35,000 Bulbs Planted for Spring at Chiswick House Gardens

45 team members and volunteers spending a week on the initiative

Rosie Fyles - Head Gardener at Chiswick House
Rosie Fyles, Head Gardener at Chiswick House & Gardens

Later this month, 45 team members and volunteers will be taking part in one of the biggest planting initiatives in recent years at Chiswick House Gardens.

Over 35,000 bulbs, are being planted over the course of a week to benefit both pollinators and people, which should mean this coming spring, visitors will be greeted with a visual spectacle of early spring flowers and rare Camellias.

It is another step taken by the gardening team to encourage more resilient and coherent ecological networks and healthy and well-functioning ecosystems. It is well documented that people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months, and benefit from immersing themselves amongst nature.. It is the hope that people from all over the country will visit the magnificent spring display and experience some of the benefits for themselves firsthand.

Due to this summer's drought conditions and the subsequent mild autumn weather, the planting of these bulbs, which include Narcissi varieties such as ‘Tete a Tete’, ‘Pueblo ‘and ‘Baby Boomer’, will take place later than usual providing better planting conditions.

Xanthe Arvanitakis, Director of Chiswick House & Gardens says, “As custodians of one of West London’s most important green spaces we have a responsibility to invest in both the provision of a beautiful environment for our local community to enjoy year-round, but also ensuring that wildlife can thrive despite the implications of urbanisation and climate change. This incredibly important work would only be possible with the support of our members and volunteers”

As well as a keen interest in planting for climate change, Head Gardener Rosie Fyles, who joined Chiswick House & Gardens from Ham House in February 2022, is also re-discovering 300 years of garden design history at Chiswick. She is endeavouring to re-establish the historic central axis, a walkway running through the centre of the estate, a fashionable concept that originated in France in the 17th Century.

Rosie hopes to achieve this by planting over 15,000 bulbs in the borders either side of the Kitchen Garden entrance path. This particular route will be visible from the linked central path which runs through the formal Italian Garden and Conservatory and which, in the 17th century, would have stretched right to the River Thames.

In addition to the anticipated bulb display this coming spring, Chiswick House & Gardens will also be welcoming the return of Camellia season in February and March. Well-known for its abundance of rare Camellias, and boasting one of the oldest collections under glass, the Chiswick estate’s connection with this evergreen shrub dates back to the 18th century.

Camellias in the Conservatory at Chiswick House
Camellias in the Conservatory at Chiswick House

Brought by ship from China, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years, camellias were a luxury commodity and a symbol of status. Queen Mary, wife of King George V, was a great admirer of Camellias at Chiswick and visited regularly to see them. At the time of the 6th Duke of Devonshire it was widely thought that Camellias needed to be housed under glass. It is now known that they thrive outdoors as can be clearly observed with the abundance of Camellias blooming in the Gardens in early spring.

Rosie and her team are currently planting up the Garden's shrubbery with historic varieties of Camellia propagated by the team from specimens originally housed in the spectacular 300ft Grade I-listed conservatory designed by Samuel Ware and completed in 1813. This will enable the gardening team to future-proof plants for generations to come. Looking at predicted climate conditions, planting young duplicate plants outside gives them the best opportunity to thrive as increasingly, under glass, the temperatures and light levels are extremely challenging, and the more mature specimens require ongoing care to enable them to survive.

Grade I-listed conservatory designed by Samuel Ware and completed in 1813
Grade I-listed conservatory designed by Samuel Ware and completed in 1813

She says of planning her first spring season, “This autumn, planning for my first full spring, is all about bringing new colour, different textures and long flowering for pollinators and people. With the unique historic context of mature trees and historic walls, this bulb planting on scale will be part of a vivid celebration of the Gardens. I am also taking the opportunity to plant as many varieties as possible of our conservatory camellias outside, where long-term, they will thrive in predicted climate changes”.

The Gardens at Chiswick House & Gardens are open to the public all year round from 7am to dusk. Closed to the public during the winter months, the Kitchen Garden is used year-round by multiple local community groups to reconnect with nature and to learn new skills. The Kitchen Garden re-opens on 16 March 2023 for visits Thursday-Sunday, 11am-4pm, until 29 October 2023. Ticket prices start at £2.25 for a child and £4.50 for an adult. Admission is free for Chiswick House & Garden Members.

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November 10, 2022