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40 million flowers bloom at Minterne

PUBLISHED: 14:38 27 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:38 27 May 2015

A view across the stream in Minterne Gardens in Dorset, which are having the best show of azaleas and rhododendrons for 100 years with more to come in the next few weeks.

A view across the stream in Minterne Gardens in Dorset, which are having the best show of azaleas and rhododendrons for 100 years with more to come in the next few weeks.

Archant

A rare combination of weather conditions has led to an exceptional show – the best for a century – of blossom at Minterne Gardens in Dorset. There are approximately 40 million flowers in bloom now with 100 million forecast to have blossomed by the end of June.

Rhododendron Lady Bressingham, a hybrid created at Minterne Gardens in Dorset by Henry Digby’s grandfatherRhododendron Lady Bressingham, a hybrid created at Minterne Gardens in Dorset by Henry Digby’s grandfather

Cold weather earlier this spring held back many varieties, which are now blooming alongside the later types, which have avoided late frosts, producing a spectacular display unrivalled for 100 years.

Head gardener Ray Abraham said: “The weather has been perfect and has allowed the flowers to develop to their best – you’ve got to see it to believe it!”

Henry Digby, who runs Minterne House and Gardens, said: “We normally lose between 15 and 20% of all buds to late spring frost. This year every bud is flowering and it’s an incredible sight. And there’s more to come over the next few weeks.”

Henry Digby, left, and head gardener Ray Abraham amid blooms of rhododendrons “pink pearl” and Fortunii in the gardens at Minterne in Dorset.Henry Digby, left, and head gardener Ray Abraham amid blooms of rhododendrons “pink pearl” and Fortunii in the gardens at Minterne in Dorset.

Minterne Gardens feature a unique collection of rhododendrons and azaleas from China and the Himalayas, many of them collected in Victorian times for Henry Digby’s ancestors. Others have been hybridized from these original specimens to create new varieties that are not grown anywhere else in the world.

One of the gardens’ greatest showstoppers is rhododendron Fortunii, collected by the Victorian plant hunter Robert Fortune. Minterne has an 80-year-old specimen that towers 30 feet high and is covered with more than 250,000 cream-pink flowers clustered so closely that almost no leaves can be seen.

Massed azaleas line the path at Minterne Gardens in Dorset.Massed azaleas line the path at Minterne Gardens in Dorset.

Henry explained how they estimate the number of flowers in the garden this year: “I have to admit I haven’t actually counted them all! A rhododendron flower truss has approximately 30 flowers and there are about 30 trusses per square metre. The Fortunii tree is some 300 metres square. We’ve used the same formula for the other trees. Believe it or not, the estimates are fairly conservative!”

Minterne Gardens are open daily from 10am to 6pm from February to November. Entry costs £5 for adults, children under 12 visit for free, dogs are welcome on leads.

The gardens are on the A352 two miles north of the Cerne Abbas Giant.

www.minterne.co.uk

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