Plant lovers can explore The Connoisseur’s Garden – with treats at Exbury Gardens for steam train buffs and young nature fans too

  • Redeveloped area The Connoisseur’s Garden open to visitors, and the Hydrangea Walk replanted for maximum flower power
  • New attractions include a children’s log trail and new-look visitor entrance/gift shop and plant centre
  • 21st anniversary of Exbury Gardens Steam Railway

A horticultural treasure trove of rare plants and shrubs will be on show at Exbury Gardens in 2022 in the newly-named, The Connoisseur’s Garden.

A less-visited part of the famous 200-acre woodland garden in the New Forest has been revamped with unusual plants and shrubs to delight throughout the season.

Visitors can wander amongst a collection of stunning camellias, donated by one of the world’s most famous growers, into an expertly planted woodland glade filled with curious garden gems that boast blossom and vibrant colours. Exbury’s team has taken five years to hone and redevelop the area and in 2022 it will bear the new name, The Connoisseur’s Garden.

Kids can enjoy an exciting new log trail situated near the entrance of The Connoisseur’s Garden made from old oak, beech and Scots pine trees. Youngsters will be encouraged to walk from one end of the trail to the other without touching the ground, whilst learning about the different bark textures. And they can have their photo taken when they have reached the end sitting on the oak ‘Throne’.

The gardeners at Exbury have also been hard at work in the Hydrangea Walk which now boasts 12 new varieties, with 150 new plants in total, promising late summer flower power with a host of pastel shades.

Exbury’s renowned steam railway will be celebrating its 21st anniversary during the year, visitors will receive a discount on gardens admission when they bring their canine best friends along to Devoted to Dogs days* and new Nature Tours will be helping everyone connect with Exbury’s varied wildlife. A new-look visitor entrance with revamped gift shop and enlarged plant centre will also be open.

Thomas Clarke, head gardener of Exbury Gardens, said: “The Connoisseur’s Garden is a beautiful spot for visitors to take in the peace and tranquillity of Exbury. It’s a self-contained area full of rare and unusual trees and shrubs, predominantly summer flowering but of interest all year round. They are planted in large beds, underplanted with woodland ground cover and connected by grass paths with seating to soak up the atmosphere in the secluded glade.”

The Connoisseur’s Garden

Exbury Gardens is renowned for its collection of rhododendrons and azaleas but on the edge of Gilbury Lane the emphasis is on a different range of trees and shrubs designed to appeal to the connoisseur.

It contains a number of rare plants chosen to delight visitors throughout the season. As you enter the garden you will find a selection of camellias donated by the famous grower Jennifer Trehane, which flower in a range of beautiful colours in the early months of the year.

Another early performer is Edgeworthia chrysantha – the paperbush – whose pale-yellow flowers stand out proudly from the bare stalks of the parent plant. You should also look for Magnolia ‘Ann’ whose reddish-purple flowers light up the spring.

Elsewhere there is blossom which appears later, in mid-summer, and is to be found on plants such as Rhododendron hemsleyanum, named after a former keeper of Kew’s famous herbarium. There is also a fine specimen of Maackia amurensis which, while celebrated for its spikey panicles of white flowers in late June or early July, is also distinguished by the ghostly silver-blue colours of its new leaves. Later in the summer, the dark evergreen leaves of the magnificent Eucryphia × intermedia are covered by a mass of large white flowers in late summer.

And as the autumn arrives, two crab apple trees stand out. Malus ‘Laura’ bears clusters of fruit the size of golf balls coloured such a deep red as almost to be purple. This is a relatively young tree. In contrast, there is the venerableMalus mandshurica which is a magnificent sight when covered in a profusion of pale red apples. Finally, see if you can spot the bright red berries of the Chinese wonder tree – Idesia polycarpa – which hang in bunches like small grapes and which persist after the tree’s heart-shaped leaves have all dropped.


For further information or images, contact PR Emma Mason on 07762 117433 or Veronica Chrisp on 023 8024 5754

Notes for editors

Exbury Gardens, located in the New Forest near Southampton, is open daily from 19 March 2022 10am – 5.30pm. Arrival time slots must be booked online in advance at

Thanks to its unrivalled collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, Exbury Gardens is famed for its riot of spring colour, as well as a vast array of beautiful, mature rare trees. Over recent years the Hampshire garden has been expanded for all-season interest with areas designed to show off summer and autumn ‘flower power’, as well as an extension of its 1 ½-mile Rhododendron Line steam railway.

To learn more about Exbury’s COVID-19 safety measures, please visit Safety Measures FAQs page on its website by clicking this link

* Devoted to Dogs days – visitors bringing their dogs to Exbury Gardens for these events receive a 20% discount on gardens admission. Discount applicable to one person per dog. Check the Exbury website for dates.