The Arboretum

Howick Arboretum – A United Nations of trees and shrubs…

The Arboretum opened on 1st April 2006, with a formal opening by Roy Lancaster on 29th April. It covers about 65 acres at the moment and virtually all of it has been grown from seed collected in the wild since 1985. There are about 12,500 trees and shrubs from about 1,800 taxa planted in six geographical groups:-

  • China, Nepal and the Himalayas; China, Taiwan, Bhutan and Sikkim
  • East Asia; Japan, Korea, East and Central Russia
  • India and Pakistan (the western end of the Himalayas)
  • North America; USA, Canada, and a tiny contribution from Mexico
  • Europe; most countries, with a touch from the Middle East and the Atlas Mountains
  • Southern Hemisphere; New Zealand, Tasmania and Chile

The arboretum is divided into two sections; the West Arboretum is smaller and adjacent to the garden, while the East Arboretum is much larger and not suitable for wheelchairs, being too hilly. Some of the West Arboretum is better for wheelchairs but only for energetic pushers, since most of the smaller paths are mown grass and can get sticky in wet weather. The East Arboretum has three recommended routes, short, medium and long, each marked by coloured arrows. The West Arboretum is included in the garden map issued free when you arrive, while the East Arboretum has its own map on the reverse. Both have numbered marker posts linked to the maps to help you find your way around, which we think are less intrusive than lots of signposts.

About two thirds of the plants have labels, which show the botanic name and family, the common name (if there is one), the collection number, the province and country where it was collected (not the full geographic range), and, for our own purposes, the accession and internal map reference numbers. We intend to add more labels once plants are identified.

Most of our early seed collecting expeditions were made in conjunction with Quarryhill Botanical Garden in California, and most of those to China and Japan have been led by the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew; more recent expeditions to Japan, North America, and Russia have been led by Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Where relevant, all have been hosted by an authorised institution in the country concerned, and all collections are made in conformity with CBD and CITES. Herbariums are always taken whenever possible and are stored at Kew and Edinburgh. Seedlings are exchanged with botanic gardens, arboreta, and gardens open to the public in the UK, while seed is exchanged internationally with botanic gardens throughout the world.

The arboretum at Howick holds one of the largest collections of wild origin plants in the U.K., but it is of course young. Part of the interest will be watching it grow and develop over the years, giving an increasingly diverse habitat to all forms of wildlife; we are one of the few remaining outposts of the red squirrel in England.

Come and see it! It will give you an unrivalled opportunity in north-east England to see the flora of different countries, with a strong emphasis on China, Japan, and North America.