Kington gardens' champion trees rival national institutions

Hereford Times: Lawrence and Elizabeth Banks near one of the 85 Champion trees at Hergest Croft Gardens in Kington with dogs Hanter, Hera, Honey and Tallulah. The tree is called Madrona (Arbutus Menziessi). Photo by Eye Contact Media. Lawrence and Elizabeth Banks near one of the 85 Champion trees at Hergest Croft Gardens in Kington with dogs Hanter, Hera, Honey and Tallulah. The tree is called Madrona (Arbutus Menziessi). Photo by Eye Contact Media.

A “WORLD” of champion trees at a Kington estate is rivalling the likes of Kew Gardens and other national institutions.

Elizabeth and Lawrence Banks, of Hergest Croft Gardens, boast some of the UK’s most beautiful champion trees.

But they have recently discovered that their Herefordshire, family-created gardens may have more champions than any other in the UK.

Lawrence said: “An officer from the Tree Registry of the British Isles (TROB) has visited fairly often over the years. After the most recent visit he came back to say there were quite a lot of new champions.

“The original plants date back to my great grandfather but the main body was collected and planted by my grandfather William.

“He was collecting at the time of when the first Western collectors were going to China. Quite a lot date back to the Wilson collections. Ernest Wilson – now known as Chinese Wilson – was one of the best known collectors of that time.

“It was added to by my father Richard and by Elizabeth and I when China reopened to the Western collectors in the 1980s.”

The gardens boast a natural collection of beech, maple species, conifers and deciduous trees as well as many others.

Champions – described by Lawrence as the “tallest and fattest” – have been collected from across the globe, from countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Argentina, South America and Australia.

“We have a whole world of trees,” Lawrence added.

The couple believe that Hergest Croft Gardens contain the most champion trees in a private, family-owned garden and that only Kew Gardens – a national institution – contain more.

And Mr and Mrs Banks' collection of 85 champions span more than 100 years – with some dating back to the early 20th century and others having been added much more recently in the 1980s.

Lawrence said: “We feel pretty good about it. What’s perhaps most exciting about it is that my grandfather and great grandfather would have all been very proud. They wouldn’t have had any idea of what they were starting. And here we are 150 years later with the fruits of their labours as well as ours. It’s a great sense of family pride as well as cultural pride.”

For more information on Hergest Croft Gardens visit hergest.co.uk

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