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Leeds Castle News05 March 2021

Japan’s Blossoming Legacy to Leeds Castle’s Gardens

Leeds Castle has a new oriental addition to its 500-acres of grounds and gardens; 30 blossoming Japanese cherry trees, which have been donated to the Castle by the people of Japan as part of the national Sakura Cherry Tree Project to celebrate Japan’s relationship with the UK.

Visitors to the Castle will be able to see these beautiful trees in bloom from April, which have been carefully planted the length of the Princess Alexandra Gardens incorporating the Oriental Gardens and a newly landscaped waterside avenue which is an impressive finale to the Castle’s extensive cherry collection.

Much like the Leeds Castle Foundation, the Sakura Cherry Tree Project aims to plant a legacy for future generations. The project has donated 6,500 trees to parks, gardens and schools across the country including Leeds Castle, which regularly welcomes visitors from Japan and all over the world.

Helen Bonser-Wilton, Incoming CEO Leeds Castle said:

“Leeds Castle is delighted to have been chosen to receive 30 beautiful cherry trees as part of the Sakura Project and we are extremely grateful to the people of Japan for their generosity, which will benefit our visitors for many years to come. The Leeds Castle Foundation looks forward to welcoming the Japanese Embassy later this year to celebrate the planting of the cherry trees in our historic grounds”.

Victoria Borwick, Deputy Chairman, Sakura Project said:

“The Sakura team are delighted that Leeds Castle are part of the Cherry Blossom tree planting project that will see over 6,000 trees planted throughout the United Kingdom as a symbol of the ongoing friendship between UK and Japan”.

During the 1930s, the last private owner of Leeds Castle, Lady Olive Baillie (1899–1974) transformed the Castle into one of the greatest county homes in England. Within Lady Baillie’s private collection, still on display today in the principal rooms are many objects highlighting her affection for Japanese porcelain and furniture.

Notably, adorning the walls of the newly restored ‘blue bedroom’ within Lady Baillie’s private suite, sits a rare pair of 18th -century Japanese porcelain cranes, purchased in 1930 at the same time Lady Baillie was amassing a collection of exotic real birds in the grounds and gardens.

The three varieties of cherry trees being planted on the Leeds Castle estate as part of the Sakura Project are all of Japanese origin. ‘Beni-yutaka’, ‘Taihaku’, and ‘Somei-yoshino’ have been chosen for their variation in colour, timing, and historical significance.

A nursery in Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire is the main supplier of the trees and the renowned Japanese artist, Kenya Hara has provided the design of a commemorative plaque which will be displayed in the Castle grounds for visitors to see.