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More than 1,800 lights put on Britain's tallest tree

A view of Britain's tallest Christmas tree at Wakehurst Place in Sussex, fitted with an estimated 1800 lights following its official switch on Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/PA Images

More than 1,800 lights have been put on Britain's tallest Christmas tree, enabling it to be used as a beacon for planes landing at nearby Gatwick Airport.

Standing at around 110ft tall, the giant redwood at Wakehurst Place near Ardingly, West Sussex, is the UK's largest living festive tree. It was first decorated outside Wakehurst's Elizabethan mansion 23 years ago, and was planted in the 1890s as one of the first exotic trees on the 500-acre estate.

It takes a team of arboriculturalists all day in two cherry pickers to put up the LED bulbs and remeasure the tree at Wakehurst, a National Trust site run by Kew Gardens.

Wakehurst's director Tony Sweeney said: "The tree is approximately 120 years old and we're expecting it to have grown around a foot. The tree has great vitality and it will continue to grow at an impressive rate for many more years to come."

The tree is one of Wakehurst's great survivors, weathering the Great Storm of 1987 and many other gales since, including Storm Barney this week. Following the decoration and testing of the lights, the illuminations will be switched on on December 4 to mark the start of Wakehurst's Glow Wild Lantern Festival.


Rare 'Dragon Leaf' plant blooms in Kew Gardens

The plant is a first for experts at the country estate in Kew's Botanic Gardens Credit: Kew Gardens

An extremely colourful plant that has flowered at Kew's Botanic Gardens is a first for experts.

Seeds of the rare plant were collected on a trip to Tasmania so the beautiful flower can be displayed at a Kent garden.

The plant is also known as the Pineapple Candleheath or Dragon Leaf Richea because of its blade shaped leaves and is so rare because it is hard to propagate in the UK.

Conservation Unit manager collecting seeds in Tasmania Credit: Kew Gardens

Jo Wenham, Plant Propagation and Conservation Unit manager at Wakehurst, said: "As far as our records show, the Richea dracophylla is a new species in cultivation for Kew and Wakehurst Place.

"Because the Richea has complex propagation needs, the success of the first germination and flowering at Wakehurst Place is something to celebrate and it is wonderful to see it flowering.”

Edible plants on the menu at Kew's country gardens

Sunflower seeds will be included in edible plant sessions Credit: Wakehurst Place

Youngsters look set to discover more about edible plants growing around the gardens at Wakehurst Place, near Haywards Heath, in Sussex.

Throughout the summer holidays, families will be able to enjoy a "plant snack trail" around the botanical gardens, featuring beetroot and sunflower seeds.

Giant seeds on display at country estate

Entrance to UK Native Seed Hub Credit: Jim Holden/RBG Kew

Seven giant willow sculptures of seeds, created by artist Tom Hare, have gone on display in the gardens at Wakehurst Place, the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

Giant sycamore seed sculpture Credit: Jim Holden/RBG Kew

The sculptures, standing up to four metres high, feature a selection of designs including a conker, poppy seed heads, star anise, sycamore seed and a sacred lotus seed head.

The pieces form a sculpture trail around different parts of the gardens at Wakehurst.

Solar array to harness solstice sun

Deep freezers powered by the sun will conserve two billion seeds at Wakehurst Place Credit: PA

Two billion seeds stored at Kew's Millenium Seed Bank in West Sussex are to be kept cool by solar panels.

A total of 270 panels have been installed on the roof of the facility at Wakehurst Place in Ardingly, near Haywards Heath.

Tomorrow, the longest day of the year, they are expected to produce up to 400 kWh of electricity.

Deep freezers powered by the sun will conserve two billion seeds at Wakehurst Place Credit: PA