in the year. In the parterre, a spring highlight will be pink tulip ‘Lady van Eijk’ thrusting through dark purple pansies below the white flowered wisteria brachybotrys, all accompanied by the sound of a splashing fountain and lions’ heads spluttering water into the surrounding rill. The perfect spot to relax and recuperate after a full blown assault on the senses.

Ben Ruscombe-King
The Endsleigh Gardener