RHS Harlow Carr Gardens

Click on photographs to either enlarge them, or start a slide show.

I had the pleasure of visiting the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire last Sunday (16-09-2012) and was quite surprised by some of the changes that have taken place since my last visit two years ago.

I was aware then that changes were to taking place, what with the introduction of the new Bramall Learning Centre, the new Alpine house and the improvements to the Kitchen Garden but I never expected to see what I saw!

For example; to see the expansion of the Queen Mother's Lake and the plans for the surrounding area, plus the improvements to the pathways, particularly on Streamside Walk for the benefit of wheelchair users, all of this was a pleasant surprise.

However! As with many forms of expansion, sometimes some of the current features have to go to make way for the new.

In this case; The Gardens Through Time are scheduled to go, in fact Garden 3 has already gone, in order to make way for the expansion of the lake!

The Miniature Village had been removed at the time of my previous visit, but not because of the expansion programme, sadly no! it had to be removed because of vandalism and the lack of skilled hobbyist to repair and maintain it.

A sign of the times I guess!

Back to my current visit:

As usual when visiting places such as this, I make a bit of a plan prior to setting off to ensure that I take in all the parts I really want to see, then if there is sufficient time I fit in other things where I can, this visit was no different!

I decided to walk in a clockwise direction via the Learning Centre, Lake, Streamside Walk, Kitchen Garden then up to the Alpine Zone.

Apart from the Woodland and Arboretum, this left the Lawns, Main Borders and Tarns to meander through at leisure.

Garden Plan

On leaving the reception building I took a left, and headed towards the Bramall Learning Centre and its gardens.

Bramall Learning Centre

This teaching garden has been designed to cover a wide variety of topics for both school and adult education as well as providing inspiration for visitors to the gardens.

I did not go into the building itself although I had a look through the windows at some of the 'hands on' areas.

I followed this by having a walk around the gardens.

For information purposes a placard was at hand to describe the various areas and there uses.

The legend was as follows:

A - Nectar & Pollen Alleys. B - Productive Growing. C - Perennials. D - Pond. E - Marginals.

These are a few pictures I took in the area:


Outdoor Classroom


Pond & Marginals


Nectar & Pollen Alley

Perennials and

Covered Outdoor Classroom


On leaving here I headed for:

The Gardens Through Time.

As mentioned in the introduction, these have already been affected by the expansion plan, with Garden No 3 (The Victorian Gardens)being no longer in existance.

I hope you don't mind but I thought I would do a little cheating and resurrect it in my blog by using pictures taken from a previous visit.

Garden 6 has been affected to a lesser degree,in so far as some decaying structures have been removed, so again I thought I would fetch them back for posterity!

Garden 1 - The Regency Period - circa 1815

This was the era when the phrase Landscape Gardener was first introduced.

This was also a period of reasonable affluence among the middle classes, and these people employed Landscape gardeners to design and construct their gardens.

Similarly there was a shift in style from the formal to informal with the inclusion of a more natural / rustic look to gardens.

For example structures such summer houses were built from wiilow and thatch, and benches fitted under trees so that the owners could sit in the shade on warm sunny days.

Other fashionable items were plant theatres, where the owner of the garden had structures built to house them as seen in pic 1 below..

In fact it was not uncommon for the garden owner to hire in plants to decorate the garden if and when they were holding a garden party, then once the festivities were over the owner would return the potted plants to the hirer.

It was also the era in which the RHS was founded 1804.


Garden 2- Mid Victorian Period - circa 1850-60's

This was the period when many Plant Hunters scoured the world to fetch new plants back to the UK

These plants were then bred to satify the needs of aspiring gardeners.


It was also a time when many of the gentry employed full time gardeners to tend their gardens.

These gardeners were usually controlled by a Head Gardener who had a status similar to the House Butler and the Head cook.

Quite often a house went with the job meaning that if the Head Gardener was sacked this also meant that he lost the roof over his head.

So for this very reason some of these Head Gardeners could be a quite fearsome characters.

Another event that took place during this period was the inventing of the lawn mower by a man named Edwin Budding.

He was an engineer in a textile mill who was inspired by the rotary cutters that were used to cut the 'nap' off cloth, and the similarity this action was to cutting grass.

The arrival such a piece of equipment eliminated the need for using grazing animals or a scythe to keep the grass short.


The entrance to this garden is through the Tool and Potting shed.


Pagoda Garden Feature


Garden Boundary


In the Garden


Garden 3- Late Victorian Period - circa 1890's

This was a period of flamboyance and to tending the needs of the family.

The gardens were often divided into areas of spectacle, coupled with areas to grow edible and ornamental plants.

Plus areas were often dedicated solely for the use of their children.


The Vegetable Garden


Children's Garden


The Greenhouse


Sundial Feature


Mountain Feature


Herbaceous borders


Garden 4- The Edwardian period - circa 1901-1910

This was the era when artists and master craftsmen such as Gertrude Jekyll, and Edward Lutyens appeared on the scene.

Their impact can still be seen in many large gardens to this day!


Garden Entrance


Views of the Garden from different angles.


Garden 5- The Festival of Britain period - 1950's

This period saw the commencement of the post war boom.

With it came the Modernist gardens, which often replicated concrete features from abroad.


Garden 6- The Outdoor Room - The 1970's

This is the period of TV programmes extolling the benefits of making the garden into an outdoor room and the introduction of Alfresco dining.

Similarly Garden Centres started popping up everywhere to supply all the needs for your Outdoor Room!


Garden 7- The Contemporary Garden - circa 2004

Designed by Diarmuid Gavin, this New Tech approach introduces imaginitive ways of using new materials and technologies.

These techniques,and the use of architectual plants and prairie style planting gives a modern approach to the garden.

The Courtyard


Moongate Entrance into the Garden


The House and Garden


The Queen Mother's Lake

The changes to the lake and the surrounding area, including the part removal of The Gardens Through Time has been brought about to fit in with a Master Plan.

The plan involves reducing the risk of flash flooding and erosion, by controlling the surface rainwater run off throughout the gardens.

This includes forming a feature overflow / waterfall at the start of the Streamside walk to regulate the flow of the stream.

Further plans include a lakeside crossing and exhibition gardens around the lakeside.

Existing specimen plants originally sited on the renovated area, have either been used elsewhere in the gardens, or saved for future use!


The Lake as it was


The Lake as it is now


The upstream & downstream views of the weir.


The Streamside Walk

Log Ness Monster

This feature has been constructed primarily to encourage people to form habitats for insects and wildlife, using discarded materials.

This one is formed of logs that have been felled in the woodland when creating access paths for the general public.


This area has been dedicated to Geoff Smith broadcaster and writer who died aged 80.

Mr Smith appeared on BBC Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time over the course of 20 years and created these gardens.

The inscription reads:

The Kiss of the sun for pardon

The song of the birds for mirth

One is nearer god's heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth

Over the last few years lots of work has been done on the stream embankments and planting, plus the footpath surface itself.

This makes it possibly one of the nicest parts of the gardens that is accessable to both able bodied and disabled alike!

It is one of those walks where as you walk forward you see all manner of views of the gardens and its buildings, then if you turn around and look from whence you came, and the perspective changes completely.

The only thing I would to say at this point is I wished the sun had been shining.

As it was, it was a dull day with threatening rain clouds most of the time, which did nothing for the colours of the planting!

But thats what makes Harlow Carr a garden for all seasons and weather!

Part way along the footpath you can take a slight detour and you will come across this Doric column folly.

Note: This particular access point is not suitable for wheelchairs.!


Bath House Area:

This area is steeped in history and was the site of The Harrogate Arms Hotel.

Springs of sulphur water were discovered here in 1734 and this led to building of the Hotel and Spa approximately one hundred years later (1840)

The six well heads in front of the bath house were capped off but remain beneath the present Limestone Rock Garden in front of the bath house.


The Limestone Beds


The bath house now houses The Study Centre.


Remains of Hotel


The Bath House

A large greenhouse that often doubles as a shelter for the public during inclement weather is situated nearby and sometimes with in it you can see a few climbing plants.






Opposite the Bath House is the well known Betty's refreshment area. >>>

As mentioned in the introduction a number of features in the gardens have either been altered or removed and one of these was the model village which used to be located in an area behind the Bath House.

For old times sake I thought I would resurrect it in this blog.


The Kitchen Garden

This is an area that has been developed since it was moved from the site of the Learning Centre.

It is now much larger than before.

A current development is the Malus arch to support a collection of unusual trees that have been propagated on site!


The approach to the Greenhouse area with its Willow Arch



Sitting Area


The Apple Arch


The Vegetable Beds


The Scented and Foliage Gardens

These gardens have been constructed in memory of Mrs Joan Lambert.


The Scented Garden


The Foliage Garden


Alpine Zone

The alpine house which was completed in spring 2010 is much larger than the old glasshouses.

The new greenhouse has state of the art ventilation, and the watering is done by a seeping hose system sunk into the plunge beds.

The access areas are quite wide to accomodate wheelchairs something the old greenhouses lacked!

The outside perimeter of the greenhouse will eventually be landscaped to reflect the native habitats of alpines.

The Harlow Carr alpine collection includes over 2,000 different plants, and with so many alpines under threat in their native habitats, this alpine zone might be their saviour.

The New Alpine House


Scenes from inside the Alpine house



Scenes from the ouside of the Alpine house



The Lawns, Main borders and Tarns

These are tastefully landscaped areas where you can meander between the beds at leisure.

At each turn you are met with inspiring views, colours and amazing planting schemes.

If these areas have a fault, it is that the are situated on the side of a hill which might prove to be a bit daunting for the less abled.

Having said that, the accessable views from the top and bottom of the hill are quite spectacular!

I'll let you judge for yourself when you watch the slide show!

And that folks is the end of the guided tour I hope you enjoyed it!

On your way out you can visit the Gift Shop and or the Plant Centre to buy something that will remind you of your trip to the RHS Gardens Harlow Carr!

Top of the Page