Hell’s belles! National hellebore collection at Broadview gardens

Posted on Friday, February 18th, 2011

On a cool February morning I made my way over to Broadview Gardens in anticipation of a fabulous display from one of my favourite winter blooms; the hellebore. Broadview Gardens, well known to me as I studied horticulture at the neighbouring Hadlow College, holds a national collection of hellebores in its 10 acres of gardens, much of which is maintained by the students.

And I wasn’t disappointed by the hellebores. As ever, their dainty, bowed heads nodded gently in the breeze as they showed off their petals in varying shades of pink, purple and cream. I was particularly impressed to find an almost pure white form, with a wonderfully dark centre showing off its whiteness. I was a little disappointed that the labelling of the different cultivars wasn’t better – so you couldn’t find something you like in the gardens then buy it in the on-site garden centre.

But it wasn’t just the hellebores which were clamouring for my attention at Broadview. Walking down the long borders upon entering the garden I was greeted by what looked like bed sheets covering them. In fact they were masses of snowdrops out in full glory. Here the labelling was better and I spotted varieties including Desdemona, Atkinsii, Sam Arnott and Robin Hood, to name but a few.

Away from the formality of the long borders, another impressive display was being given by the cornus and salix beds. Sheets of fire seemed to edge the landscape, in places brilliantly enhanced by the backdrop of dark yew hedging. I have to admit to going a little green with envy as this is the type of display I can only dream of having the space to pull off in my own garden.

Taking a wider look around the garden there seems to be plenty of changes afoot. Work is ongoing to improve the Japanese garden, which is currently closed to the public, and an unexplained destruction seems to have been wrought to the hard landscaping in some of the smaller gardens, presumably more improvements are due. Add to this the significant amount of mud underfoot and sometimes it did seem a little more like a worksite than a garden…which actually made me feel quite at home, as that’s often the way in my own modest patch!

All in all it was a good day out with plenty of interest even at this time of the year and a nice warm teashop for a cuppa and homemade cake afterwards. And, an even bigger plus, there is no charge for entry to the gardens – so I can hardly complain about a few little piles of rubble when I’ve had all those glorious hellebores for free!