Champion Trees are considered to be the largest, finest, or most rare of their species, as recorded by the Tree Register of the British Isles. Sir Harold Hillier Gardens came top of the Register’s star sites list with 611 Champions, followed by Kew Gardens with 333 and Tregrehan with 160.
The Gardens and Arboretum were established in 1953 by the distinguished plantsman Sir Harold Hillier, and have been under the sole trusteeship of Hampshire County Council since 1977.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Keith Mans, said: “It is thanks to the legacy and foresight of Sir Harold Hillier himself, that the Gardens today can boast this impressive accolade. A large number of the 611 Champion Trees are from Sir Harold’s original collection, but each year, rare and interesting tree material is planted from around the world. As a result, potential Champion Trees of the future continue to grow at the Gardens.”
The world-famous Gardens attract not only families and plant-lovers from across Hampshire and the UK, but also horticulturists and plant experts from across the globe. Plants from Sir Harold Hillier’s visits to such countries as Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and Mexico grow in the Gardens today, which is also home to some 14 national plant collections.
To celebrate this accolade, a Champion Tree Trail is being put together so they can be easily identified as visitors walk around the 180-acre site.
Champion Trees, as per the rest of the collection of plants and shrubs at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, are expertly nurtured by the curators and horticulturalists and examples include: Eucalyptus brookeriana (Australia), Pinus engelmannii (Mexico) and Sequoia sempervirens ‘Cantab’ (North America).
The trees add to the Gardens’ world class plant collection of 12,500 different plants and shrubs across the 180-acre site.
(Thumbnail photo credit: Matt Pringle)