Sledmere Gardens through the Year: Andrew Karavics. 8 February 2019.

Andrew trained at Bishop Burton College. His first job was at Cambo in Fife. He arrived at Sledmere House in 2009 and after two years became the Head Gardener. Since then he has given the gardens a whole new lease of life; they are now renowned for their innovative planting, wildlife and continual development. In spring, there are over 30,000 tulips, narcissus and many more varieties of bulbs, including Fritillaria meleagris AGM, throughout the garden. During summer there are many displays of perennial and annual flowers to suit all tastes as well as attracting a wealth of wildlife into the gardens.

Andrew’s remit was to increase the flowering time in the garden and to add structure and interest. He introduced a more naturalistic form of planting and started growing plants from seed. Now, not only is the garden full of bright, vibrant flowers throughout the year, it also attracts wildlife, including birds, butterflies and bees. 

In 1778 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown produced a plan for remodelling the estate at Sledmere for the then owner, Christopher Sykes.The Sykes family are still resident at Sledmere. The two-and-a-half-acre walled garden, built in the 1780s to an unusual octagonal design is divided into two halves by an internal wall. The Walled Garden has been undergoing a development programme over the last six years. The gardens have been broken up into different areas or themes, which bring a different feel and colour pallet to the onlooker. From ‘The Reflection Garden’ with its moon gates and reflection pool, through to the formal potager a strong structural element runs through the garden. A formal touch to the grounds can be found on the west side of Sledmere House in the form of a parterre, with spring and summer bedding.

The first garden Andrew designed was the Potager, that contains over 5,000 vegetables and flowers that are grown using the principles of companion planting. Each year the planting is varied, and 95% of the produce from the vegetable beds is used in the visitors’ cafe.

The first themed garden to be developed was the ‘Angel Garden’ which has gentle planting, a contrast to the vibrancy of the exotic borders. This was followed by the ‘Lark Ascending ‘Garden which contains 12,000 spring bulbs. The ‘Reflection Garden’ has a central pond, a brick path surrounded by swags and honeysuckle and lots of plants in reds, oranges and purples. There is also a croquet lawn which took about 100 tonnes of soil to actually get the garden level. 

Traditional herbaceous borders aim to look good all season, but never have a real blast of colour. However, there are two months of high impact, with a month either side for building up and fading away. 

This is a principle put into practice in the new exotic borders in the lower walled garden, which build up to a crescendo in late summer. They are managed as annual borders, in that everything is planted from scratch each year, using annuals, tender perennials and traditional perennials in a different way. These include Musa ensete, Salvia patens ‘Cambridge Blue’ and Antirrhinum ‘Canarybird’. Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’, for example, which is usually a long-lasting border stalwart, is used here as an annual. It never flops, as it does not get mature enough. Each November, it is lifted, split and overwintered to be put back in next year, as will monardas and kniphofias. 

The original planting included a number of roses which were dying and have been replaced by new plants including the rambler Rosa ‘Alexandre Girault’ (Ra) AGM. Plants used throughout the garden includes Amaranthus caudatusCardiocrinum giganteumEchinacea purpureaEchinacea pallidaGeranium Rozanne = ‘Gerwat’ (PBR) AGM, Iris sibiricaMonarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’ AGM, and grasses Calamagrostis brachytricha AGM, and Pennisetum villosum AGM. Arisaema and Podophyllum versipelle ‘Spotty Dotty’ (PBR) (v) AGM grow in shady areas alongside the outer walls and yew hedges. 

Outside the greenhouses are containers which offer interesting planting include Amaranthus caudatusRicinus communis ‘Carmencita’, Fuchsia ‘Corallina’ and Helianthus annuus ‘Ikarus’. 

Further out into the parkland with its 18th-century landscape, Andrew is developing new woodland and meadow areas.

Andrew is supported by a team of gardeners, one of whom Mike, he mentioned several times in his talk. 

Sledmere House, Sledmere, Driffield YO25 3XG 

Carine Carlson gave the vote of thanks. 

Page image: Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ (Image courtesy of HPS image library) 

Open Gardens February 2019

This is a list of open gardens within a 50 mile radius of Leeds. Click on the link to open the page on the NGS website (in new window), for details of opening times etc.

16 February:

The Beeches, Newark


17 February:

Church Farm, Retford

Weeping Ash Garden, Glazebury, Lancashire

West Drive Gardens, Cheedle


23 February:

The Old Vicarage, Matlock


24 February:

72 Church Street, Sheffield

Devonshire Mill, York







Plant of the Month February 2019: Sarcococca

Sarcococca (sweet box or Christmas box) is a genus of 11 species of flowering plants in the box family Buxaceae, native to eastern and southeast Asia and the Himalayas. They are slow-growing, monoecious, evergreen shrubs with leaves which are borne alternately. They are grown for their sweet honey scented flowers in winter. The fruit is a red or black drupe containing 1–3 seeds. They are tolerant of shade. The genus name Sarcococca comes from the Greek for ‘fleshy berry’, referring to the fruit. 

Sarcococcas are not new to British gardens. The first to be introduced was S. hookeriana var. hookeriana, was discovered by Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker around 1825. It forms a compact suckering shrub up to 60cm tall, forming a neat clump of glossy, elliptic leaves, with small clusters of very fragrant creamy-white flowers with crimson anthers, followed by black berries. S. hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’ AGM, has slender tapering shiny green leaves flushed bronze, and produces sweetly fragranced white flowers tinged bright pink at the base, which are borne on reddish stems. The flowers of these two small shrubs are a little pinker than the rest; the habit of S. digyna is more restrained than S. confusa and S. ruscifolia. 

S. wallichii was discovered on the Singalila ridge near Darjeeling in 1821 by Nathaniel Wallich, described in 1916 by Otto Staph, but did not enter into British cultivation until 1994. 

In 1980 Roy Lancaster collected and subsequently introduced S. ruscifolia v. chinensis from Yunnan in China. It has flowers all the way up the stem, followed by red berries. One form  S. ruscifolia v. chinensis‘ Dragon Gate’ AGM was found growing at the entrance to the Dragon Gate temple, and is particularly good, flowering heavily and not getting too large at 1.5m.

S. confusa AGM has upright, green arching stems which grow from the ground to form a thick bush reaching a height of 2m. They have small, glossy dark green leaves. In late winter tiny but very fragrant flowers appear in the leaf axils. The flowers are followed by black berries that may persist the until the next flowering season. They prefer shade and do not require pruning.

S. humilis is the smallest species. It forms a compact bush and suckers freely, but this is easily controlled by pulling up the shoots. It grows to a height of 60 cm and a spread of 80 cm.

Sarcococca can tolerate pollution, can be grown in pots, and being evergreen create all year-round interest. They will survive dry shade, and they will grow in full sun provided the soil is moist; in drier conditions the leaves can turn yellow. They are very low maintenance, needing little to no regular pruning. If you need to prune out dead wood do it in mid to late spring.

The National Collection of Sarcococca is held by City of Sheffield Botanic Garden

Page image: Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna (Image courtesy of HPS image library)