Azalea steps at Winkworth Arboretum
Winkworth Arboretum in spring is alive with colour, and one of the most colourful places to visit is the Azalea Steps.
When to visit
The Azalea Steps tend to look at their best during mid May. During this time, the azaleas planted beside the steps provide a cascading effect of vivid blooms running down to the lake. Jewel colours give way to diamond sparkles on the water and all of this is set against a vibrant backdrop of green. But despite the miracles of nature, the azaleas did not grow there by accident.
History of the azalea steps
Created during the Second World War with help from Dr Fox's family, guests and colleagues who cleared and transported the soil, this area was inspired by the Villa Carlotta on Lake Como, Italy. Originally it was a wide grass path which was later replaced by the wooden steps.
It is planted with Kurume hybrid Azaleas which were introduced from Japan in the 1920’s by E.H Wilson. They give a stunning display of colour in late spring as the colours seem to tumble down the hillside toward the lake.
Unfortunately there are few records of early planting at Winkworth so some of the specimens are yet to be identified. Work to rectify that commenced in spring last year.
The steps are also planted with acers, magnolias and clerodendron as a backdrop and a bench given to Dr Fox for his 70th birthday in 1955 can still be seen at the top of the steps.
Recently, a programme of clearance at the bottom of the steps has revealed some hydrangea arborescens and has restored an alternative route around the steps through a small Acer glade.
As the plants are fast approaching their eightieth year and gaps are likely to occur, replacement plants are being sourced and grown in the nursery ready to be planted to ensure continuity for this special and much loved area of the arboretum.
When the spring sunshine invites you outside, why not bring a picnic and wander down to the lake to enjoy one of Winkworth’s jewels?