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A Gardeners View of Spring at Harewood

Springtime in the gardens at Harewood means colour. Lots and lots of colour! From the dazzling display of tulips in the borders, alongside masses of hyacinths on the Terrace, down through the West Garden and all the way around the lakeside woodlands.  Here, swathes of daffodils cover the thickly wooded slopes in between groups of stately rhododendrons.

But there is always more than meets the eye at Harewood. Linger in those verdant glades a while longer. Take the time to stroll. Pause and look beyond those perennial showstoppers. Look closer. Look up, even look behind you, and you might be rewarded with a glimpse of something special. Whether it’s the billowing clouds of pure white cherry blossom against the blue sky, or the eerily striped hood of a cobra lily rising from the woodland floor, or a colony of orchids growing on a mossy roof, the richness and diversity contained within these gardens is staggering.

And that’s just what’s in store for visitors now. Things are only starting to get interesting. Because for gardeners, springtime, of course, means more than colour. It means growth and renewal. It also means a lot of hard work. Harewood is very much a developing garden. We’re busy planting some amazing plants, many of which visitors will see flowering in the gardens this summer, while some will put on growth and then flower next spring, and there are others that may take some years to reach flowering size. The important thing for us is continuity – evolving the gardens through the constant addition of new plants. Enjoy the gardens this spring!

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Early Autumn in Harewood’s Gardens

Views of the Terrace garden at Harewood House in Leeds

A note from Trevor Nicholson, Head Gardener, Harewood House Trust

The gardens team at Harewood are responsible for maintaining over 100 acres of beautiful Grade 1 listed gardens, grounds and woodlands. From the elaborate colour schemes, flower borders and fountains on the Victorian terrace gardens, to the naturalistic planting around the lakeside and in the Himalayan garden, the team and I work extremely hard to ensure that every space is not only looking its best, but also being planned and developed to eventually reach its full potential.

The Victorian parterre, on the south front of the house, is the jewel-in-the-crown among Harewood’s well-known gardens. With over a mile of box hedging clipped into an intricate pattern and filled with thousands of seasonal plants and bulbs, this formal garden takes a great deal of precision and care to maintain. At this time of year, Tom and Harry, the terrace gardeners, are busy pruning, dead-heading and weeding, as well as implementing a programme of turf improvements in preparation for the winter months. The tall hornbeam hedges have been clipped and, in the coming few weeks, we will start lifting and dividing tender plants in the herbaceous borders, moving them to other parts of the gardens and making way for the planting of thousands of tulips.

The Archery Border, situated at the foot of the terrace wall, is in its prime at this time of year. The south facing aspect coupled with the 15ft high sandstone wall provides the right environment for growing a range of exotic and tender plants. The hot colour scheme for late summer interest includes Mediterranean and tropical plants, and is a bold and vibrant display. We’ve just a visit from two gardeners from Kew who have written to me describing the Archery Border as being still “amazing!” at this time of year. The twelve-foot-high giant Dahlia (D. imperialis), flowering gingers, red hot pokers and Mexican sunflowers, as well as the ‘Devil’s Tobacco’ (Lobelia tupa) are all making the most the mild conditions of early autumn.

Visit Yorkshire to enjoy gardens at Harewood

The bridge was added in 2006 to increase paths through the garden and offering new views of the area.

The Himalayan Garden is one of my personal favourites; I have spent more than twenty years researching Chines and Himalayan plants and sympathetically developing this charming and tranquil garden. Helen, the gardener who maintains this area, is busy weeding the primula glades ready for new planting to be incorporated for spring colour. These boggy areas are being enriched annually, and with the candelabra primulas in late May and early June creating a vivid carpet of colour alongside the waterfall and stream, it’s a wonderfully vibrant display, which I would recommend visiting every year.

Harewood House has an popular walled garden

Beyond the formal gardens, Harewood is also home to an historic Walled Garden. It may not be widely known that the Walled Garden was in fact one of the first structures Edwin Lascelles had built when setting about constructing the Harewood you see today. Built in stages from 1755, a couple of years before the first stones were laid for the house, the warm red brick walls are worlds away from the formal Terraces many of our visitors are so familiar with.

At the time, the Walled Garden, with its double-brick ‘hot’ walls, was cutting edge cultivation technology. The desire to have soft fruits and exotic foods out of season, which was at the height of Victorian fashion at county houses like Harewood, which would host lavish dinners with grapes, figs, and melons normally only grown in warmer, European climates.

The enclosed space with high walls acts perfectly as a suntrap, literally! The south-western angle of Harewood’s Walled Garden captures the sun’s rays, warming the soil quickly to create perfect growing conditions for fruit, vegetables and flowers. They also act as protection from wildlife such as deer, and as a visual barrier between the designed landscape and the functionally arranged spaces necessary for intensive production.

Spanning an acre of land, the Walled Garden currently houses twelve plots and a fruit orchard, all of which is maintained by Jen, our gardener, along with Tom, our new horticulture apprentice from Askham Bryan College. The mixed flowers and vegetable beds create a strong visual impact as you arrive through the old wooden door.

An authentic Walled Garden at Harewood

Cabbages are grown in the Walled Garden at Harewood

This year, the harvest has been particularly good. The warm weather has created a long growing season, and with high soil temperatures has supported bountiful yields of such things as potatoes and brassicas.

Before Harewood closes to the public on October 30th, visitors should come and see the beautiful dahlias in full bloom and enjoy the wonderful orchard bearing autumnal fruits. The late tender and hardy perennials are looking great too.

Across the entire gardens, we are also turning our attention towards our spring bulb planting schemes. It’s a huge undertaking each year which is made possible with the help of many of our garden volunteers. I am busy designing new tulip schemes for the Terrace, daffodil glades along the lakeside and bluebells for the woodlands.

Maintaining this wonderful space is a real privilege and one that we enjoy sharing with our visitors. We hope that you can join us and enjoy the last of the autumnal summer sun.

Spring Blooms at Harewood

Visit the Terrace at Harewood in Yorkshire

Next year is an important year for the gardens due to the ‘Capability’ Brown Tercentenary celebrations with our own exhibition programme forming part of Harewood’s response. All eyes will be on the gardens and landscape so we want them to look their very best. We have reintroduced a tulip scheme in the Terrace borders to give a strong early season display. We have planted 3,600 grape hyacinths in the Pyramid beds on the West Upper Terrace, with the deep purple foliage of Heuchera being included as part of the scheme.

Throughout winter we have been busy planting thousands of bulbs along the Lakeside and within the Bird Garden naturalising the space. With 10,000 English Bluebells, over 1,000 Snake’s Head Fritillary and 7,000 botanical daffodils (Narcissi) introduced on the grassy slopes, spring promises to be filled with colour. That’s not all! 4,000 Wood Anemones, Cyclamen and many more have been planted to enrich these woodland gardens.

Our major project work however has been concentrated in the Bird Garden with tonnes of overgrown shrubbery being removed. New views across the Lake have been opened up and we have an exciting planting scheme to follow which will be introduced throughout 2016.

We are all looking forward to seeing you again at Harewood this season.

Tree Story

Autumn landscape at Harewood created by Capability Brown

As the dark nights draw in and the leaves begin to change, views across Harewood’s landscape become a vivid autumn spectacle. The red, orange and yellow leaves provide a vibrant display throughout October and November.

With 850 acres of managed woodland, there are hundreds of trees under Harewood’s care. From the creation of the “Capability” Brown parkland to modern events like the Tour de France, these trees have presided over much of Harewood’s history. Here are a few trees for you to look out for on your next visit.

  • The Tallest Grand Fir in Yorkshire:
    Harewood is home to Yorkshire’s tallest Grand Fir growing in the Lakeside Gardens (SE of the Cascade beside the path towards the Walled Garden). This tree was last measured at 36m tall or 118ft!
  • Our Oldest Trees:
    Exactly which is the oldest tree on the Estate is difficult to say. What we do know, is that along the Lakeside Path, two, beautiful, native trees reside which were planted around the same time as the “Capability” Brown parkland was design in the late 18th century. The striking Beech and Oak trees can be found just before the Walled Garden and are at least 250 years old.
  • Fairy Tree: Did you know Harewood has a magical tree which is home to a family of fairies? The grand old Oak stands proudly on the water’s edge of the Lake. If children walk up really quietly, they might just see a fairy busy tidying their house!
  • Head Gardener’s One to Watch:
    Choosing just one tree for you to look out for was no easy task for our Head Gardener, Trevor Nicholson. After some persuasion, it was decided that the Black Walnut tree, which sits alongside the Ice Cream Kiosk, is the one for you to find. As autumn flourishes, the leaves on this beautiful tree become a striking gold which you simply cannot miss!

We hope you can join us to see this wonderful, autumnal display. Enjoy the crisp air, warm sunshine and crunchy leaves as you explore everything autumn has to offer at Harewood.

Garden Tips from Harewood

Head Gardener, Trevor Nicholson, in the Walled Garden at Harewood

Head Gardener, Trevor Nicholson with fresh produce grown in the Walled Garden

September is a busy month in the gardens. From harvesting and weeding to spring planting, there’s plenty to be getting on with! Here are a few helpful tips from our Gardens Team to help you on your way.

De-seed perennial weeds:
To help stop the spread of perennial weeds, it’s a good idea to remove the seed heads in September.

Apply mulch after rain:
With so much to do, it’s a good idea to apply mulch to your beds after a heavy rain shower. It keeps the moisture in and give you a little more time to think about next year’s planting.

Harvesting vegetable crops:
For allotments owners and veg growers now is a wonderful time of year. All that hard work has paid off and you can enjoy the fruits, potatoes and onions of your labour.

Order your spring bulbs:
Now is the time to get ready for spring. Get your bulbs ordered and plan for the new year ahead. A good tip is to plant bulbs which flower in different months to give a succession of bright flowers as the seasons change. Don’t forget that September is the best time to plant Bluebells. Get them in early to ensure a full bloom next year.

At Harewood the Terrace, Archery Border and Walled Garden are at their best. Make sure you come along and enjoy them before the end of the season.