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) 

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