Thursday 23 June 2011

A short visit to Yorkshire (part 1)

Common Spotted-orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and Fritillaria meleagris capsules in meadow grass, RHS Garden Harlow Carr.
Tom Stuart-Smith expounds his vision
for the Woodland Garden at Harlow Carr.
Members of the RHS Woody Plant Committee have been on a two day visit to Yorkshire this week, starting on Tuesday morning with a session at RHS Garden Harlow Carr to hear about and discuss plans for the Woodland Garden. This large and dismal tract occupies 40% of the garden area and desperately needs to be made more visitor-friendly and accessible. Thee RHS has commissioned the landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith to come up with a concept for the area and he explained this both in a presentation and on the ground. His vision includes opening up vistas into the woodland and connecting the existing open areas of meadow while improving the horticultural opportunities offereed by the site. Any such developments wll come about gradually, but if accepted the concept will provide guidance for the garden's managers over the next few decades.

A lovely inversion of the normal colour scheme: white Allium nigrum above purple Salvia x superba.

Another good combination at Harlow Carr; Eryngium 'Jos Eijking' and Salvia 'Caradonna'
In the evening we were invited by Chris Blundell, a member of the RHS Council, to visit his property at Mount Saint John, near Thirsk, and stay for dinner - a most generously hospitable offer. The grey dampness of the afternoon cleared and we enjoyed golden light in this beautuful new garden, with a stunning view across the Vale of York. Chris Gough, the Head Gardener, and his team, keep the place immaculate: one of the team is a trained greenskeeper, and it shows in the extraordinary quality of the turf, which was almost too fine to walk on...

The terrace garden (designed by Tom Stuart-Smith) at Mount Saint John, near Thirsk.

The swimming pool at Mount Saint John
The vegetable garden supplies produce to the house and the Provenance Inns group of local pubs.

 On Wednesday we held a committee meeting at the Castle Howard Arboretum. This amazing collection, undervalued and largely unknown, was started by the late Jim Russell (formerly in partnership with Graham Stuart Thomas at Sunningdale Nurseries in Surrey) in the 1970s. He developed a strong links with RBG Kew and after his death in 1996 Kew personnel were instrumental in setting up the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, which looks after it, with management input from Tony Kirkham from Kew, and others. It now serves as a northern outpost for Kew, providing space for back-up collections or more extensive plantings of important material. While still comparatively new, with most trees being comparatively young, the arboretum is showing promise of being a really great collection of well-grown trees for the future: it deserves more support and more visitors.

Members of the RHS Woody Plant Committee at the Castle Howard Arboretum: Tony Kirkham leading the tour.

The beautiful immature fruits of  Pyrus 'Kansu pear'...

...attracted many admirers.
The immature cone of Pinus ayacahuite - a Mexican species totally hardy in North Yorkshire.

Young cones of Abies fargesii var. sutchuenensis

The great palace built between 1699-1712 by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor for the Earl of Carlisle: Castle Howard.


  1. Most interesting to see the arboretum at Castle Howard as John Simmons has often spoken about it. Mount Saint John looks fantastic, what a treat.

  2. Ditto the previous comment. The arboretum doesn't get the attention it deserves. Nor does Russell who was quite unorthodox in his planting of it. He was, as the time, ridiculed for his techniques, but time has proven him right.
    He's an undervalued, underestimated, and somewhat forgotten brilliant designer.
    The time for a book on him has come. I believe his influences are greater than most know. His massive archive exists and is available for research. . . .



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