Rather stretching the definition of ‘Wessex’ I went on a visit to Exbury Gardens which although still in Hampshire is far away from my normal chalk downland haunts.
It is world famous as the home to many rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias and also home to a branch of the famous Rothschild family. The original plan was for a guided tour but dire warnings of heavy rain and tornadoes put off most of the group and it was down to my cousin, his wife and myself to brave the elements. As it turned out there was an accommodating gap in the rain that allowed the whole of the gardens to be explored pretty much rain-free; the weather restricted visitors down to a tiny fraction of normal numbers.
Without an expert I am unable to give species/hybrid identification of the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, just enjoy the blooms.
The gardens are landscaped into slopes with streams and ponds. This was close to the Stone Bridge to the south of the gardens and is populated with Asian Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton camtschatcensis).
We then followed the Camellia Walk, with it's impressive range of Camellias, now just past their best
The Camellia Walk leads to ‘Top Pond’.
A rather tame female chaffinch came close by on the look out for food from the visitors.
The view from the Japanese bridge is one of the most impressive colour-wise
I was delighted to find a few orchids just coming into flower, having seen some Early Purple Orchids the day before I wonder whether this was the 'rarer' pink form. Or, it may be the rarer Green-winged (or Green-veined) Orchid? The leaves were unspotted so I think Green-winged is more likely.
Walking to the north end of the gardens along ‘Azalea Drive’ uncovered some lovely views; however the rich purples and reds never come out quite as dramatic on my camera.
One of the few fragrant azaleas was this strikingly yellow one.
To complete the colour spectrum this blue rhododendron was at its best.
And closer up...
Finally, nearly back at the inevitable gift shop was a Pieris in full bloom.
It turned out well worth the risk of rain to capture the beautiful gardens free of the normal hordes of people.