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The Far East Collection is now the biggest development at VBG since the Australian and South African Gardens in 2004 and the Arid Garden in 2008.

In November 2022 we made room for this project by clearing nineteen Holme Oaks, an invasive, alien climax tree species now dominating much of the Undercliff. VBG themes like pushing the boundaries of half-hardiness and presenting rare plants, trees and shrubs seldom, if ever, seen in the U.K. from other subtropical zones, drove this project.

One can find the three components of this long-term planting east of what was called the Japanese Terrace: exotic, half-hardy Camellias; rare Hydrangea Hybrids, and next generation Far Eastern specimen trees from Vietnam, Korea, and Nagaland, India. Many people question how we can present trees from what are considered tropical countries. What we remind them is that the average lapse rate in temperature is 6.5C per 1,000 metres of elevation gain. So, our new Far Eastern accessions are either found at higher altitudes or survive in a wide altitude range in their habitats.

Others ask about the “boring” Hydrangeas and Camellias. Our focus is exotic new species, not those Victorian era ones that have fallen from favour. That is why we chose exotic, half-hardy Camellias from Hong Kong. The Camellias also extend our flowering season to provide colour in March and April.

As a botanic garden we work on a 30-to-40-year horizon. The Magnolia campbellii blooming so profusely above the original Hydrangea Dell in mid to late winter were planted 35 years ago. Trees planted by Sir Harold Hillier at VBG in the 1970’s are now National Champions, the largest of their species in the U.K.. We fully expect Fermiana simplex, commonly known as the Chinese parasol tree or wutong (Chinese: 梧桐; pinyin: wútóng) to be a future National Champion alongside others we have planted for this project.

Visitor Maps have been redesigned to include the Far East Collection and the new grass path through its middle which is sprouting nicely in the new parkland space, a new walking route around the Garden offering fresh vistas at VBG.

We are proud to celebrate this as a Members’ Project – one entirely supported by Annual Passholders, from Ventnor Botanic Garden, we are all truly grateful.


Chris Kidd, June 2023