A Visit to Harewood House Gardens

by Judi Barton

Images courtesy of Judi Barton

We live very close to Harewood and when our children were much younger we visited regularly, mainly for the very exciting playground. It is possibly 10 years since we last visited, so I was interested to see how it had changed and I thought WY HPS might like to share some of our visit.

Rogue daffodils

These two ‘rogue’ daffodils caught my eye as guardians of the miniatures covering the bankside next to the hill path from house down to the lake and cascade. There were pollen beetles inside some of the coronas.

The Himalayan Garden was evidently having a spring-clean with redevelopment of the bog garden being underway. Not sure if this was due to its age or if the recent storms had inflicted damage. There were signs of tree damage across the grounds.

With the sun out the drumstick primulas were doing a roaring trade in bees and butterflies.

Osmunda regalis

A forest of crispy brown Osmunda regalis stems looked very stately. Adjacent to this section of the bog garden was the most floriferous pink camellia, looking at peak perfection against the blue sky.

Sitting on one of the bog garden seats, we were intrigued by the spidery red ‘flowers’ of a tree that was just coming into leaf. Can anyone identify it for me? From a distance it was a haze of orangey-red.

What is this?

Continuing up the hill from here we glimpsed the Nepalese stupa festooned in prayer flags.

Nepalese stupa festooned in prayer flags

Nearby was a magnolia with branches sculpted by the wind and light into a waveform pattern and a bit further along the woodland path we spied a very beautifully marked and delicately coloured rhododendron flower.

The walled garden was just being brought back to life with a young gardener sowing seeds directly into the newly weeded and mulched beds. Interesting to see they are trialling hemp fabric as a soil warmer and weed suppressant.

The lakeside was carpeted in Petasites, not easy to see in the photo but look carefully in the foreground for the brownish flower stalks.

Petasites at the Lakeside

Walking back from the walled garden we noticed a rich red carpet of rhododendron petals that were lit up by sunlight. The bark of these rhododendrons has interesting colours and patterns, which contrasts with their strangely gaunt growth habit.

Back up to the House, the parterre garden was immaculate and must have been tended throughout the pandemic. I was stopped in my tracks when I came to the display of topiary in a sea of Muscari and golden grass, maybe Ophiopogon japonicus? Against the dazzlingly blue sky it was breathtaking, and I thought an inspired combination using Muscari, a bulb that some consider a thug, with the shining golden grass.

Muscari and golden grass, maybe Ophiopogon japonicus?

The sphinx sisters were still guarding each corner of the house, each living under a variegated holly as prickly as their claws are sharp. I always admire the carving of their plaits but avoid their spooky staring eyes. The holly was interesting in its leaf colour – there are a lot of plain yellow leaves amongst the green/golden.

A new woodland development project up near the Church, the Sylvascope Treehouse, was really interesting and will be worth re-visiting as the seasons cycle through. Surrounding the church are some really lovely old trees. Sadly some of them were fallen, presumably after February’s three devastating storms. Those storms, following on from two years of pandemic, area compounding disaster for our large historic gardens. No ‘instant gardening’ can help recovery in these settings – replacing giant trees and re-starting gardening programmes on presumably diminished budgets, will take much time.

The Sylvascope Treehouse

Happily Harewood appears to be moving forward in a positive vein. The Sylvascope Treehouse project, part of the Harewood 2022 Biennial, is at the centre of a project to prove the importance of woodland management. It is a really positive new element of the Harewood estate, and a happy way to end our pleasant afternoon visit.

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