Tony Schilling Asian Heath Garden
Did you know?
Tony Schilling was in charge of the gardens at Wakehurst between 1967 and 1991. He was passionate about the Himalayas, where he collected extensively. The Asian Heath Garden and Himalayan Glade represent high-altitude habitats such as those he explored.
Lying east of the Mansion Pond, the Tony Schilling Asian Heath Garden displays plants from mountainous regions of Taiwan, Korea, the Sino-Himalayas and Japan. Plants from each of these geographic locations are grouped together in a series of beds, so as to accurately represent native habitats.
The exposed nature of high-altitude environments means that very few trees grow; the most common plants are dwarf rhododendrons. Growing among these are cotoneaster, potentilla, gaultheria and juniper.
Things to look out for
The garden recreates a natural mountain habitat of hummocky moorland. The names of different geographic sections are engraved on slate boulders. Some of the lesser-known plants include Sorbus randaiensis, a small tree with snowy-white flowers and orange-red berries from Taiwan; North Korea’s national flower, Magnolia sieboldii, which was introduced to Europe by German eye surgeon Dr Philip von Siebold in the 19th century; and Japan’s endemic dwarf birch Betula apoiensis, which is a relatively new introduction to the UK.
A small brick-built shelter in the Tony Schilling Asian Heath Garden, known as the summer house, exhibits information on some of the early plant hunters who explored Asia’s high mountains and introduced many of the plants growing in the garden. Their work was often arduous and dangerous. On George Forrest’s first expedition to China in 1904, he lost all his plant collections when chased through leech-infected forests by hostile lamas. Frank Kingdon-Ward came close to the epicentre of the one of the greatest earthquakes ever recorded while he was collecting in Assam, but lived to tell the tale.