Pools of Diversity
by Pat Clifford, Senior Horticulturist,
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh,
Water garden conference features fascintaing
Click images to enlarge
Join me as I relive a memorable water garden conference organised
by the UK's vigorous PlantNetwork (the national network of over
one hundred botanic gardens and arboreta and other documented
plant collections in Britain and Ireland). We met in the summer
of 2005 just outside of Southampton, England.
Before the conference began, I visited the eye-catching waterside
and bog gardens at Wakehurst Place. Sometimes people describe
it as "Kew in the Country" because the Royal Botanic
Gardens, Kew manages it. With great emphasis on conservation,
their publicity states "with the Millennium Seed Bank -
the world's most ambitious conservation project -- firmly established",
its "Loder Valley Nature Reserve embraces three major types
of local habitat; woodland, meadowland and wetland."
< Wakehurst Place: Top - The Mansion House,
bottom - View over the lake
Next, I travelled three miles northeast of the historic market
town of Romsey to visit the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. Established in
1953 by the distinguished plantsman of the same name, it embraces
180 acres of rolling Hampshire countryside. They maintain a collection
of over 42,000 plants from temperate regions around the world
set in a variety of themed landscapes. Of course, their beautiful
pond especially attracted my interest.
< v Sir Harold Hillier Gardens >
Entitled Pools of Diversity, the extraordinary three-day horticultural
gathering focused on the management and maintenance of water
gardens. Speakers addressed diverse aquatic subjects ranging
from "Water Health and Safety" to Cultivation of Native
Aquatic and Endangered Species" and from "Bog and Stream
Gardens" to "Restoration of Wetlands in Historic Landscapes".
My PowerPoint presentation there dealt with "Tropical Aquatic
Displays under Glass".
The first site I visited as part of the programme was Staunton
Country Park, Havant, Hampshire, described in their literature
as "Set in 19th century pleasure gardens, this beautiful
landscaped parkland includes, follies, an ornamental farm and
amazing glasshouses." Their wonderful ornamental lake and
amazing period Victoria House greatly impressed me. Knowledgeable
Head Gardener Chris Bailey personally led our instructive tour.
^ Staunton Country Park v
Longstock Park Water Garden >
In particular, Longstock
Park Water Garden, Stockbridge, Hampshire, captivated me
and everyone else. Their web site says it best, "Enter the
garden and you step into one man's vision of paradise. A timeless
place of broad vistas, secret nooks and secluded inlets. A sanctuary
for wildlife and rare trees and flowers, where every woodland
clearing reveals a fresh pleasure. A world of tranquility, where
the seasons are charted by the colours gently rippling in the
mirror of the lake and where the calm is only disturbed by the
song of falling water or the whir of a startled wren seeking
cover." The consensus of IWGS members who visited in 1989
was that it is the finest water garden in the world.
Longstock Park Water Garden
The enthralling seven-acre garden includes two and a half
acres of lake. The River Test feeds the ponds with water that
remains very clear. With its varied habitats, the garden provides
the ideal environment for cultivating a great diversity of water-loving
plants. Longstock displays over eighty different types of waterlily
Check their web site before visiting; Longstock only opens
to the public a very limited number of times a year. These open
days benefit local charities and good causes.
The Garden's international reputation also means that they receive
many requests for visits from horticultural societies around
the world. Happily, the head gardener conducted the tour for
our group. With only forty or so attendees in our party, the
tranquility of the place, surely one of its main attributes,
was preserved for our wonderment and pleasure.