In 2013, The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, for the official opening of the Centenary Border, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the gardens.
As President, Her Royal Highness now joins Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG and Roy Lancaster VMH, CBE, the garden’s patrons, in supporting the garden’s work.
Perry added: "Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are world famous, holding one of the largest collections of hardy trees and shrubs in the world, and are also renowned for a significant collection of rare plants. We are very fortunate in Hampshire to have a great many beautiful gardens and outdoor attractions, but Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is definitely one of the county’s greatest jewels."
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is a charitable trust which holds 14 National Plant Collections and is a destination for horticulturists from around the world. It includes 12,000 different species and cultivars including more than 400 champion trees – more than any other garden in the country. An online plant database provided by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) allows researchers to identify where in the gardens they can find a particular variety.
The gardens range from areas such as the Centenary Border, Magnolia Avenue and Hydrangea Walk to more natural-looking wooded areas such as the Himalayan Valley and Acer Glade. Extra attractions include a variety of adventure play structures and a children’s education garden. The garden welcomes more than 170,000 visitors per year and is supported by 160 volunteers. Some 15,000 people are annual members.
Sir Harold Hillier was born in 1905, the son of Edwin Lawrence Hillier, a world authority on conifers. Much of Sir Harold’s time was devoted to expanding his ever-growing plant collection. Many plants from his visits to such countries as Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the United States of America, and Mexico grow in the gardens today.
Sir Harold’s son Robert Hillier OBE VMH, who led his father’s plant nursery business to national success and now lives in Hampshire near the gardens, said: "I am absolutely delighted that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has agreed to accept the position of President of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. This is a great royal tribute to my father's achievements and to a place that has become very special to a great many people."