The Leonardslee Florilegium

The Florilegium at Leonardslee was established in 2020 after significant restorations of the gardens began in 2017.

The founding members of HSBA approached Leonardslee with the proposal to botanically record the floral collection, after recognising that many species – including some rare and endangered species which are unique to Leonardslee – were almost lost during its seven-year closure. It became apparent that the recording of such plants would be an important asset and contribution to the rich heritage of the gardens, and a way of retaining as much information about the historical collection as possible, in the event of loss or extinction of species.

It is hoped that over time, an extensive archive of botanical portraits will evolve of these important plants, and become a recognised and valued collection at Leonardslee, which will also contribute to the remarkable heritage of the gardens.

Now that the first full growing season is complete, the artists have been hard at work producing preliminary drawings and sketches, to inform their paintings and photographs for the first submission.

Sketchbook page for Decaisnea fargesii Blue Sausage Shrub © Leigh Ann Gale
Sketchbook page for Citrus trifoliata Japanese Bitter Orange © Hazel Barnard

What is a Florilegium?

Historically, a florilegium (literally meaning a gathering of flowers) is a compilation of drawings and paintings which depict collections of rare and exotic species. During the 16 th and 17 th centuries when new plants were being introduced into Europe from the middle east, artists were often commissioned by wealthy patrons and landowners to record newly discovered species that they acquired for their gardens. Traditionally, a florilegium (plural florilegia) was produced as a publication, especially as printing techniques advanced and improved, and the time taken to produce the artworks made them expensive and lavish to own.

Today, modern florilegia exist, mostly at botanical gardens around the world and at other significant gardens and places of interest which own unique and important floral collections, as a way of preserving knowledge of often endangered species, and as a legacy for future generations.

Sketchbook page for Liriodendron tulipifera Tulip Tree © Deborah Crago