Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens: Update

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Described as the biggest restoration project since Heligan, the Leonardslee restoration is led by head gardener Ray Abraham and a team of up to 30 gardeners to clear dead wood, brambles and bracken and restore several miles of pathways to reveal rare Rhododendrons and trees. Many were planted as early as 1801 and require identification.

Clearance work includes one of the original rock gardens built by landscaping company James Pulham and Son in 1890.

The garden is a treasure trove of rare and unusual specimens, Ray Abraham says, with an estimated 10 champion trees and huge Magnolias that were collected by Sir Edmund Loder in the 19th century and by more recent members of the family.

A number of trees are being lifted to create space to enable smaller plants, growing below them, to flourish and for propagation next year.

The owners are also developing a new Australia Garden, inspired by a colony of wallabies on site that are descendants of the original herd imported by Sir Edmund Loder in 1889.

Examples of the plants newly discovered at Leonardslee:-

Rh Meternichii is a rare Rhododendron that grows in only a few areas in the northern parts of Honshu, Japan. There are two examples - several others have been crossed with Rh Williamsianum, which is equally endangered in the wild.

Rh Ponticum: round leaved, with lilac flowers is very rare and is derived from the the wild Ponticum.

All of these Rhododendrons are to be propagated by cuttings for preservation and planting in the gardens. In the spring the flowers will be hand pollinated to produce true seed, to be collected in the autumn.

Rh Irroratum has a flower with no spots, pure white and slightly scented, and has flowered due to the unusually warm weather - it is a very unusual form of this Rhododendron species.

Rh Changii: yellow flowered, there are around 50 left in the wild and these are under serious threat, located in Jinfushan National park China.

Visit www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk

Emily Grey