This woodland planting commemorates Humphrey Gilbert Carter, the Garden’s first academic Director from 1921-1950. His great love was catkin-bearing trees, which feature strongly in this woodland and meadow planting. In the heart of the woodland is a wonderful specimen of one of the Garden’s specialities the Cambridge Oak, Quercus x warburgii. It is a marvellous sight in May when the leathery over-wintered leaves are finally shed, the new coppery-red foliage unfurls, and the tree is festooned with tassled bunches of golden-yellow catkins.
By late spring, the trees are lapped by a sea of foaming cow parsley, a superb foil for flowering trees such as the Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum), with its magenta pea-like flowers bursting straight from the bare branches and trunk. The long grass areas throughout the Gilbert Carter Woodland are cut once a year and the hay crop is removed. This management has been carried out for over 100 years and has encouraged a rich mixture of grasses and other flowering herbs in the sward, which in turn encourages a great diversity of insect life.
The meandering mown paths connect many small, intimate glades of flowering shrubs and small trees, where there is much to discover particularly early in the year. Here the February-flowering Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) with its masses of tiny yellow flowers gives way to the striking white bracts of Cornus 'Eddie’s White Wonder' and the chalky-white flowers of the Chinese Bitter Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) borne on spiny green stems. The southern boundary of the woodland has a sinuous tangle of pale-blue flowered Wisteria pruned into tortuous free-standing shapes, backed by the deeply-fissured bark of the unusual Tree Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii. British and European Sorbus species dominate the south-eastern quarter. Many of these are extremely rare and of great conservation value.