Ravishing rhododendrons with royal approval

Round & About


Well done to the team behind Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, who have just won three top prizes at RHS Wisley

The famous rhododendrons of Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens are in full bloom and have recently won three top prizes at the 2023 RHS Main Camellia, Early Rhododendron and Spring Ornamental Plants Competitions at RHS Wisley, Surrey. The winning Rhododendrons were ‘Muriel’ (Class 35), ‘Argipeplum’ (Class 29), and ‘Schlippenbachii’ (first prize).

The Grade I Listed gardens on the 240-acre Leonardslee estate were established by the Loder family, Victorian-era plant collectors. The estate is home to an exceptional collection of flora and fauna, featuring wallabies and deer roaming among seven interlaced lakes. Many of the plants are now very rare and threatened in their native habitats, says estate general manager Adam Streeter.

The RHS Wisley competition was organised in conjunction with the RCM Group – RHS Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group, of which King Charles in a patron. The group has gifted rhododendrons, camellias, and magnolias to the King for a collection at Sandringham. Two plants closely associated with Leonardslee were included in the gift: Loderi King George which received the RHS Award of Merit in 1968, and Loderi Sir Joseph Hooker.

During their time cultivating the gardens at Leonardslee, the Loder family regularly competed in horticultural contests and won numerous medals and awards for their efforts. The last time this happened was under Sir Giles Loder in the 1970s. This year marks the first time the current gardening team, including Elliot Chandler and Dan Ainscough, has entered a Rhododendron competition. The current estate owners, since 2017, the Streeter family, plan to enter the Camellia categories at Wisley next year, eyeing the opportunity to win the Leonardslee Bowl, donated to the society by Sir Giles Loder.

Head gardener Jamie Harris says: “Leonardslee offers a perfect setting for growing rhododendrons, with an ericaceous loam and sandstone bedrock creating acidic soil conditions that are perfect for these plants, as well as the abundant camellias, magnolias, and conifers,” explains Jamie Harris.

In celebration of King Charles III’s coronation, Leonardslee is restoring the Coronation Garden, first created for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952. It features the famed rhododendron Loderi King George, created by Sir Edmund Loder, along with over 30 other rhododendron grafts.

To plan a visit, see Leonardslee Gardens

Bring your lawn to life

Karen Neville


Surrey Wildlife Trust and RHS call on gardeners to give the mower a rest and bring their lawns to life for nature

Surrey Wildlife Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) are calling on gardeners to ditch the ‘golf course’ look and reimagine their lawns this spring and summer.

The ‘Bring your lawn to life‘ initiative encourages people to cut their grass less regularly and embrace daisies, dandelions, clovers and other naturally flowering plants. Leaving more space for native vegetation means the pollinating insects we all depend on, as well as a huge range of other wildlife from frogs to finches, has a much better chance of survival.

Lawns left to grow long help mitigate flooding by soaking up more rainwater, counter the ‘heat island’ effect in urban areas, and capture pollutants. They are also better at resisting browning during dry spells owing to their longer roots.

Their benefits continue into the height of summer, providing all-important habitat for a whole host of insects including ants, bees, beetles and butterflies.

The charities have set out five ways to love your lawn this year:

• Reduce the frequency of mowing to once every three to four weeks to allow flowers such as dandelion and speedwell to bloom and help pollinators.
• Keep some areas short as pathways, sunbathing spots, and foraging areas for worm-eating birds. For the rest, let the grass grow a little longer, offering shelter to grasshoppers and other insects. In turn, these creatures are food for frogs, birds and bats.
• Allow parts of your lawn to grow long for the whole summer so that caterpillars can feed and transform into butterflies and moths.
• Turn a blind eye to the odd bare patch as these provide sites for ground nesting bees.
• If you do want a luscious green carpet, consider growing hardy yarrow within your lawn or, where this is limited footfall, experiment with a tapestry lawn and grow herbs and flowers such as chamomile and creeping thyme.

Given that most lawn-dwelling plants are annuals, there is plenty of scope to experiment with different layouts and mowing patterns each year, giving gardeners numerous outlets for their creativity.

Lucy Cahill, Team Wilder Project Officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust says: “Private gardens cover more of the UK than all our nature reserves combined, so just imagine the difference we could make if every one of them became a sanctuary for wildlife. And with so much colour and contrast on offer, a lawn that makes space for nature can look as beautiful as the most formal display.

“We all depend on the services nature provides, so we all have something to gain by helping make Surrey wilder.”

Helen Bostock, Senior Wildlife Specialist at the RHS, says: “Lawns, while central to many garden designs, are often overlooked as important ecosystems in favour of the plants in beds that border them. But they’re home to a huge amount of wildlife and help mitigate the impact of climate change.

“We want to inspire people to get up close and personal with their lawns this year, discover what can be found in their swathes of green and dabble with new, more hands-off means of management.”

For more user-friendly information on how your lawn can help wildlife, visit Wild about lawns.

Surrey Wildlife Trust is currently asking for donations to create and protect hedgerow and woodland habitat for the threatened Hazel Dormouse – part of a vision for Surrey as a county where people and nature can thrive together. For more information or to make a donation visit Surrey Wildlife Trust.

RHS wildlife show stoppers

Round & About


A garden with nature’s recovery at its heart will be premiered by The Wildlife Trusts at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

The Wildlife Trusts: Wilder Spaces garden promises to take wildlife-friendly gardening to a new level, combining beauty with biodiversity.

Wilder Spaces is sponsored by The Wildlife Trusts, led by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and its ecological consultancy Future Nature WTC. Working with experts from Oxford Garden Design, the team will demonstrate how wildlife habitats can be designed into the structure of a garden, using building waste, reclaimed material and untreated timbers. With biodiversity designed into the garden, hopes of winning a prestigious RHS medal are high.

The Wildlife Trusts believe gardening has a vital role to play in nature’s recovery, with long-term benefits for climate and people’s wellbeing too. The aim of the garden is to inspire visitors to think differently about the appearance of a garden designed for people and wildlife, and to show how we can all nurture nature, no matter what size or style of garden.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s chief executive, said: “Nature is in crisis and not enough is being done to reverse this terrible decline in the UK’s biodiversity. We want to see 30% of land well managed for nature by 2030 and our gardens are a vital part of that wild jigsaw. Private gardens make up a bigger area than all of Britain’s nature reserves combined – they can provide a mosaic of mini-habitats that support a diverse range of species, so they are key to helping create more nature everywhere. RHS Malvern Spring Festival will be a great opportunity to showcase to people everywhere what they can achieve in their own gardens for nature, for climate and for themselves.”

The garden will include a range of nature and climate positive features, including grassland, wetland & deadwood, pollinator and larval friendly planting, a steam, waterfall and pond, a compost channel and hoverfly stumpery, recycled materials – timber, steel, building aggregate, a biodiverse roof and solitary bee columns & climate resilient planting and landscaping.

The garden features a watercourse that meanders through the plot towards a central pond and a section of bog planting. A pavilion, created in conjunction with Charlie Luxton Design and constructed from reclaimed steel joists and grating, will be topped with a living roof.

Oxford Garden Design, with Jamie Langlands as lead designer, is returning to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival following its successful 2022 show garden. Jamie has designed a garden that’s beautiful to behold and beneficial for the natural world. Jamie says: “I love creating spaces that are wild and untamed whilst having a little wonder within them.”

“I love creating spaces that are wild and untamed”

Sheena Marsh, owner and founder of Oxford Garden Design, which is also building the garden, said: “We are delighted to be working with BBOWT on The Wilder Spaces Garden, bringing together our learnings from BBOWT with Jamie’s creativity. We hope that this garden will inspire home owners to create wilder spaces in their own gardens.”

Once the RHS Malvern Spring Festival is over, the garden will be distributed across various Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust sites and projects. The seating will go to BBOWT’s College Lake visitor Centre, near Tring or Sutton Courtenay Education Centre’s wildlife garden near Didcot. The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from 11-14 May 2023 at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire.

For more information and tickets to the show visit The RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2023 / RHS Gardening

Chobham’s ‘King of Chelsea’ Mark Gregory

Ellie Cox


Mark Gregory returns to RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 with a “Plot To Plate” haven for Savills

“King of Chelsea”, Mark Gregory, is set to return to the RHS highlight for 2023 with a “plot to plate” garden for Savills. 

The Savills Garden will be his 108th Chelsea show garden and marks his return to design in his 34th consecutive year. The Savills Garden is set within the grounds of a country hotel. Revealing an intimate walled seasonal potager, with the show’s first ever working kitchen at its heart.

“The garden will be a feast both for the eyes and for the palette”

Mark said: “I am incredibly proud to have designed this garden for Savills.  I think it will speak to a lot of people and has, at its core, elements that are very close to my heart. A beautiful space, created considerately, that brings people together to enjoy fantastic food and great times.  The garden will be a feast both for the eyes and for the palette, demonstrating that productive gardens can be both elegant and delightful.”

Designed to demonstrate an “edimental” planting theme, combining edibles and ornamental planting, the garden provides inspiration for a “plot-to-plate” alfresco dining experience.  Ingredients will be foraged from the surrounding living larder and used to prepare delicious meals for the guests to enjoy in the adjoining dining area. Cementing the relationship between grower, guests and chef.

Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in this tranquil retreat, resting beneath a mature tree, taking time to reconnect with nature, enjoying the formal planting, whilst anticipating the taste experience to come.  The aim of the space is to help change the way we think about our gardens, the way we eat and source our food. And to share ideas and knowledge that can be introduced into even the smallest of plots.

This evocative and aromatic garden will capture the sights, smells and tastes of a productive garden while also delivering a beautiful, elegant space and a haven for wildlife.

Following the show, in keeping with its sustainability commitment, Savills will work with the Shaw Trust, a national charity running employability programmes and complementary services for people with complex needs, to relocate the garden. It will be replanted at Meadow View House in Nottinghamshire for their residents to enjoy.

Additionally, Savills will work with existing charity partner Rethink Food, an organisation focused on educating school children on food security, to share learnings from the garden.

Richard Rees, Savills MD, said: “We are excited to be returning to Chelsea with a garden design that touches on so many themes that are core to the future success of our industry and gives us the opportunity to bring to life our commitment to promoting sustainable development. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of nature in our lived environment. Whether in an urban or rural setting, and Mark Gregory, five times Chelsea Gold Medal winner, has designed a garden that will be both stunning to the eye and packed full of learnings for us all.

“I look forward to seeing the garden relocated post show in conjunction with the Shaw Trust. An organisation committed to challenging inequality and breaking down barriers to enable social mobility. We also welcome the opportunity to further develop our employee engagement with Rethink Food, and to exploring with them issues around food production and food miles, sustainability and the learning and sharing of knowledge.”

For more information about Landform Consultants please visit landformconsultants.co.uk

For more information about Savills please visit Savills.co.uk