One of four public gardens run by the Royal Horticultural Society, Harlow Carr is set in the beautiful English countryside near Harrogate, Yorkshire, so of course I just had to visit while I was there a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure what to expect but found myself totally charmed and impressed by the varied displays that were both inspirational and educational. These are just a few highlights from the 200 or so photos I took!
The British love their hedgehogs. I have fond memories of setting out a saucer of milk for night-visiting hedgehogs when I was a child, but sadly their numbers have been in a rapid decline as hedgerows have been lost and their natural food sources destroyed. A national campaign called Hedgehog Street has called for greater awareness and pledges to make gardens more hedgehog friendly by:
- planting nectar-rich flowers that encourage insects that the hedgehogs eat
- leaving piles of dead wood and compost for nesting sites and foraging
- Avoiding chemicals on lawns to protect earthworms – a major food of hedgehogs
- Avoiding the use of molluscicides and pesticides
- Including a 13cm (~5in) diameter hedgehog highway between gardens for greater connectivity
I loved this example of a hedgehog-friendly design, designed by Tracy Foster and installed by First Light Landscaping. Truthfully, I stopped because I thought what a great example it was for 'small space design' – it was only on closer inspection that I realized it had been designed to be equally beneficial to hedgehogs!
Embracing the Earthworm
Throughout the gardens there were fascinating willow displays including a huge stegosaurus protecting its eggs and this wiggly worm that made me smile.
Expansive beds were richly planted in a matrix of colorful perennials, an exciting take on the New Perennial Movement and a twist on the traditional English cottage garden style.
The kitchen garden display was especially interesting.
English gardens are often small so making the use of vertical space is always a priority.
Rather than growing a traditional tall bean tepee where one has to get a ladder to reach the top, I thought this was a clever idea:
These twig prunings were put to good use as "pea staking", preventing chard and nasturtiums from sprawling onto the path
A thrilling moment
Harlow Carr also has a wonderful library that is open to all: students, researchers, and everyday gardeners. The collection includes practical gardening, garden design, wildlife gardening…and MY BOOK!! Yes, Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017), my second book co-authored with Christina Salwitz, was proudly displayed on their shelves. This was one of those moments that I would have loved to have been able to share with my Mum. I know she'd have been as proud as I was.
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