Entrepreneur’s legacy of a useful, but divisive plant

The Italian Garden at Haggerston Castle.
The Italian Garden at Haggerston Castle.

Christopher John Leyland was clearly some entrepreneur.

He oversaw the building of an impressive 154-room castle at Haggerston after the original was burnt down.

He also designed the iconic crenulated water tower that supplied the castle and still stands today.

The establishment of his own private zoo followed, with bison, kangaroos, emu, et al on the estate.

More impressive was his direct involvement in development of the Turbinia, the world’s first steam turbine powered vessel.

But as far as this fellow’s concerned, his name will live forever in gardening lore through the headline-making plant he introduced to us all – Leyland’s cypress.

Cupressocyparis leylandii, when allowed to grow naturally, is capable of reaching 15m in as many years, beyond 20m in maturity. Add the potential width of 5m and it becomes a very valuable tree in the right setting.

But when used as a dividing hedge between suburban gardens it can block out daylight and encroach on a neighbouring property. Disputes became so frequent that in 2005 it was made part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act. This encouraged people affected by any type of high hedges to ask the local authority to investigate.