Sunday, 22 March 2015

University of Leicester Botanic Garden - an unexpected gem

Formal garden with traditional (immaculate) box hedging and spring bedding.
With a colleague I attended a Plant Network meeting on Friday, at the University of Leicester Botanic Garden. Had I been pushed I might have recalled that there is a botanic garden in Leicester, but it would seem to be effectively unknown in the horticultural world. This is a pity, because it is actually rather interesting, as well as being attractive and very well maintained.

The garden occupies the grounds of four large Edwardian mansions built in the English Domestic Revival style, purchased after the war by the University of Leicester for use as student residences, which must have been very pleasant for those lucky enough to live in them. The grounds, totalling 16 acres, became the botanic garden in 1947 and the characters of the original gardens are retained. It is certainly not a traditional botanic garden, though rather more than a park: there are family beds, greenhouses, medicinal plants and herbs, etc, but also a rather attractive formal water garden and sunken garden as well as wide lawns. Sadly we didn't have time to see it in its entirety, but it's only a few miles off the M1 and it would be worth going back in summer to see the National Plant Collection of hardy fuchsias in flower, for example.

We were shown round by the Director, Prof Richard Gornall, who also curates the garden amid a busy academic career.

The Knoll is one of the mansions whose grounds now form the botanic garden.

There is a good collection of conifers: this is the rare Cypriot endemic Cedrus brevifolia, looking very well.

Although with an unfortunate lean caused by previous shading, this is the national champion Pinus aristata (Bristlecone Pine), standing 9 m tall.

A number of interesting plants from the Balearic Islands are grown in the alpine house: this is Senecio rodriguezii.

Prof Gornall's long-term research interest has been in the genus Saxifraga. Also flowering in the alpine house was this S. wendelboi, from Iran.

Secure behind locked doors in the research greenhouse is this collection of wild-origin clones of Japanese Knotweed. Funnily enough they are mostly too tender to survive an English winter: the clone that is such a menace is exceptional. Amazingly, the same (and only) clone is found throughout Europe, parts of North America and Australia: it was introduced by Philipp von Siebold from Japan in 1825.

The last remnants of the Crocus display. LUBG holds 'Crocus Sundays' in season.


  1. John, Spring looks so nice over there - we still have 2 feet of snow! Most of all, your images are starting to make me want to visit the UK again!

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