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Easy as Rhubarb Pie!

Rhubarb in the Walled GardenMaria Mahon, kitchen gardener in Harewood’s Walled Garden gives an insight into this easy to grow and long lasting crop – rhubarb.

It’s that time of year when rhubarb is starting to grow and those delicious crimson stems can be seen gradually emerging from the soil, stretching and unfurling their young green leaves as if waking up from a long winter sleep. Allotment holders and vegetable gardeners alike will be looking forward to all the scrumptious culinary ways in which to use this famous Yorkshire delicacy.

During the Victorian era and right through to the end of the 2nd World War, rhubarb became very popular as growers discovered how to achieve an early crop of deep pink, tender stems through a technique known as forcing. Forcing involves tricking the plants into thinking spring has arrived. Planting them in dark heated sheds during the winter months, the plant searches for light and as it does so, the stems become thinner and less fibrous than those grown out in the field.

Growers in Yorkshire led the way when it came to growing rhubarb, and most folk have heard of the Rhubarb Triangle (Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield). However, during the 1950s demand for rhubarb went into decline as more exotic fruits became readily available from overseas.

So, how easy is it to grow rhubarb? Very easy is the answer.

Rhubarb requires very little maintenance other than an application of a general purpose fertiliser around the crowns once the harvesting season is over and an annual dressing with well-rotted compost or manure in January or February.

It needs a sunny spot with well-drained soil and so long as it is kept well watered, will provide delicious stalks ready for harvesting every 6-8 weeks during spring and summer, depending on the variety.

The easiest way to introduce rhubarb is to plant crowns and we were very generously donated some crowns from RV Rogers nursery at Pickering. Whilst November is the ideal time to plant crowns, they can still be planted right up until early spring if the ground isn‘t frozen.

Rhubarb is a vegetable rather than a fruit and a lot of people mistakenly think that the colour of the stalk indicates its ripeness. In fact, it is quite the contrary, the more time the stalk spends growing before it is picked, the tougher and more fibrous the stalk gets as it photosynthesises, so it is good to pick the stalks regularly.

We’ve a good crop on display now in the Walled Garden and hope to see some fine samples on the Courtyard Café menu in the next week or so, any perhaps for sale in the Courtyard shop.

The Kitchen Garden in the Walled Garden at Harewood

Rhubarb Planting in the Walled Garden

Anne, Julie and Julia planting the rhubarb donated by RV Rogers at Pickering.

Maria Mahon, Kitchen Gardener, gives an insight into the plans and growing that support Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters this spring and summer.

The aim is to have a kitchen garden that is beautiful to look at and is useful. The vegetables are all produced using organic gardening techniques, without any pesticides or herbicides and instead working with nature using techniques like companion planting.

This means that unlike the supermarkets the vegetables will not be perfect and maybe a little bit wonky.

Last year, Seeds of Hope focused on using every available piece of land in the Walled Garden to cultivate vegetables. This year, linking in with the Useful/Beautiful theme in the House, the plan is to introduce lots of flowers in the vegetable borders.

The flowers will not only look beautiful but will each have a purpose. For example, the calendulas will attract predators such as lace wings, and hover flies that will eat the aphids that like to feed on the vegetables.

Companion planting is a key theme in the Walled Garden along with herbs. The top border will be planted with lots of herbs and flowers that can be cut or are edible. These should look and smell beautiful.

The first vegetable we hope to celebrate across all Departments will be Rhubarb, which we have been force growing and growing naturally. It’s just ready now. Then New for this year will be soft fruits, gooseberries, strawberries (ready for Wimbledon) and different varieties following through all season.

We’ve introduced hand-crafted hazel growing supports for the small pumpkins to grow up, they tie nicely into the skill and craft theme of the new exhibition and are lovely to look at.

In the coming months it will be all about celebrating the seasonality of fruit and vegetables across many areas of Harewood. The produce from the Walled Garden will feature in the Courtyard Café and any surplus will be offered to the Courtyard Shop, to be made available for sale to our visitors.

You can see more stories on our social media; Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @HarewoodHouse


The making of the rugs…

UsefulBeautifulTrendyTuftMichaelSmithSeven rugs cover the once bare floor of The Yellow Drawing Room at Harewood, designed and hand-dyed on surplus wool from the carpet industry by artist Max Lamb, inspired and created from the trees and foliage of Harewood itself…and bespoke tufted by Yorkshire-based business Trendy Tuft, just down the road from Harewood.

Here’s an insight into the whole process from Michael Smith, Trendy Tuft owner and director.

Q. How did you start working in the bespoke rug business?
After completing a Textile Technology degree course I decided that I would like to go into manufacturing so set up in my parents’ garage with a hand tufting gun. I have then grown the business over the past 35 years to where we are now. We are a totally unique business in the UK employing manufacturing techniques which are bespoke to us.

Q. What do you love about your job?
I love to see the designers’ vision come to fruition, seeing their drawing being made up full scale is a buzz and after 35 years still very fulfilling.

Q. How do you work with artists and designers to create their vision?
Designers send in their artwork and colour pallet, we match the colours in yarn form and then after approval we manufacture the rug.

Q. This wasn’t the first time you have worked with Max Lamb, can you tell more?
Max is a very enthusiastic and creative designer, we have made rugs for him before in similar styles using the space-dyed yarns, but this is the first time we have used natural vegetable dyes.

Q. What was particularly interesting about this project?
The method of dyeing that Max employed using material collected from around the Harewood estate to create the amazing colours  tell a very interesting story. This created random patterns and colour combinations from the space dyed yarn and this was truly amazing to see. We didn’t know what the final rug would look like.

Q. And what were the challenges?

Making rugs is always a challenge, we had limited amounts of yarn in each colour so there was no room for miscalculation as we knew that if we ran out that was it!

Q. How does it feel to see the work in place at Harewood House?
It makes us all very proud to see the work exhibited in the beautiful Harewood House, and knowing that these seven rugs are truly unique and the only ones like it in the world, I hope that they will be appreciated by all the people who come through the exhibition.

Bold, ambitious and exciting shows, says Trust Director, Jane Marriott

Why Craft Matters, Harewood House

Picture Credit – Charlotte Graham

When we are going through such turbulent political and economic times, we clearly seek reassurance, that hope, and indeed joy, can still be found in our own backyards.

Once more, we seem to be placing a greater importance on supporting local communities; buying local and supporting those who endeavour to make objects on our doorsteps in order to keep skills alive, or indeed supporting industries that seek to resurrect whole communities. It is this and many more questions we would like to pose, in the opening of our first Harewood Biennial and one of our most ambitious shows to-date.

‘Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters’, opens on 23 March to present and explore the work of 26 makers, including three very special commissions for Harewood. It was really important that we did not restrict our choice to those who work by themselves, but rather, that we included the widest range of craft from studios to manufacturers, all taking pride in creating beautifully crafted objects. By doing this, we can exhibit everything from beautiful glass pieces, to denim jeans, to paper sculptures, to handmade ballet shoes and glorious copper pans. We hope this will inspire debate on why craft matters. Why have we become so interested in these objects? We seem fascinated by the way they are created with care and thought, often using materials in interesting ways and celebrating, or indeed, supporting our very local communities. We want to understand how they were made.

Our ambition for Harewood is to create bold and exciting shows that our visitors and members will never forget. To do this, I realised very early on, that I needed to partner with the best people to make this happen. Hugo Macdonald is one such person, whom I met over a year ago, and was clearly the right person to curate our show on contemporary craft. He is a writer, curator and I would argue a great philosopher of our times. He is also clearly making excellent choices, as in the last two months alone, one of our exhibitors, Yinka Ilori, has just won New Designer at the Elle Decoration Design Awards.

Likewise, as a charity, none of this would be possible without the support and foresight of our supporters, including the Arts Council of England, the Crafts Council, Art Fund and our Harewood House Members. Indeed, one of the most innovative ways to support us, has come from a great Yorkshire based firm; G.F.Smith, based in Hull, known for their passion for paper and ‘a belief in its beauty and possibilities’. It is the innovative use of a seemingly very simple material that has allowed us to shine a light on these great craft pieces, without detracting from the magnificence of the surroundings of Harewood House – a balancing act we’ve all thought long and hard about.

I hope you come and see the show and let us know if we have succeeded in igniting this debate, and shown you some of the most beautiful, and yes sometimes even useful objects, as well. We don’t expect you to all feel the same about the pieces, nor indeed that you all explore this show in the same way….I suspect some of us prefer the twilight private tours with a glass of bubbly in hand, whilst others will want to roll up their sleeves and learn new skills as part of our brand new workshop programme. Sometimes though we may find ourselves with our kids who want to run around the house and grounds delighting in what they see and perhaps even be inspired to look at objects they see every day in a very different light. We really don’t mind as long as you get the chance to explore and perhaps to dream…..”

Read more about The Harewood Biennial 

Leeds Band Hope & Social Making Music at Harewood

Hope&Social Harewood HouseResidencyThe next big hit might just be inspired from Harewood, as the energetic and popular Leeds-based rock band Hope & Social move in for a four-week writing and recording residency whilst the House and gardens get ready to open to the public at the end of March.

The Volunteer Bookshop at Terrace Cottage in the grounds of Harewood House is their base, since they posted a call-out on Twitter for a venue in which to write their sixth album. Harewood House Director Jane Marriott quickly responded with an invitation to visit.

The six-piece band, who define themselves as ‘Trying to change the world by making noise, being late and dancing like we mean it’ are well-known for their animated approach to music making and performance.

Jane said, “I’ve seen Hope & Social play several times and wanted to find a great way to work together, having been captivated by their energy and spirit. They are always in such demand, that I’m delighted we’ve finally found a way to make it work.
“Harewood has a strong association with music and also a commitment to working with great artists and whilst we had the space, we just thought having them on site would be great fun. For us and for them.”

“What an opportunity.” said James Hamilton from Hope & Social. “Harewood is such an amazing location and we now have plenty of room to be totally creative and make lots of noise. And we don’t even have to worry about the neighbours.”

As a thank-you to the charity, the band will perform live and take part in music workshops across several dates during the open season, with their first performance for visitors in The Courtyard on Mother’s Day on Sunday 31 March, to coincide with the launch weekend for Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters.

For further information follow us @HarewoodHouse on social media.