t is thought to be fifteen centuries since beavers inhabited this valley and began creating the conditions for the formation of the amazing depth of peat. A metal rod can easily be sunk in the ground to about fifteen feet and pulled out again. When Stanley Harland bought the property from Alfred Leney in 1947 Mr Leney's gardener, John Scotford, told him that when excavating peat from an area in the boggy east end of the garden they came across the petrified trunks of the beaver dam.
The American Garden was created by Archdeacon Croft, who was rector of the nearby village of Saltwood from 1812 until his death in 1869. Apparently he was a great lover of nature with a particular passion for gardens and in 1820 the first shrubs planted were Rhododendron Pontica and Rhododendron Arborium , some now thirty feet high.
Under the guidance of his gardener, William Acomb, the Archdeacon went on to purchase wonderful selections of rhododendron and other specimens from the Himalayas, China and Japan, including hybrids from pale pink to intense crimson.
Acomb continued his work until his death in 1884 when a new rector took charge and lack of funding led to several years of neglect and decline before his successor the Reverend Canon Hodgson, who had an avid interest in gardening, once again began adding to the collection of plants.
In 1896 the garden was bought by Alfred Leney who continued this process of preservation and improvement until Stanley Harland purchased the property just after World War II and with the help of his gardener Alec Pleuvry, whose practical and academic knowledge were invaluable, developed the garden even further.
Since Stanley Harland's death in 1998 the gardens have continued to be maintained by his son Nigel. The result is that today the garden remains a place of beauty and serenity.