Gary says if you want to *really* experience all 360 degrees of Highdown Gardens…


Gary says if you want to *really* experience all 360 degrees of Highdown Gardens this week – look up! 👆

Grab a cuppa and read on to find out more about the latest blossom and blooms at Highdown in Gary Prescod’s latest blog from Highdown Hill …

When you visit Highdown this week, look up! Sometimes, given the quantity of trees that are planted at Highdown, it’s difficult to grasp just what’s here. But now, the flowering cherries and apples have reached their peak, and you can hardly walk a step without seeing blossom in one direction or another.

Close by the cave pond is a weeping cherry Prunus subhirtella pendula rubra with flowers of a deep rose, carmine in bud, wreathing the arching branches over the rock garden. It’s often cited as a good tree to plant in small gardens, but ours was planted at the end of the war in 1945, and came from Hilliers nursery. At 75 years old, it’s a grand matriarch.

The Japanese cherries have no dislike of our chalky soil. Generally, these cherries have a lifespan of 50 to 60 years, so many of the original trees planted by Sir Frederick have died through old age and the ravages of various storms. There was a great replanting in the early eighties, and now these trees are coming into their own.

One of the best cherries for general planting is Prunus ‘Shirofugen’, a strong growing wide-spreading tree up to 6m high. The flowers are large and double, dull purplish-pink in bud opening to a paler pink. The young foliage is a coppery colour. The best example is growing on the chalk cliff, but you’ll also see examples in the orchard and in the lower garden.

My favourite cherry tree at Highdown is the popular Prunus ‘Kanzan’ (pictured top left). This is a strong-growing tree with stiffly ascending branches when young, later spreading. The showy double flowers are large and purplish-pink in colour.

This tree was introduced in 1913 and has been widely planted in gardens and parks. It tends to be a love/hate tree, but in such a setting as Highdown, I think you’ll conclude it’s glorious. There are two examples here: one in the Middle Garden on the lawns, and one at the bottom of the lower garden.

Our native Gean Cherry, Prunus avium, is thought to be the most ornamental of our native broadleaf woodland trees and is the ancestor of our cultivated cherries. There’s a lovely double flowered form at the entrance to the Chalk Pits and in the Lower Garden.

Just opposite the Prunus ‘Kanzan’ in the Middle garden is another Japanese Cherry worth mentioning, Prunus ‘Ukon’. This has pale, yellowish-white flowers tinged green and a lovely spreading form. (both pictured bottom)

Finally, if you are in the Gardens this week, and do take a moment to look down from the cherry blossom, you’ll see that the herbaceous peonies are beginning to come into flower.

Pictured top right in the Lower Garden is Paeonia bakeri. This is a mysterious plant, first described by Lynch in 1890 from a plant growing in the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. All specimens in cultivation are known to be derived from that source, but no specimen was kept and there is no known herbarium specimen of a corresponding wild plant. It has only been found in gardens. This peony was grown at Highdown by Stern, where it seeds freely, the seedlings coming true to type.

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