Prince Charles unveils ‘secret garden’ to celebrate century of Exbury green fingers

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Exbury Gardens
Prince Charles meets gardener Emma Bouchard, with gardener Paul Eaton and garden designer Marie-Louise Agius (right)

THE Prince of Wales gave his royal seal of approval to celebrations marking 100 years of Exbury Gardens.

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Prince Charles officially opened the new Centenary Garden at the popular New Forest attraction a century on from when it was founded by banker and plantsman Lionel de Rothschild.

During a visit yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), Prince Charles unveiled a commemorative plaque and was given a tour of the new feature by its award-winning designer Marie-Louise Agius, Lionel’s great-grand-daughter.

He also followed in the footsteps of previous royals, including the Queen, by planting a tree – a drought-resistant ornamental beech – and went on to meet members of the Rothschild family who still live at Exbury, the gardening team, estate staff and volunteers.

Exbury Gardens
The Prince of Wales unveiling the plaque in the new Centenary Garden at Exbury Gardens

The current Lionel de Rothschild, grandson of Exbury Gardens’ founder and current chairman of Exbury Gardens Trust, said: “We are deeply honoured that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has opened the new Centenary Garden.

“Over the past 100 years, members of the Royal Family have been welcomed a number of times to Exbury Gardens to enjoy their beauty and to plant commemorative trees.”

The VIP event was also attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Nigel Atkinson, High Sheriff of Hampshire Sarah Le May, New Forest District Council chair Cllr Allan Glass, and Hampshire County Council chair Cllr Charles Choudhary.

Created in 1919, Exbury has grown to become a 200-acre garden filled with rare plants, shrubs and trees, and is renowned for its colourful rhododendrons.

Lionel’s passion for collecting and breeding plants, and his support and sponsorship of the early 20th century plant hunters, was key to its horticultural diversity.

Exbury gardens
Prince Charles with designer Marie-Louise Agius in the new Centenary Garden at Exbury Gardens

The celebratory Centenary Garden, which contains subtle nods to the Rothschild family history, was planted two years ago in an old tennis court, almost at the centre of Exbury Gardens, and was carefully hidden from public view whilst it grew and matured.

Now open to visitors, its scores of shrubs, climbers and perennials are in full bloom, providing a fragrant spot for the public to explore.

Marcus Agius, chair of the Exbury Gardens board of directors, said: “We are delighted that His Royal Highness met our gardening team and the volunteers who work so diligently to keep Exbury Gardens looking beautiful throughout the year, as well as the contractors who constructed the new Centenary Garden.

“This is a garden that has been built to stand the test of time and we are thrilled that visitors can now explore and enjoy it.”

Centenary celebrations at Exbury have included an award-winning display at the recent RHS Chelsea Flower Show with Millais Nurseries, a new history exhibition at Exbury’s visitor entrance, and the planting of over 100,000 bulbs which bloomed in time for the 2019 season opening.

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