What to see in September
Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens offer the visitor a chance to enter a magical world away from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life. As you turn off the busy 'A' road, park your car and pass through the entrance. Wander for hours discovering the secrets of the gardens that offer a unique collection of trees and shrubs, but also are home to many wildflowers.
The visitor cannot miss the mass planting of Hydrangeas in flower as they enter the garden through the glasshouse. Then the choice of which direction is a tricky one, maybe head for the Rock Garden with its many nooks and crannies and stunning Japanese Acers set in amongst the rocks and Azaleas. Or head down to the Cafe and be sure to seek out the spectacular Magnolia grandiflora. This is an impressive, evergreen tree with leathery, dark green, glossy leaves with rust-coloured hairs underneath. In late summer and early autumn, large, fragrant, pure white, goblet-shaped flowers open from upright, woolly buds at the end of the shoots. This tree looks magnificent grown as a wall shrub as found here in the gardens, or as a large specimen tree in a sheltered spot.
Our gardens hold many champion trees that can be admired by visitors all year round. Often the trees are overlooked when the Rhododendrons and Azaleas are in full flower, so now is a time to soak up their majesty and beauty. In the car park, as well as, dotted throughout the gardens are the familiar Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). With their blue/grey needles and orange coloured bark, this is one of the most instantly recognisable trees in the world and is widespread throughout Europe and Western Asia, as well as being native to Scotland.
Look out for the species of coniferous trees known as Redwoods trees, with specimens of each to be found in the gardens. They are the Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) the sole living species in the genus Sequoiadendron. The Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) the sole living species of the genus Sequoia, an evergreen, this tree can live up to 1,800 years or more! Finally, the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) a fast-growing, endangered deciduous conifer, the sole living species of the genus Metasequoia and is a large deciduous tree with reddish-brown fibrous bark colouring beautifully in autumn.
The Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) is a cedar native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and to the Tell Atlas in Algeria where they form vast forests in the humid zones of the country. Fully grown, the Atlas Cedar is a large coniferous evergreen tree, 30–35 m tall, with a trunk diameter of 1.5–2 m. A beautiful mature specimen is found south of the Mansion by the Wallaby enclosure.
There are also summer-flowering trees and shrubs to enjoy in the garden. Two white-flowered trees that you can seek out on the main routes around the garden are Eucryphia lucida and Eucryphia x nymansensis. Eucryphia lucida commonly known as Leatherwood is a species of tree endemic to forests of western Tasmania. These tall evergreen shrubs/trees can grow up to 8m high and 4m wide. Their white scented cup-shaped flowers are a delight to behold and the bees love them.
The other is Eucryphia x nymansensis that is covered in fragrant white flowers in August and September. The original plant came from Nymans gardens, not far away and was found by Harold Comber during his planting hunting trip in the 1920s to Argentina and Chile.
Also, look out for Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) which was introduced into Britain by John Fraser, who made his first botanizing trip through the American South in 1785. Fraser's finds were distributed among English horticulturists or to private patrons, and the shrub has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Lower to the ground look out for Betony (Stachys officinalis) that is in flower from June to October in the grassland. It is a member of the Deadnettle family; the bright magenta-pink flowers make striking splashes of colour from early Summer to well into autumn. Roman physician Antonius Musa claimed it was effective against sorcery and was one of the great 'all-heals' of medieval herbalists. Betony is often found in old churchyards. Planted in the past not only for its medicinal value but also in the belief that it had powers that would ward off unwelcome spirits, ghosts, and goblins.
This is a lovely time of the year to explore the gardens at Leonardslee so look high and low to admire the many different plants found within the plant collection.