|The Millennium Garden is an irregular area of ground, about 3000m2, on the north side of the house that we cleared and fenced in 1999 and started to plant in 2000.
It is the first garden that most visitors go around after leaving the information area and it has a bit of something for all tastes. It is lightly shaded under old oak trees. There is a path running around the perimeter of the oval-shaped main part of the area that also has a dry ditch running along its longer East-West axis. One realises that the house is built on an elevated piece of ground because one has to descend almost 1.5m to the garden on steps that lead to a brick path crossing the shorter north-south axis of the garden that also bridges the ditch.
In 2017/18 we have done some replanting in the Millennium Garden. Some plants have been removed and new ones added. The text in the following paragraphs needs to be updated to reflect these changes.
There is a deliberate sense of formality here and some symmetry in the planting directly adjacent to the path which featured a laburnum arch when first designed. Unfortunately there is insufficient sun to get a generous flowering of the Laburnum vossii and so part of the planting on the arch has been replaced by Clematis montana Elizabeth. The approach to the arch features flanking low hedges of Euonymus (with some variegation) backed by Hydrangea “Annabelle” with Wisteria sinenesis “Alba” trained as a standard and Aralia elata “Variegata”on either side.
So much for the formality. Resist the urge to run straight through the laburnum arch to examine the rather abstract sculpture opposite and instead just stop and look over the stone seat to your right and test your plant recognition.
Magnolia “Yellow Bird”, Magnolia “Leda”
The Magnolia is “Yellow Bird” (M. acuminata x M. brooklynensis); not the best yellow hybrid but a pioneer (see photo below). Magnolia “Limelight” is better but my specimen elsewhere in the wood is still an infant, so for the moment, no comment! Magnolia “Leda” is a tree with something of a shady past – it is probably a Magnolia cylindrica x M. Cambellii alba hybrid sold prior to 1995 by Esveld as M. cylindrica. This only came to light after an article appeared on the same hybrid with the name “White Lips”
Acers and Gembers
The tall acer is Acer cappodocicum ‘Rubrum” with various shrubby viburnum around its foot. The other plants you can come and see for yourself. Moving along the path to the right among the more interesting plants are two hardy gingers, Cautleya robusta and Zingiber mioga, that are not as well known as they should be.
Trochodenderon, Daphniphyllum, Fatsia & Sorbaria
In July, this is just about the most beautifully coloured tree/shrub in the garden. Its stripy bark is an added bonus. Nearby is Trochodendron araloides, a lovely evergreen shrub found in Japan, Taiwan, and S. Korea along with another evergreen shrub from China/Japan – Daphniphyllum macropodum. Both plants are quite hardy with us as are the various Fatsia japonica both here and in other areas of the garden. (Someone in a visiting group invariably confuses Fatsia with Monstera deliciosa (Philodendron) houseplant.) The Trochocendron, Daphniphyllum and Fatsia are all plants which thrive in light shade.
Camellia, Euonymus, Hydrangea, Aralia, Orixa and Sorbaria
Eventually we arrive at a small area at the end of the oval perimeter path and can look down the ditch which runs away to the west in front of us. At your feet is a planting of Astilbe varieties that take us to the Camellia japonica Magnoliiflora. A ground cover of Euonymus “Emerald and Gold” then flows down to the tree-like Hydrangea heteromalla just before the bridge.
The sides of the ditch are flanked by the blue leaves of Hosta sieboldiana “Elegans”. The sharp-eyed will indeed note some slight variations in the various plants. Blue adjacent to yellow never fails to produce a lovely match. We also are trying, not very successfully, to get large blue flowered clematis to trail through the Euonymus.
Behind you, Orixa japonica is interesting in Autumn when its leaves transform to pale yellow-white rather than russet, brown or red. Aralia cachemirica is a shrubby plant from the Himalaya region and reportedly does best in sunny positions and a rich soil; this position does not meet the sun criterion and I may move it. (However, my experimental positioning was prompted by what seems to be a thriving clump in the shade near the toilet in the van Gimboorn Arboretum in Doorn, so I live in hope.) The adjacent Sorbaria “rhoifolia” is a plant that you don’t encounter very frequently either – try searching on the internet if you need proof.
Before we walk further, let me say that I’m very well aware that I’ve hardly mentioned any plants “growing below the knee”. The Millennium Garden contains some noteworthy perennials. For example, hosta aficionados will find numerous hybrids some with gigantic leaves and some with red colouration in the stems, not forgetting more unusual hybrids such as Hosta “County Park” (as good an imitation of a lettuce as you will find in the hostas.)
To your right on the ditch bank, the ever-more massive steely blue leaves of Hosta sieboldiana “Elegans” almost threaten to close off the ditch as summer progresses. Its hard to imagine this same scene in February/March when the hosta are still invisibly hibernating, primula are at best almost like the tops of small pineapples just poking out of the earth and you wonder if they are still there! However, the place of the hosta is marked by a gaudy display of mixed botanical crocuses that colour an otherwise bare and steeply sloping bank.
Now let us hurry on – you can start to understand why some people take 4 hours to go round the whole garden! The large leaved hostas on your left as you descended the steps into the garden have hopefully remained at the back of your mind and continuing the circuit of the perimeter path will bring you back to them. Looking to your left on the way is a large area under tall oaks with several interesting shrubs and small trees which include a juvenile Salix magnifica (Wilson, 1909, W. China) whose leaves look more like those of a magnolia. As I write, there are literally hundreds of seedling pieris springing up in this area that I’m letting develop to see if anything interesting emerges. The rest I’ll leave you to explore for yourself.
Retracing our steps to that sculpture and continuing westwards on the perimeter path you will note a dense planting of hosta on your right which are as good an illustration of how leaf colours can substitute for flowers as most people will require.
For more information about hosta, click here
Arisaema and Ferns
A collection of arisaema is in the making and quite a few types of ferns are there, in addition to many other perennials. Now let us go further. To your left is a very varied planting where I put a lot of little green gems which need light shade but which I want to be able to pop out and look at without embarking on a hike when I have a gin & tonic at the end of the day. Arisaema sikokianum and the secretive Arisarum proboscideum along with other aroids are here. Rather pretty variegated Japanese ferns or miniature creeping ferns such as Gymnocarpus are all there competing for attention. However, this plant selection “below the knee” is just too varied to describe in detail in a section of a website as opposed to a book.
For more information about arisaema, click here
Kalopanax en Hydrangea
Kalopanox septemlobus (or Kalopanax pictus), a large tree with a spiny trunk blew down in a storm. I have plans to replace this member of the Araliaceae family and also to try other members of the species such as Schefflera.
To your left in the ditch is Hydrangea heteromalla – its claim to fame is that it is one of the few hydrangeas that assume the form of a small tree as it matures.
Populus, alanguim, tetracentron, dipelta etc
If you raise your eyes to the heavens on the right, Populus violascens (P. szechuanica var. tibetica) is a large-leaved balsam poplar introduced from W. China by Wilson in 1904. (You will find Populus lasiocarpa with gigantic leaves and Populus balsamifera with coloured leaves in the woods.) To your left are some small trees you might not recognise but which I will name so you can look them up: Alangium platanifolium Tetracentron sinense, Platycarya strobilacea and Magnolia “Leda”.
However, it is the beautiful flowers of some exotic looking weigela-like shrub which has the May/June visitors searching for the name label so they can buy it – its Dipelta ventricosa, (see photo below) another 1904 Wilson introduction from W. China
Do keep an eye open for the various species rhododendrons that I’ve planted. There are also a couple of Rhododendron yakushimanum x insigne crosses; one is named as Rhododendron “Oberschlesien” while the other with a better indumentum and similar leaf is a cross made by the late Nick v.d. Brink of Laren
A lovely souvenir of Nick along with the Sequoia sempervirens close by that was also a present from him.
This is a quick sampler of the sort of things you can find in our front garden. It goes without saying that you can just enjoy the jungle and take in the views but I always think it brings it to life if you know where the plants come from, who introduced them and when and a bit about the story behind the hybrids such as hosta varieties.
For more information about rhododendrons, click here
Here are photos of the development of the Millennium garden between 1991 and 2014