The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced the receipt of a £1.8m gift from retired Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist Dr Lee Kai Hung DL to RHS Garden Bridgewater.
The generous donation comes as the charity begins the six-month countdown to the grand opening of the garden on 11 May 2021.
Representing the largest single gift from an individual to RHS Garden Bridgewater, the funds will go towards the horticultural and landscape development of the garden, as well as promoting the art, heritage and culture of Chinese gardening within the local community and beyond. The RHS now has £1.2m remaining to raise before opening.
In particular, Dr Lee’s donation will support the development of the Chinese Streamside Garden at RHS Garden Bridgewater, a key feature of the 154-acre garden which connects the historic lake beneath the Nesfield Terraces to the new lake beside the Welcome Building. Dr Lee is Chair of the Chinese Streamside Garden Founding Committee, which is raising the first £500k towards the creation of the Chinese Streamside Garden.
In a first programme of its kind for the RHS, the Chinese Streamside Garden has been designed in a horticultural knowledge exchange with experts from the China Flower Association. The collaborative effort celebrates the huge contribution made to British horticulture by native Chinese plants such as Acer davidii, Rhododendron indicum and Hydrangea paniculata. Future plans for its development following the opening of RHS Garden Bridgewater will include the creation of an authentically Chinese core, making this the first true Chinese garden of significance in the UK.
RHS director general Sue Biggs says: “This incredible and inspirational gift from Dr Lee not only enables the RHS to develop a unique fusion of British and Chinese horticulture and people within RHS Garden Bridgewater, but so much more besides. As part of our commitment to engage with our local community at every level, these vital funds will also be used to recruit additional staff to help achieve this aim. We are enormously grateful to Dr Lee for his generosity and vision in helping us create this horticultural legacy for all the people of Greater Manchester and beyond.”
Dr Lee says: “It has been my lifelong passion to bring together the people of UK and China through cultural exchange and to promote mutual understanding. What better way than through this spectacular project, where a classical Chinese garden will blend perfectly with the beautiful surroundings of the master plan that is RHS Garden Bridgewater.
“It has been a pleasure to work with RHS and I would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to the Chinese Flower Association in Beijing, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Manchester and the Chinese community in UK for their enthusiastic engagement with this significant project.
“I am delighted to make this landmark donation, which I hope will help to create a very special place to be enjoyed by all the local communities and beyond for many generations to come.”