Batsford Arboretum

PUBLISHED: 10:04 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:40 20 February 2013

Handkerchief Tree

Handkerchief Tree

Fifty six acres of magical meandering walks amongst 2,800 trees from around the world. <br/><br/>From Giant Redwoods to an Olive tree, once the home of the Mitford family this garden has many surprises

Daffodil Narcissus Sylvestris (Easter Flower)

Handkerchief Tree Davidia Involucrata vilmoriniana

Hellebore Helleborus (Christmas Rose, Lenten Lily)

Japanese Cherries Prunus Serrulata

Snowdrops Galanthus nivali (Snow Piercer, Fair maid of February)

Witch Hazel Hamamelis mollis (Snapping Hazel)


Daffodils were first recorded two or three hundred years before Christ. The garden daffodils' ancestors come from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Spain, Portugal and Turkey. The first writings we know of about this beautiful spring flower were from Mohammed in approx 6th century. Until the 16th century daffodils were relegated to the wild and forgotten. In 1629 English gardeners took the daffodil from the wild and transported them to the garden.

A rare native of China found in moist mountain woods. Average height being 65' (20m) Produces snowy white bracts in mid to late May, which resemble white handkerchiefs that flutter in the wind. The trees real flowers are small and grouped into a globular purplish head. The fruit is solitary and round in shape and 1" across. The seeds cannot germinate until the hard nut has rotted. It can take up to two years of stratification in a seed bed before the seed begins to grow.

The Hellebore comprises approximately twenty species of the family Ranunculaceae and is a native of Europe. The flowers have five petals surrounding a ring of small cup like nectaries.

The tree is thought to have originated in China and then extensively cultivated in numerous forms in Japan. The first specimen was introduced to England via China in 1822.

The earliest fossils of Prunus were found in British Columbia dating back at least 33 million years. The Prunus 'Tai Haku' has an interesting story, for decades it was lost to Japan, only to be rediscovered by Captain Collingwood Ingram in 1923 when he saw a specimen growing in Sussex. Ingram later reintroduced this tree back into Japan.

A native of Switzerland, Austria and southern Europe.

Wild snowdrops are still to be found in abundance in Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Gloucestershire.

The Witch Hazel was introduced to the UK from China in the year 1879. It also naturally grows on the East coast of America from Nova Scotia to Ontario, Texas and Florida. It is noticeable that despite freezing temperatures the delicate flowers still manage to bloom in winter.

Habitat and Growing

There are approximately. 13,000 daffodil hybrids. The size of the bulb dictates how deep it should be planted. Daffodils do not appreciate soggy feet, so locate them in an area that drains well. The flowers prefer full sun. Early flowers may be planted under trees as they will flower before the trees leaf and give shade. Once it has flowered the foliage must be kept on the plant until it turns brown and dies. Leaving the foliage intact is very important. Daffodils are prolific reproducers and will eventually crowd themselves out if they are not divided. Flowers tend to point themselves to the south, so give this some thought when planting.

The Handkerchief Tree was first discovered in 1869 by Abbe David. He produced detailed drawings and on circulating the information of this magnificent new tree the race began to become the first to find the seeds. Abbe David died and Ernest Wilson from Chipping Campden was hired by Charles Sargent of the Arnold arboretum in the USA to find the tree. He was given a map and a location of the last tree seen some twenty years earlier. Wilson set off having never been abroad before. On his journey he was arrested for spying, survived a fever and was nearly drowned. Eight months later he located the village where the tree had last been seen only to discover that it had been chopped down. Wilson however did not give up, and journeyed deeper into China finally locating the tree in flower. Seeds were brought back in 1900. It was then realized that some six years earlier Pere Farges had sent 37 seeds back to France of which only one germinated. This seedling grew rapidly and in 1906 flowered for the first time, five years before Wilson's

An uncommon woodland plant but can be found on chalk and limestone in south and west England and Wales. This plant is now widely grown in gardens and valued by garden lovers for their winter and spring flowering period. Colours vary from white through pink, cream and green to near black. Individual flowers will remain on the plant for a month or more. The Hellebore is valued for bringing its colour to shady herbaceous borders. When located in woodland its unpleasant smell attracts early bees and insects. When crushed the foliage emits and even viler feted odour. The oil produced by the seeds of the Hellebore is attractive to snails, the seeds stick to the slime and are trailed about the garden.

Spring would not be spring without the ornamental Japanese Cherry which explodes into pink and white blossom in April.

A favourite of many suburban gardens, most Japanese Cherries will not grow true from seed but have to be reproduced by grafting or budding. Beware planting in lawns, as the roots creep to the surface and can snag the blades on your lawnmower. Petal colours vary widely as does their fragrance and autumn foliage colour. They are a favourite of the Bullfinch who loves to strip cherries of their flower buds. The Japanese cherry will live for 40 or 50 years. Some of the most attractive Japanese Cherries are the Prunus'Shogetsu', Prunus 'Okame', Prunus 'Taihaku' not forgetting the Prunus 'Pink Perfection'.

If undisturbed the snowdrop spreads in considerable masses and will flower freely. When met with places of its own choosing it is usually to some degree shaded, sun and wind are not to its liking. Planting of bulbs should take place in early autumn and left undisturbed for best results. First to flower is the Dwarf Proecox followed closely by the Common Nivalis. Regarding colouring, green is unusual and not often appreciated, however, in the snowdrop the combination of green and white is exquisitely beautiful. The flowers having a faint honey scent. Not many people are aware that snowdrops can be grown in a water glass, the bulb being 1 inch above the water. Initially keep the bulb in the dark until the roots spread, and then exposure to light will produce healthy leaves and flowers. To propagate snowdrops divide them 'in the green' after flowering and before the leaves die down.

This plant brings much needed colour to a winter garden and has an intoxicating scent. Its rich yellow to orange-red flowers begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall and continue throughout the winter. This tree is unusual in as much as the fruits and the flowers on the plant are present at the same time.

Hamamelis resembles the common hazel which is used for water divining. The name 'witch' has its origin from the Middle English 'wiche' from the old English 'wice' meaning pliant or bendable. Hamamelis is generally pest and disease free making it easy to grow.

Folk Lore

The name 'Daffodil' is very old. According to Greek Mythology 'Asphodelus' was a name given to a plant which grew in the Underworld. Daffodils have also been given the name 'Primrose Peerless' or 'Easter Lilly'. The bulb of the plant has narcotic properties. In small doses it is a purgative and emetic. Mixed with barley meal the ground up bulb has been used in the healing or wounds.

For spectacular displays visit Batsford Arboretum in March when there is a daffodil week.

Buddhist monks planted this tree in the courtyards of their monasteries thus giving it the name The Prayer Flag Tree. It is also known as the Ghost Tree or Dove Tree.

Reputedly the tallest Handkerchief Tree in the country can be seen at Batsford Arboretum. Its height of 78ft and estimated age suggest that it may be one of the first trees propagated in France.

Black Hellebores were used many years ago for paralysis, gout and insanity. It is also toxic causing tinnitus, vertigo, stupor, a feeling of suffocation, slowing of the pulse and finally death by cardiac arrest. It is believed that Alexander the Great died because of a Hellebore overdose when he took it as a medication. In the Victorian 'Language of Flowers' Hellebore represented calumny or malicious slander.

Excellent displays can be seen at Hazels Cross Farm at Kingsley, Staffs and also at Batsford Arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh.

The Cherry tree is the unofficial national flower of Japan and is of great significance in their art, architecture, fashion and culture. Viewing festivals called 'Hanami' are held all over Japan in spring.

The National Collection of some 235 specimens consisting of 85 different species and cultivars can be seen at Batsford Arboretum, Moreton- in -Marsh.

The name Galanthus is of Greek origin roughly meaning 'Milk Flower'. Nivalis relates to 'resembling snow'. The English name 'Fair Maid of February' refers to a custom connected with the 'Feast of purification of St Mary' celebrated on 2nd February when the village girls wore snowdrops as a symbol of purity.

Best local displays at Painswick Rococo Gardens, Batsford Arboretum and Colesbourne Park.

The crushed and soaked leaves and twigs have astringent and soothing qualities. The extract being used medicinally for treating bruises and insect bites. It is also used in aftershave lotions. Native American Indians from the Potawatomi tribe placed the twigs on hot rocks in a sweat lodge to bathe and sooth sore muscles with the steam.

Various varieties of Hamamelis may be seen at Batsford Arboretum and the national collection at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey, Hampshire.

Here are just some of the things that you can find at Batsford, which is open all year round.

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