Cold spring sparks off a late flowering spectacular

A cold and damp start to the year has proven to be a blessing in disguise for Sheringham Park where rhododendrons and azaleas are continuing to bloom beyond the end of the season.

The plants got off to a late start this year because of snow and freezing temperatures in February and have been able to flower longer than normal because of the recent heavy rains.

The combination of conditions means the vibrant floral display is expected to continue until to the end of the month.

The plants usually flower en-masse between May and the middle of June.

Sheringham Park visitor services manager Malcolm Fisher said: 'They are a little bit late this year because of the cold spring. People are seeing a variety of flower at the moment which you would normally expect to be over by now.

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'Last year was a fantastic display but it was short lived because we had a dry spring and that affected the plants. This year we have had a lot of rain, which has helped them be out longer.

'They do vary from year to year but they are always very special. Because we have got such a large variety of species there is always something to see.'

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The park, which was designed by landscape designer Humphry Repton in 1812, is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. It is home to more than 80 different varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas, including plants that have cross-pollinated to create a hybrid. They require little maintenance and different species can flower from November through to August, although the main display is in early summer.

The main species in the park is the invasive ponticum, which is kept in check by teams of volunteers vigorously cutting it back to allow more delicate plants to develop.

Events are planned throughout the year to mark the anniversary, including a Repton study day on July 7, which features a talk on Humphry Repton followed by a walk in the park.

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