Did you know?
- Between January 1942 and October 1943 Wakehurst was HQ to the 1st Canadian Corps, whose task was to defend the South Coast in the event of an invasion. They built a secret underground communications room that was entered from the Dog Kennel Pits quarry in the Pinetum. Traces of radio aerials have been found hidden in the trees.
- Wakehurst selects and grows conifers that make good Christmas trees. During December, visitors can go on a ‘Tree Trail’ of the ten best ones, chosen for features such as their retention of needles or attractive white buds. Wakehurst and Kew sell a selection of estate-grown trees at Christmas.
History and development
Wakehurst Place’s Pinetum lies to the northeast of the Himalayan Glade. It was developed by Gerald Loder, who owned the estate from 1903 to 1936. He originally planted conifers on the southern side of the estate but, realising this land was too small, extended the collection by planting it in its present location in the 1920s.
After Loder died, the Pinetum was neglected until Wakehurst’s subsequent owner, Sir Henry Price, bequeathed the estate to the National Trust. A programme of clearing and thinning revealed some particularly rare specimens of conifers that seemed to thrive in Wakehurst’s environmental conditions. Unfortunately, some 80 per cent of these perished in the Great Storm of 1987.
Subsequent replanting re-established the Pinetum and today specimens are arranged according to whether they originated in Europe, North America, Asia or the Southern Hemisphere. In an afternoon, visitors can stroll among specimens of the Algerian fir (Abies numidica), Austrian pine (Pinus nigra), Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and western red cedar (Thuja plicata). The latter is native to the coastal ranges of western North America from Alaska to California.
Things to look out for
Visitors may encounter a small flat-topped grassy mound. This once acted as Gerald Loder’s golf tee from where he used to drive balls across into Westwood Valley. On it grows the conifer Taiwania cryptomeroides. Now considered vulnerable in the wild, this tree sprouts two types of foliage. The first looks like that of the Japanese cedar while the second appears more like that of a redwood. The tree is related to the giant sequoias and coastal redwoods of California and is the largest tree in Asia. It is also known as the coffin tree as it its timber was once widely used to make coffins.