UK Travel 2013 – Part 7, Roy Lancaster & Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

The view into the Winter Garden at the Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum is pretty good in summer with the Rubus cockburnianus 'Golden Vale' showing bright color.  It's white winter strms over the black mondo grass should be amazing.

The view into the Winter Garden at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is pretty good in summer with the Rubus cockburnianus ‘Goldenvale’ showing bright color. It’s white winter stems over the black mondo grass should be amazing.

Few people’s work has inspired me as much as Roy Lancaster’s.  His book Plantsman’s Paradise, Travels in China inspired me to travel the world to collect plants and see them growing in their native habitats – 1 trip to Ecuador, 2 to Taiwan, 3 to Japan, 3 to China, 1 to Mexico, and several in the mountains of VA and NC, the southeastern US, and Texas so far with another to Taiwan and New Zealand this fall.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet Roy a few times, the first when I was working as a gardener at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in the mid-90’s.  I still remember him coming by the conifer garden where I was working and telling a story about Sequoia sempervirens ‘Adpressa’ which will send up vertical shoots that give rise to a tall tree with very broad bluish needles.  He named that form ‘Cantab’ although ‘Concorde’ was almost the name to denote how fast it shot skyward.  Many references say ‘Cantab’ is a prostrate plant but in reality, ‘Adpressa’ is the low growing form and ‘Cantab’ is the vertical phase of the same clone.

The original Sequoia sempervirens 'Cantab'.

The original Sequoia sempervirens ‘Cantab’ is not a low growing plant.

Roy met me at the gates of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens the collection that he helped shape into one of the world’s foremost collections of plants.  After a quick tea with Roy and the current Hillier’s head of collections, David Jewell and John Hillier, we set off to explore the collections.  The collections are extensive and very well maintained.  The oaks in particular I find intriguing but at every turn is a species or cultivar new to me.

The small evergreen oak, Quercus guajavifolia was beautiful with leathery green leaves and rusty orange backs.

The small evergreen oak, Quercus guajavifolia was beautiful with leathery green leaves and rusty orange backs.

David Jewell’s background at Wisley is quickly becoming evident with beautiful displays incorporating herbaceous perennials to highlight the woody displays.  On my last visit a couple of years ago, prep was underway for new borders.  I was thrilled to see the borders in place and looking luscious and of course packed with plants with which I was only vaguely familiar.

The new perennial border with a backdrop of woodies.

The new perennial border with a backdrop of woodies.

The display in front of Jermyn House.

The display in front of Jermyn House with a shrubby heath and conifers in the background.

Roy Lancaster with his introduction of Aucuba himalaica var. dolichophylla.

Roy Lancaster with his introduction of Aucuba himalaica var. dolichophylla.

Roy had kindly invited me to stay with he and his wife Sue and I was looking forward to getting back to his garden with more time to poke around than on my last visit.  Roy’s suburban garden is packed with more amazing plants than any small garden has the right to display.  Roy shares many of my plant passions like Aucuba and Mahonia but he obviously hasn’t met a plant he doesn’t like.  We spent the afternoon and evening checking out everything but especially discussing the many species of mahonia that he is growing.

Mahonia shenii

Mahonia shenii

The plants are fantastic in Roy’s garden but he and Sue’s generosity, delightful company, and fascinating conversation were even better.  I woke early to explore the garden a bit more before joining Roy as he thumbed through Plantsman’s Paradise reminiscing about old friends and remembered adventures.  Definitely a fan-boy moment for me.

Mahonia ogisui named for the Japanese plant collector, Mikinori Ogisu, a close friend of Roy's.

Mahonia ogisui named for the Japanese plant collector, Mikinori Ogisu, a close friend of Roy’s.

Roy and I in front of a huge Aucuba omiense.

Roy and I in front of a huge Aucuba omiense.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

One final Mahonia from Roy's garden, M. microphylla.

One final Mahonia from Roy’s garden, M. microphylla.

Check out all the happenings at http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum

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One thought on “UK Travel 2013 – Part 7, Roy Lancaster & Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

  1. Pingback: Broad leaf conifer? | Portland Tree Tour

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