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Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens has appointed Stephen Herrington as head gardener. He was formerly Gardens & Parks Consultant and Project Manager for the National Trust, London and South East Gardens Programme, since April 2018. He was previously head gardener at the National Trust property Nymans Garden, from 2014, and before that curator of Glasgow Botanic Gardens for Glasgow City Council from 2012.
Stephen Herrington says:-
“I am delighted to be part of this exciting and important project, to protect and upgrade one of the finest woodland gardens in England. We are still discovering rare plants and have recorded 22 champion trees including the critically endangered Abies Nebrodensis (Sicilian Fir).”
Champion trees are those considered to be exceptional examples of their species because of their enormous size, great age, rarity or historical significance.
The Grade I Listed gardens are set within a steep valley in the 240 acre Leonardslee estate, and feature a series of seven interlinked lakes, originally created to power iron smelting in the 16th and 17th centuries. Victorian plant collector Sir Edmund Loder purchased the estate from his parents-in-law in 1889 and planted extensive collections of Rhododendrons and Azaleas and many species of trees, and also introduced gazelle, beavers, kangaroos and wallabies.
The gardens were sold by the Loder family and closed to the public in 2010. No further maintenance work was carried out until entrepreneur Penny Streeter OBE purchased the site in 2017. There followed nearly two years’ extensive restoration work, with a team of some 30 gardeners, until the opening in April 2019. It has been described as the biggest garden restoration since the Heligan project in the 1990s.
The collection includes Rhododendron Loderi Sir Edmund and Loderi King George, raised by Sir Edmund in 1901 and amongst the finest examples in the UK. The gardens also feature one of the first Pulham rock gardens, dating from 1890: it comprises a series of rocky outcrops which combine natural sandstone with artificial Pulhamite rock, intensively planted with azaleas, dwarf rhododendrons and conifers and other plants and trees.
The Leonardslee project takes full account of the ecological sensitivity of the site in a programme that creates locations where bats, newts, butterflies and other species can thrive. This includes leaving areas of uncut grass, and log piles that serve as bug hotels, with new nature trails for children and school groups to see the diverse wildlife at Leonardslee.
For information on hosting your big day at the stunning Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens see www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk/weddings
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