Event reports (2019)

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. 

Woodland Plants for Connoisseurs, Michael Myers. 11 January 2019.

Plantsman and Lecturer, Michael has a particular interest in alpine and woodland plants which he grows in his garden at Summerbridge.  Michael has three National Plant collections at his garden in Summerbridge – Anemone nemorosa, Hepatica & Primula marginata – and has open days throughout the year. He is also a self-confessed galanthophile. He last spoke to the West Yorkshire group in January 2016 on Hepaticas and Aconites.

His talk on Woodland Plants was eagerly awaited and he did not disappoint.  He started his talk by giving a very comprehensive overview of snowdrops. Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’ AGM, and G. plicatus ‘Three Ships’ AGM, both flower by Christmas. G.’S. Arnott’ AGM is scented when warmG. ‘Fieldgate Superb’ has a large flower, G. ‘Curly’ has unusual markings and is very scented. G. plicatus ‘Diggory’ AGM, has interesting puckered outer petals . G. ‘Spindlestone Surprise’ AGM (found in Northumberland), and G. plicatus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ AGM, have yellow markings. Michael found G. plicatus‘ E.A. Bowles’ AGM whist visiting Myddelton House in Enfield. G. ‘Mrs Thompson’ was found near York and has two separate flowers per stem. What was all too evident from Michael is that some galanthophiles are prepared to pay extortionate prices for the rarer bulbs.

Michael then continued to describe the Leucojums, or spring snowflake, which are European natives. L. vernum var. carpathicum has yellow tips. L. vernum var. carpathicum ‘Gertrude Wister’ has semi-double flowers and is found in the USA.

Aconites such as Eranthus hyemalis, AGM, needs good drainage to naturalise. E. hyemalis ‘Orange Glow’ has dark flowers, and E. hyemalis ‘Schwefelglanz’ needs light. Cyclamen coum AGM, propagate by seed and naturalise well. Anne Wright has a beautiful display at her nursery in Tockwith.

Corydalis solidasubsp. solida‘George Baker’ has flowers of different colours and should not be disturbed as the plants come up in spring. Michael also mentioned Cardamines and Heloniopsis, which are related to lilies. He then described a rather stunning plant, Ypsilandra thibetica, which has striking scented pale lilac/white flowers in March.

Michael has a national collection of Hepaticas. H. nobilis AGM, grows slowly but is happy amongst the leaf litter. H. x media ‘Ballardii’ was a spontaneous hybrid between H. transsilvanica and H. nobilis and occurred in the garden of the famous aster breeder Ernest Ballard at Colwall, near Malvern in 1938. There are a number of interspecies hybrids. Hepaticas should be raised from fresh seed and the flowers are best displayed by removing the leaves from the plant (like Hellebores).

Helleborus foetidus is a native species which likes dry shade. There are many H. x hybridus. However, cultivars (i.e. named varieties) of H. x hybridus are not botanically possible as they are all seed-grown plants each one is highly variable. There are also a number of interspecies hybrids. Newer forms have upward facing flowers, and hellebores are best grown on a slope to see the centre of the flowers.

Michael then went on to describe a number of Ficarias, or celandines. F. verna ‘Salmon’s White’ has cream flowers, with dark green leaves that have silver and black markings. Ficaria verna Aurantiaca Group have orange flowers.

Michael also has a national collection of Anemone nemorosa. A. nemorosa ‘Blue Eyes’ is a rarely offered cultivar with fully double blue eyed flowers. A. × lipsiensis is a hybrid between the white-flowered A. nemorosa (a native) and a vigorous southern European species with buttercup yellow flowers, A. ranunculoides.

No talk on shade and woodland plants would be complete without mention of Trilliums. T. rivale AGM, is not completely hardy. It has a purple heart and seeds freely. Charles Jencks, a landscape gardener, used T. grandiflorum AGM, in his cosmic garden. T. chloropetalum vargiganteum is very garden worthy, T. erectum falbiflorum is a trifoliate plant with large deep green leaves and three-petalled white flowers in spring.

To end his talk Michael mentioned Erythroniums. E. revolutum produces prolific seeds, and does well in a peat bed but takes 4 – 5 years to bulk up. E. ‘Pagoda’ AGM, has striking yellow flowers and is a good garden plant.

Lilium lankongense is highly scented; it is difficult to grow from seed as it needs two stage dormancy. It can be seen at RHS Harlow Carr. Tulipa sprengeri (15) AGM, is late flowering in semi-shade, and T. sylvestris (15) is the wild native tulip which grows well in grass and in light shade under trees and it has a delicious scent.

I have only named a few of the plants mentioned by Michael in his talk. I for one have been inspired to develop the woodland area in my garden.

Brian Hackett gave the vote of thanks.

Page image: Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum (Image courtesy of HPS image library)