Bowood's famous rhododendron garden opened last week, earlier than it was scheduled to.

The garden opened on Thursday, April 17, and Lord Lansdowne, who does much of the gardening himself, said several flowers are already in bloom, including magnolia planted by his father in the 1960s.

The garden had been scheduled to open this weekend.

He said: “We normally open the rhododendron garden around the last weekend of April and some years this can be too early. “However, following the exceptionally mild and wet winter, the plants are two weeks ahead of themselves.

“Being a spring garden it has a relatively short season, about seven weeks, and then alas it is all over.

“So there is not a minute to lose. It promises to be another outstanding year.

“I thought last season was one of the best, but this looks even more exceptional.”