Wartime prisoner Freddie Wynniatt’s Azalea Bowl in flower for VE Day 70 celebrations

April 24, 2015

Exbury Gardens famed Azalea Bowl is beginning to flower, in time for upcoming VE day 70 celebrations. Its connection with VE day comes through Freddie Wynniatt, Exbury’s post-war Head Gardener, who was a prisoner-of-war in an Austrian salt mine and never saw the light of day for weeks on end.

On his release, Freddie was recalled to say that he would not deprive himself of the finer things in life, and on his return to Exbury – and under the supervision of owner Edmund de Rothschild – set about creating the vibrant Azalea Bowl, featuring all the colours that Freddie could only dream of during his period of captivity when he toiled in total darkness.
Edmund de Rothschild was a keen hybridiser, and named one of his colourful rhododendron blooms ‘Fred Wynniatt’ – this too will be in flower in early May.

‘We have much to thank Freddie for’ said current Exbury Head Gardener John Anderson. ‘The Azalea Bowl is a magnet for visitors from around the world in early May. As a Head Gardener he had a vision. He would not have witnessed the full spectacle of the mature Azalea Bowl during his lifetime as he died in 1971 – but carefully arranged his plantings around the Middle Pond to maximise their effect.’ Freddie Wynniatt was replaced by Douggie Betteridge as Exbury Head Gardener, and Douggie remembers his old boss with affection. ‘Freddie was a skilled gardener who taught me the techniques of rhododendron layering. He never used to talk about the war, probably taking solace in his work. That said he was very sociable, a regular at the Exbury Club where his pictures playing for the cricket club can still be seen.’

This year the Azalea Bowl is looking wonderful, and is even being appreciated by a male white swan which has recently come to settle on the pond. John observes “Thousands of photographers flock to the Azalea Bowl each year to capture the stunning azaleas, but this year spring visitors may be lucky enough to have the swan reflected in the foreground.”

For more info visit www.exbury.co.uk or call 023 8089 1203
Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway, Exbury, The New Forest SO45 1AZ
Open Sat 14 March – Sun 8 November 2015

Don't miss out! Sign up to get offers, competitions and days out ideas!

Don't miss out! Sign up to get offers, competitions and days out ideas!

Sign up to the Hampshire's Top Attractions enewsletters. We'll send you an email once or twice a month, with ideas for days out, upcoming events, discounts at attractions and special competitions across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight with Hampshire's Top Attractions.

Thank you for signing up to the Hampshire's Top Attractions enewsletters! Remember to pop us on your safe senders list.