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Behind the Scenes

From winter to spring in the gardens

Trevor Nicholson GardensAt this time of the year, there’s a great deal of focus on essential maintenance work around the gardens. Head Gardener, Trevor, gives a brief overview of what’s going on in the garden right now.

Whilst the plants are effectively sleeping, it’s a busy moment to get them cut back and the surrounding earth cleared, so that they can grow again when the spring warmth arrives.

The Terrace Garden is a key focus as it was planted to create an impressive setting to the back of the fine Georgian House. The borders are currently being reworked, which takes meticulous attention to detail. When spring and summer arrives, it will be blooming with classic English borders; delphiniums, roses, hollyhocks, dahlias, penstemon and salvia to name a few, and with bright colours that will extend throughout the summer.

Spring Terrace:
– 8,000 sweetly scented, beautiful blue Hyacinth bulbs planted in the parterre
– 7,000 Violas in blue and white
– 3,000 tulips planted in the House borders
– 1-mile of box hedging clipped to perfection (top and sides, making 3-miles of clipping)

Archery Border:
Step down the staircase at the end of the Terrace and the horticultural journey continues along the Archery Border. It’s worth the effort. A statement border planted 1998 – 2000, the Terrace wall provides reflective heat, which when south facing, is warming and has its own micro-climate.

A sub-tropical scheme with hot colours, it’s incredible that here in the north of England you can find fig trees, palm trees, Yuccas, Chinese Rice Paper plants and bananas!

Many of the plants are currently wrapped up in hessian to keep them warm and to protect them from a damaging frost. They are their own sort of plant sculptures down here.

Trevor will be looking at the gardens each month and highlighting the developments in this important part of Harewood.

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5 Minutes with Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager

BirdGarden BlogNick Dowling hasn’t stopped over Christmas and New Year, as the Bird Garden at Harewood is constantly ‘open’ for activity looking after the birds. Here he takes five minutes out…

Are there any highlights from 2018 that you particularly enjoyed?
2018 was a busy but promising year for the Bird Garden. Several of our newly paired birds had their first attempts at breeding during the spring and summer months, including the red legged seriema and Satyr tragopan. Our palm cockatoos raised a chick and the collared hill partridge enjoyed another good season raising three more chicks, as did the silver pheasant pair.

We welcomed four female goats, two mothers and their kids, as well as four breeds of heritage chickens into the Walled Garden as part of the Seeds of Hope exhibition, which ran throughout the summer months. Our younger visitors in particular enjoyed feeding the goats and helping keepers to collect the eggs during the holidays.

Other highlights included the arrival of thirty Java sparrows, eleven black-cheeked lovebirds, a pair of Nepal kalij pheasants, two male critically-endangered Edward’s pheasants as well as a female burrowing owl to join our male.

But the main highlight of 2018 in the Bird Garden was the successful hand rearing of two Brown Lory chicks by keeper Lisa Bath. The two girls were removed from their nest at just two days old and raised for over two months, syringe fed on specially made formula every few hours. Goldie and Blue, as they were very soon to be known, had to be removed from their nest as the parents have been prone to feeding their young unsuitable food items, such as leaves and feathers. You will be able to meet Goldie and Blue when they move next door to the lovebirds in the spring.

The newly added Ferry across the Lake and its adjoining jetty, has proved extremely popular with visitors linking the Bird Garden on a scenic and restful route across to the Walled Garden, and many of the free-roaming birds have enjoyed this new space.

Whilst the House and grounds are closed for three months until March, what’s going on behind the scenes?
Over the next two and a half months the keepers and volunteers will be working hard to prepare for another breeding season, pairing up birds, making new nest boxes and providing suitable habitats to help the birds feel safe and secure in their environment. We also take this opportunity to carry out essential and routine maintenance work on aviaries and enclosures.

This is the time of year I look to move any young birds that we have bred at Harewood onto new homes in other zoos, as well as bringing in new birds to pair up with our own.

What’s on the agenda for when Harewood reopens in March?
We’ll be bringing in one or two exciting and fascinating new species ready for re-opening in March, watch this space for further announcements!

5 Minutes with award-winning Firenza Flowers

FirenzaFlowersAs part of our Christmas season, we are going behind the scenes with those who have helped ‘create’ Christmas at Harewood. Fiona Pickles from Firenza Flowers answers five questions here:

Where does your passion for flowers ‘stem’ from?
My love of gardening is where it all started. I adored working in my first garden, to the point of obsession! I transformed a small patch of a farmer’s field into a beautiful garden, with a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. I became familiar with a huge variety of plants and flowers, their Latin names and most importantly their seasonality.

How and when did you begin your career in floral decoration/art?
I studied Print and had a good and enjoyable career in the printing industry, but I walked away from that in 2005 to retrain as a florist in London, then set the business up (named after my maternal grandmother Florence, known to all as Flo) I became a very successful wedding florist but gradually changed direction and focus, to utterly embrace my love of the landscape and seasons. I now enjoy creating large, striking designs and structures.

Where does your vision come from and how does it develop?
Everything I do is totally influenced by my surroundings and where I am working. I usually have a rough plan of the overall look and feel of what I am about to create, but the actual shape and style only comes as I work on each piece, they are totally dependent on the shape of each branch, flower, leaf and root that I use, meaning that every single thing I create is a one-off, never to be recreated or reproduced, no matter how hard anyone tries!

What skills are needed to create your designs?
I do have an ability to know what shapes are needed where, to elevate a design from something predictable and ‘samey’ to something totally striking, unexpected and dramatic. I also seem to be considering more engineering type issues as well as the obvious floristry considerations; weight, balance, attachments and fixings, which i actually relish. Fixings and stability are huge considerations, I am rather obsessed with hardware shops bizarrely! I try to work without floral foam too, so the main consideration in any design is ensuring everything that needs it has a water source. This is not always straightforward and I offer workshops and classes to other florists keen to understand this way of thinking.

How have you adapted to this changing world of online?
Having established a business pre-social media, I can recognise and appreciate the value of social media – believe me, it is so much easier, more pleasant, less times consuming and more focused to post an image on instagram with good photography and considered hashtags than driving a three hour round trip to attend a networking meeting, during which I might meet one person who may want flowers at some point in their life! I utterly embrace the effectiveness of social media and have met many fabulous people from around the world through it. If you have a business and want to find your ‘tribe’, you HAVE to make time for social media.

Firenza Flowers has created two large-scale wreath installations in the Terrace Gardens of Harewood. Visitors can see these as part of the Christmas experience.

Fiona is hosting a full day Stately Botanicals workshop, which includes a private, tailormade tour of the festively dressed House, making a bespoke wreath and a Festive Afternoon Tea.

HSBC volunteers give their time to Christmas

HSBC_volunteersWe talk about the wonderful work of our volunteers, but this doesn’t even relate to the additional support that we get from the local community and businesses around us.

We have been working with HSBC Customer Services and this year a team of nine came in to spend their volunteering day at Harewood.

As the House undergoes its transformation for Christmas, it’s all hands to the deck. The team split into two, with half spending time icing some of the gingerbread people who will form a display of 500+ in the Below Stairs kitchen, and the other half taking to the ground in the Walled Garden and turning over the soil for the next stage of planting.

Sarah Kirk, volunteer coordinator, said “We were delighted to get the additional support from the HSBC volunteers, they have definitely provided a boost to our Christmas activity. There is always such a positive input from volunteers and hopefully they got something back in return, it was highly amusing to see Artistic Director Simon Costin judging their creative icing on the day.”

Carol Harper, from HSBC Customer Service, said, “We work as a team in an office, and it’s great that the Bank provides us with the opportunity to spend the day working as a team for the benefit of the community.

“It’s something the Bank has been passionate about for some years now. We go out to a charity and spend the day doing something that’s quite often outside of our own comfort zone, but will be a great help to them. Either in doing a job that might have been on a back burner, or something that’s going to be time consuming for one or two volunteers to complete. We go back to the office with a feeling of accomplishment.”

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My Christmas – Christine Wardle, Head of Development

Salzburg Christmas BlogChristmas means so many different things to different people. In part of a series of Behind the Scenes blogs, we asked the staff at the Harewood House Trust to tell us about their Christmas.

Christine Wardle is Head of Development, looking after Harewood Members and working with donors and corporate sponsorship amongst other things…

1. What is your earliest Christmas memory?
My earliest Christmas memory is of the smell of holly, wreaths and Christmas decorations, when I lived in a flower shop. We always have a real tree and real holly and mistletoe decorations. Always have a poinsettia. None of your plastic rubbish!

2. Do you have any specific Christmas traditions?
We have lots of birthdays around Christmas, on 21st, 25th and 26th December, so that’s a big influence on what we do. I love the Christmas shop in Salzburg and we have a selection of decorative eggs from there.

3. Which period from history would you have liked to celebrate Christmas in?
Not so much a period – more a place. Austria or Switzerland where it actually looks like Christmas is supposed to, but with none of the commercialisation.

4. What’s the piece of music that gets you in the festive mood?
Ooh lots of pieces of music. Sleigh Ride comes to mind. All the school bands play it.

5. What’s the nicest gift that someone has offered you / you have given?
Nicest gift? Poinsettia. Can’t start Christmas without one.#

Booking recommended for Christmas at Harewood on www.harewood.org