What to see in June
At last, summer has begun, and there is so much you can see at Leonardslee in these wonderful months of June, July, and August.
It is warming up, so it is an excellent time for a picnic in the valley with enchanting views across the lakes to enjoy. (There is plenty of fresh produce to choose from in the farm shop and Clocktower Café.)
What is your favourite spot in the valley? Why not take a picture and enter the photo competition.
The camellias and magnolias may have finished but now we have the smaller-leaved rhododendrons throughout the gardens. The Pieris bushes are still looking amazing with their Lilly-of-the-Valley flowers and new red shoot growth.
The bluebells have pretty much finished but there are more pleasures to enjoy with the summer wildflowers. They are coming up everywhere throughout the woodland areas, which are so beautiful now, with shaded and sunlit spots.
The azalea luteums will flower for another few weeks, and there are still many rhododendrons that have buds that will bloom in the next month or so.
They are late flowering and there are fewer of them than the camellias and magnolias in the gardens, but that makes them even more impressive because they stand out so.
The Acers are looking glorious: they are fantastic with all their new growth and the different colours, varying by the stage of growth.
All the other trees, including pine trees and conifers, are getting their new summer growth - which is a different colour to the standard display; it is a lighter green, so the contrast between the two shades is stunning in the sunlight.
On your walk, you can enjoy the wild orchids that are coming up in the gardens now. They will be flowering until probably the beginning of July. These are dotted all over the valley. They are small flowers, but just as impressive as anything you will see because of their beautiful markings.
Then in the woodland areas, we’ve incorporated several bird boxes and feeding areas so you can see all the wonderful bird life throughout the gardens, singing and flying through the woodlands.
We are going to release some trout in one of the lakes to give that lake some more life, with flora and fauna working in harmony.
The gardening team keeps making discoveries in the areas we have cleared, as the seasons change. In some of the spaces where the acers are growing, we have found a number of maple trees. The sugar maples are coming up now with their new growth, showing a lovely lime green in contrast to the darker green of the rhododendrons.
We recently found some American azaleas that in the wild usually grow in Alabama and Virginia. They flower slightly later in the season but are very showy, with small flowers, bright orange, and have the most divine jasmine scent to them. They have started to flower in the warmer weather.
You will see the beautiful colours of the trees and shrubs reflected in the lakes from all the flowers that blossom in the late spring and early summer.
There is so much to view at this time of year. The main spring show is going, but there are many rhododendrons to visit, mainly the red flowering ones which have large, showy trusses; they stand out against the dark greens of the other rhododendrons.
Later in June and July, there are quite a few polar bear rhododendrons that will flower; they are highly scented and a magnificent pure white. The garden takes on a different air, a different look now, just as marvelous as in the spring.
So far, we have catalogued 65 different types of birds in the garden. Great tits and blue tits, lots of warblers, including blackcaps, and green woodpeckers. We have seen a lesser spotted woodpecker, which is unusual, and a greater spotted which is even rarer, because it is quite small and incredibly hard to find.
We discovered a couple of young owls recently, sitting on a fence post being fed by their mother during the day. To see this ball of fluff sitting on a fence being fed by mum was an incredible sight.
For us, just sitting in the gardens at this time of year is a pleasure, and so peaceful. In the afternoon and evenings, the deer come out to browse and explore.
We also have badgers that trundle across the valley in the late afternoon and early evening. Various foxes decide to show their faces then too.
We have buzzards too. There is a nest in one of the giant redwoods at the bottom of the valley, and they have young in the nest. Bring your binoculars and you may spot them. You can see them swooping down to snatch a rabbit and taking it to their nest.
You might also see a pair of kites that come into the valley every morning. Watch them catch the thermals and fly around the gardens, over the treetops.
It is just as exciting now as in the spring because the gardens change, and you can see all these wonderful sights close up if you are still and patient.
We suggest a visit of around four hours to the gardens, a morning or afternoon trip with a picnic lunch perhaps to experience this beautiful place and fully benefit from its peace and tranquility.
When it is sunny, sitting in the shade under one of the big trees, it is an amazing place. Do visit us soon!