The wild garden at Sheringham Park in winter

The 50 acres of Wild Garden at Sheringham Park houses a nationally important collection of rhododendrons. The garden developed around a base planting of Scots pine and oak, with the earliest plantings thought to date back to around 1850.

The Main Drive

The drive was central to Humphry Repton's 1812 design for Sheringham Park. As you walk down the main drive, try to imagine you are in a horse drawn carriage, catching glimpses of the coastline as you travel through the rhododendrons in the Wild Garden. 

The main drive at Sheringham Park on a snowy winter day
The main drive at Sheringham Park in winter
The main drive at Sheringham Park on a snowy winter day

The most prolific of all plant collectors, Ernest Wilson is believed to have provided specimens that added extensively to the planting in the Wild Garden in the early 20th century, and the last private owner of the estate, Thomas Upcher, made significant additions up to his death in 1985.  
 
The Wild Garden is now home to over 80 species of rhododendron and azalea, often providing colour from November to August with peak flowering occurring from mid-May into early June.

Two viewing platforms (currently closed due to repairs) provide ideal vantage points from which to look down on a carpet of colour in late spring and early summer, and over the surrounding countryside throughout the year.

Year round interest

Winter

Due its close proximity to the coast and the micro climate created by the large rhododendron collection, the Wild Garden is quite protected from winter frosts. This enables two rhododendron species, Christmas cheer and nobleanum venustum, to flower throughout most winters - even though they are generally referred to as spring species.

January often marks the beginning of the camellias and snowdrops flourishing, although the timings can be significantly affected by the weather conditions.

Mild winters will prompt camellias to burst into flower
Camellias in flower in the wild garden
Mild winters will prompt camellias to burst into flower

Spring

The rhododendron display is a dynamic one, gradually building in colour to its late spring peak. An early spring species ‘rhododendron macabeanum’ with its large lemon coloured flowers tucked away from the path network is worth seeking out and you cannot miss the crimson-scarlet flowers of ‘rhododendron Doncaster’, one of our most photographed species along the main drive. You will need to look up at some of our taller specimens including the appropriately named rhododendron arboreum.

We also have a number of specimen trees flowering at this time - the handkerchief, pieris and snowdrop trees are of particular interest. Spread around the garden are fifteen species of magnolia to admire.

Patches of bluebells decorate much of the estate including the wild garden, and if you extend your walk into the parkland you will be rewarded with a display of buttercups and cowslips in late spring.

Summer

The rhododendron season draws to and end as summer approaches, but the brilliant white flowers of rhododendron polar bear are a fitting end to the display. Look out for our two Eucryphia trees along the main drive, which will add to your summer experience with their rose like white flowers. By August, we see the striking red berries appearing on the rowan trees - and the white berries on the Sorbus koehneana trees. 

Autumn

Look out for two of our specimen trees in early autumn, the striking display of the golden larch can be short lived, but the change of the smooth Japanese maple is a far more gradual process and can be enjoyed for a number of weeks.

Veteran beech and oak trees will react to drops in temperature to provide a golden display in the garden, often coinciding with a colourful show of fungi.

Ancient and remarkable trees

We have some special trees in the wild garden, including one of the biggest Scots pines outside Scotland, and the larger of our two snowdrop trees is one of tallest specimens in England.

A number of veteran oaks dotted along the main drive may well have acted as boundary markers in the past. Many of the beech trees are well over 200 years old, including our wandering beech tucked away to the side of one of Repton's glimpse points.

The bright green bark of the moosewood tree is particularly striking in the winter, alongside the fresh red growth of the smooth Japanese maples. With many of the trees bare it is a good time to observe the bird life which includes winter thrushes, woodpeckers and roving flocks of tits.

Sheringham Park Specimen Tree Guide

Our specimen tree guide

Discover the location of some of our most fascinating trees with our specimen tree guide, available to purchase for £1.50.

Join in (Currently suspended due to Covid restrictions)

A group of volunteers go out every Friday to work in the Wild Garden. They are currently working on cutting back rhododendron so we do not lose one of our visitor routes around the collection and providing more space to our more delicate specimens to grow and to thrive.
Like to help out?

Download a volunteer registration form