What to See In July & August at Leonardslee Gardens
The amazing Emperor Dragonflies and the colourful Damselflies: this is what many visitors to the gardens are talking about now, and the giant Carp basking in the Lakes, relaxing in the fine weather.
It is such a pleasure to sit and enjoy the beauty of the gardens, with wildflowers in their summer finery, the tall, majestic trees, and birdsong, creating a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere.
You might see a Wallaby exploring the gardens with her young or a Red Kite soaring high above the treetops. There are a great many species of birds that visit the gardens now - listen out for their distinctive songs.
We are creating bird feeders and hides in the gardens so photographers and others can enjoy seeing our avian guests up close. Locations include New Pond, which is the last and lowest in the chain of the seven lakes. It is silty and somewhat overgrown, untouched in probably 50 years, so waders and several varieties of ducks and other wildlife love it.
You might also spot deer as they visit New Pond during the day to cool down.
In the deer park itself, there are two groups, one of six and a second of four. They are quite tame after seeing visitors since the gardens reopened in the spring.
If you wander into the deer park, there’s a large Cedar tree at the top of the bank and you can spot the deer lying just underneath it. Then there is another group of four deer that roam the woodlands, looking splendid in their summer coats.
There are some lovely shows of flowers to be seen in the garden from the spring, with a wide variety of colours of the Acers, conifer trees, and some of the later-flowering Azaleas and Rhododendrons.
The Hydrangeas are due to flower now: worth a visit in their own right.
So what to look out for now, what are our favourites in the gardens?
It has to be the summer wildflowers. If you had to pick one variety, perhaps the wild orchids, which are in surprising abundance this year. They are described as ‘capricious and enigmatic’ in horticultural circles, as the ideal conditions are something of a mystery.
Like so many of our native wildflowers, orchid numbers are declining, and many varieties are threatened. Fortunately, ours have grown undisturbed for hundreds of years, unthreatened by farming or chemical sprays in a perfect woodlands environment. Waiting for the next admirer.
The Cornus trees provide an excellent show all through the gardens. They are in full flower; you will see many varieties, some pink, some white - and others with creamy, whitish stripes, throughout the gardens.
Several trees are flowering now. The Clethra trees are displaying their fragrant white to yellow-white, cup-like flowers - and you can see the late-flowering Chimonanthus too.
Remember your Camera!
Many visitors have commented on the magnificent spectacle of the lakes in the summer sun. The shapes of the neighbouring and overhanging trees, beech and oak, in all their plumage, with reflections cast in the still waters, creates a stunning mirror image and wonderful visual effect for photography.
Which is your favourite spot for viewing or filming the lakes?
We have had several groups of photographers visit: it is a paradise for capturing images of flora and fauna, in every season. We can accommodate photographic groups by arrangement early in the morning, or of course at any time during regular opening hours.
Leonardslee is a refuge: so much of our countryside and parks have been sanitised - visiting wildlife photographers tell us - that there are very few areas of natural, unspoilt woodland left, certainly in the South East of England, to enjoy and film.
Ornithologists and bird photographers love the gardens because of the variety of our feathered guests drawn by the abundant insect life. Oak Walk is a great area to visit: the open woodlands are ideal for flycatchers - and of course all around the lakes.
We will be keeping the bird-feeders full through the rest of the year, to encourage the birds to stay through the winter months - so we will attract more of them, in even greater numbers next summer.
What birds can you see at the moment?
Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Tree Creepers, Nuthatches and all the woodpeckers: Green Woodpecker, Lesser and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers.
We had two Nightingales here recently. Their song in the evening is sublime. There are Willow Warblers, White Throats, Mistle Thrushes and Song Thrushes; and all the common birds like Sparrows and Blackbirds - which are increasingly less common.
Then there is a variety of ducks on the lakes; and a family of Canadian Geese. So relaxing to watch.
Finally, all the orchids are out. The blue scabious will be flowering now, to give an amazing carpet of blue; we have the bluebells in the spring and now the scabious - the butterfly blue or pincushion flower - from now through to September. Wonderful.
Summary of what to see in July & August:
Emperor Dragonflies and the colourful Damselflies.
Abundant wildflowers and wild orchids.
Hydrangeas, Acers, conifers, late-flowering Azaleas and Rhododendrons.
Cornus and Clethra trees in bloom.
Scabious and their new carpet of blue.
KItes, Great Tits, Tree Creepers, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers.
Wandering wallabies and deer.
Reflections on the seven lakes.