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New restaurant takes root

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey is entering a new chapter, as work begins on a £1.3 million renovation and extension to Jermyn’s House — the historic former home of Hampshire’s famous plant collector, Sir Harold Hillier.

Visiting the site to mark the start of works, which include a new restaurant of contemporary design, Leader of Hampshire County Council and trustee of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Councillor Keith Mans said: “With its collections of trees and plants that attract thousands of horticulturalists from all over the country, and indeed the world, the Gardens are an arboretum of huge significance — as well as a popular destination for local families and garden enthusiasts, who enjoy days out all year round.

“Last year the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens welcomed more than a quarter of a million visitors, and numbers are growing year-on-year, which requires expansion of the facilities and catering on offer. The start of this work marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Gardens, where our planting and garden design will be inspired by the future, and will aim to engage visitors with the horticultural issues of our time — such as climate change. The facilities and visitor experience on offer will be elevated to match the quality and national significance of the Gardens themselves.”

The new restaurant will be built throughout 2020. It is expected to be completed over the winter, and open in spring 2021. The new table-service restaurant will provide both indoor and outdoor seating, and will offer an alternative catering option to the existing self-service café and the tea-room at the Gardens — both of which will be retained. The tea-room is temporarily closed during the building work but a variety of food and drinks will still be available from the temporary café — the Tilia Tree — which also provides a temporary art gallery.

The improvements are part of a new project at the Gardens which will focus on the future of horticulture in a changing world. Acclaimed garden designer, Tom Stuart-Smith will be leading the creation of a ‘frontier garden’ featuring plants at the limits of outdoor hardiness in the British Isles, but which may become more familiar as our climate changes.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens specialises in horticulture, conservation, education and recreation. Set in 180 acres, it is home to some 14 national plant collections, and more than 600 champion trees – the largest collection of any garden in Britain; champion trees being the best examples of their species.

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