When I first visited Abbotsbury Tropical Gardens, I felt like I was walking onto a film set, with a plantation house, unusual birds and exotic flora that you might expect to see in the tropics. The huge lush green fronds that hung loosely from the palm trees looked like enormous painted elephant ears drooping from the tall and sturdy tree trunks, each of them laying out their upper surface to the warm sunshine.
I marvelled at Mother Nature’s ability to nurture the sort of plant-life you would normally encounter in far hotter climes; but that’s the fascination Abbotsbury holds for its visitors….. expect the unexpected.
But what started as a one-off trip has since turned into an annual pilgrimage to enjoy the Giant Easter Egg Hunt, when they conceal two golden horseshoes, eight golden pigs, one Wessex FM Bug, and a much larger number of golf tee pegs are scattered all around. Each find representing a chocolate prize of some sort, although the golf pegs are numerous thus ensuring no one is disappointed (assuming you are happy with a Cadbury’s cream egg of course!)
But a springtime visit doesn’t just mean an Easter Egg feast; you are also treated to a magnificent multicoloured display of spring flowers and blossom.
Fortunately the day we chose was a warm and sunny Good Friday and after a light lunch in the Plantation Restaurant, we set off in search of the booty.
However I have to admit I was more interested in admiring the perfectly shaped and exquisitely colourful blossoms of the Camellia Japonica ‘Margaret Davis’ along with the many other flowers in their first bloom of the season.
The added benefit of visiting Abbotsbury at this time of the year is being able to see sections of the garden that are usually too deep in foliage during the summer months, such as the prehistoric beds that are just starting to come back to life.
Another aspect of the garden of which I never tire, is the remarkably varied tree population such as the Prunus Serrula ‘Tibetica’, the bark is so smooth and shiny, it looks like a perfectly polished piece of furniture.
The sculpture garden is always a source of interest with some rather unusual creations that wouldn’t go amiss in some of the more outrageous London galleries, mixed in with the more traditional carvings and works of art.
The bee hives were literally a ‘hive of activity’ with the worker bees busying themselves with a spring-clean and looking for every possible source of pollen. The enormous ponds were pretty much void of anything fishy; the water being still too cold to coax the enormous beasts (giant carp) up from the murky green depths.
By the end of our search, it was time for a cup of tea before our sons had a quick play in the playground and we headed home.
I know it won’t be another year before we go again, every season has something worth seeing and I just know there will be yet more to surprise me in a couple of months!