Millais Nurseries and Exbury Gardens, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019
One of the loveliest things about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is getting the chance to see amazing plants and having the opportunity to speak to plant experts. If you’re interested in Rhododendrons and Azaleas, David Millais is the man to talk to. David’s the Chairman of the Rhododendron, Camellia, and Magnolia Group, and the owner of Millais Nurseries in Churt, near Farnham, in Surrey.
Millais Nurseries grow one of the widest range of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in the world. David Millais is the great nephew of J G Millais – one of the founder members of the Rhododendron Society; David’s family have been actively cultivating and conserving Rhododendrons and Azaleas for over one hundred years! Millais Nurseries are a wonderful place to purchase Rhododendrons and Azaleas. In May and June, the grounds of Millais Nurseries are full of flower and scent! Although, not every Rhododendron and Azalea produces fragrant flowers, so do be sure to check, if you’d prefer to purchase a plant with scented flowers.
Fragrant Rhododendron and Azaleas
I love beautifully fragrant flowers, so I was eager to find out which Rhododendrons and Azaleas David Millais recommends. When I think of my favourite Rhododendron and Azalea fragrance, I always think of Rhododendron ‘Luteum’, the yellow flowered, deciduous Azalea. I can still vividly remember when I first discovered this plant, in bloom. I was a young child at the time, but I can still clearly remember the joy I felt as I breathed in this Rhododendron’s deliciously perfumed scent, for the first time. Rhododendron ‘Luteum’ produces such a wonderful, heady, and uplifting perfume; it’s glorious!
David Millais has Rhododendron ‘Luteum’ down as one of his favourite cultivars, too. Another plant that David recommends is Azalea ‘Irene Koster’. Although, David extends a word of caution, informing me that many plants have been mis-sold incorrectly, for some time now – many of the incorrectly named, Azalea ‘Irene Koster’ plants, are cultivars that are still being sold under the wrong name, in garden centres. Consequently, it’s not always easy to find stock of the correct plant for sale. Naturally, David Millais has ensured that he has stock of the true, and more favourable, Azalea ‘Irene Koster’ variety, which has a beautiful fragrance. So, if you want to be certain of purchasing the best and correct, true form of Azalea ‘Irene Koster’ – you know where to head to – Millais Nurseries.
Azalea prinophyllum ‘Phillip Holmes’ is another fragrant, deciduous cultivar that’s available through Millais Nurseries’ website. This cultivar was named for the Senior Gardener, at the National Trust property, Nymans, in West Sussex. David Millais tells me that Azalea prinophyllum ‘Philip Holmes’ has a delightful, clove like fragrance.
Another wonderfully fragrant Rhododendron or Azalea is, Rhododendron loderi ‘St Edmund’, a rare variety that produces pink flower buds that open as the softest, most delicate of pinks. Rhododendron loderi ‘St Edmund’ flowers fade to white within a few days of the flowers opening, but their lovely fragrance remains strong.
If you’re interested in Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Exbury Gardens, in the New Forest, is the garden to visit. This beautiful woodland garden occupies a 200 acre site, which is planted with superb collections of Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Magnolias, Hydrangeas, Iris, herbaceous perennials, and daffodils, to create interest, scent, and colour for every season.
Millais Nurseries’ exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 has been especially created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lionel de Rothschild’s founding of Exbury Gardens, in Hampshire. This is the first time that Exbury Gardens and Millais Nurseries have created an exhibit together for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but, Millais Nurseries and Exbury Gardens have been working together for quite some time. The two families have a historic connection through their love of Rhododendrons and Azaleas, both parties are passionately and actively involved in conserving and protecting Rhododendrons and Azaleas, to ensure the survival of rare cultivars, including those grown by Lionel de Rothschild and other members of the de Rothschild family.
Lionel de Rothschild was a successful banker, he had a particular interest in plants and funded plant hunting expeditions to obtain new varieties to grow and display in his extensive gardens. As well as collecting new plants, Lionel de Rothschild also produced them, creating a large number of new Rhododendron hybrids. The love of Rhododendrons and Azaleas was passed on through the continuing generations of the de Rothschild family, with over 1000 new hybrids being produced, by three generations of the family!
Over the past thirty years or so, many of the Lionel de Rothschild hybrids have become scare. David Millais has been working with Exbury Gardens to propagate the rarest plants from the de Rothschild family’s Rhododendron and Azalea collection, to ensure their survival and enable future generations to delight in the blousy flowers produced by these wonderful shrubs.
Millais Nurseries’ Rhododendron and Azalea exhibit evokes the spirit of Exbury Gardens, bringing the exuberance of these rather glamorous plants and some of the joy of Exbury, to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019.
Exbury Gardens have many other activities planned to celebrate their centenary year. Marie-Louise Agius has designed a new Centenary Garden at Exbury, which will open later this year.
New Rhododendron introductions launched at Chelsea!
Millais Nurseries’ Rhododendron and Azalea exhibit celebrates Exbury Gardens centenary year. The exhibit features some of the oldest varieties, alongside the newest plant introductions, including: Rhododendron ‘Jessica de Rothschild’. This interesting Rhododendron was bred by Edmund de Rothschild, in 1966. The plant was registered with the Royal Horticultural Society in 1996, but only a small number of plants were propagated at Exbury, so the public have had to wait until 2019, for Rhododendron ‘Jessica de Rothschild’ to be available to order! David Millais, at Millais Nurseries in Surrey has been growing and propagating the plants, ready for their launch at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019. When I spoke to David Millais, at Chelsea, he told me what a wonderful new plant Rhododendron ‘Jessica de Rothschild’ is; David feels that this is the best Rhododendron to have ever been raised at Exbury. This old variety has stood the test of time, having been shortlisted as one of the top twenty plants in the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year Competition. David was full of praise for Rhododendron ‘Jessica de Rothschild’ and its naturally compact habit and floriferous nature. This is a great choice of Rhododendron for a small garden, or a lovely plant to grow in a container.
RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year Competition
Millais Nurseries entered two plants into the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2019 Competition, both Rhododendron ‘Jessica de Rothschild’ and Rhododendron Happydendron ‘Pushy Purple’ (‘Hachmagic’) were shortlisted in this prestigious competition. If you’re interested, you can see all of the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2019, in this article I wrote about the competition.
Growing Rhododendrons and Azaleas in containers
If you don’t have the acid soil required to grow Rhododendrons and Azaleas; don’t forget that you can purchase peat free ericaceous compost and grow your plants in containers. I have a small collection of Rhododendrons. Over the past five years, I have grown my Rhododendrons in large planters, filled with Dalefoot Composts Ericaceous Wool Compost. My plants have grown beautifully; my only disappointment is that I am always away working at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, while my plants are in flower!
Other articles that may interest you………….
To see Millais Nurseries’ exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, please click here.
To see the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden where designer Mark Gregory brought part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Chelsea, please click here.
To see an overview of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, please click here.
To see the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2019 Competition, please click here.
To see Jonathan Hogarth’s exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, please click here.