RHS Harlow Carr: a guest blog

I love RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate, it’s a absolute joy, but I’ve not had the chance to visit for a while. Happily, my wonderful friend Dawn Jackson has just been and she’s agreed to be my very first Guest Blogger! Hurrah!

So, on that note, and with a little drumroll, I’ll hand you over to Dawn…

We visited Harlow Carr gardens on Sunday and took some photos of the flowers.   I’d love to tell you what plants these are but I didn’t make a note of the names.  I took the photo because I liked the vivid colours and the variety of insects that buzzed around them.   The picture is taken from the view that my four year old had as he rambled about fiddling with flower heads and looking for spiders.  Like most parents of young children I spend a lot of time on my knees or crouching down at kid’s eye level.  It’s the best view of herbaceous borders because I feel like I’m amongst the plants.

There’s a lot to see in these gardens.  We generally stroll around the veggie gardens in the summer and sniff the sweetpeas.  My son nibbles on a few raspberries.   I like the structure of the veggie patch.  The gardeners use hazel and willow to support the climbers which creates a homely, organic look.  The shapes of the veg beds are charming.  For anyone who grew up with a parent or grandparent who kept a garden, or who grows their own, wandering amongst them is like a favourite story gradually unfolding.  Cheery rhubarb, sunny sunflowers, spiky gooseberries, runner-beans, beetroot and scrambling peas amongst many others jostling for space, light and room and doing their very best.

Then we like to re-fuel at Betty’s in the centre of the garden.  Pink lemonade, ginger beer and cakes or ice-cream.  On Sunday the RHS had laid on a brass band.  We sat and ate and drank and listened to the cheerful ‘ Floral Dance’ (my mum used to have the 45 of Terry Wogan’s version).  I wondered if I could be anywhere that was more ‘English’, and then it rained.

Our next stop is usually at the play area under the trees, which is lovely if it’s a hot day, and a long stop at the log maze to run round and round and clamber up onto the platform and wave and jump.

We came across two new elements to the garden this year.  The introduction of a tree house and a collection of oversized outdoor instruments in the woodland garden. Both are magical.  The tree house is like something from a fairy tale or Robin Hood.  It’s only possible to conclude that every garden should have a tree house.  Discovering the musical instruments was exciting.  They blend beautifully into their setting in the woods and even when played tunelessly they are placed in such a big space it feels and sounds fitting amongst the natural rustling of the trees.

These gardens are not attached to a house or a home.  I found that odd initially.  I imagine they are designed as a demonstration of what planting can achieve in a variety of settings.  They achieve that magnificently and gloriously.  All of the elements of a domestic garden are present however (admittedly on a grander scale) and the space is well loved and well cared for.  It’s a pleasure to visit, relax and enjoy the whole sensory experience.  One day I’d like to take more photos and learn the names of the plants…

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