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) 

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 re 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 solida subsp. 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: Galanthus plicatus ‘Diggory’ AGM (Image courtesy of HPS image library)

Dahlias: The history of Halls of Heddon. 9 November 2018

David Heddon is the third generation to run the family nursery in Heddon, Northumbria. He is a well known Dahlia and Chrysanthemum grower and exhibits at shows throughout the north east.  His grandfather established the nursery in 1921, initially specialising in Pansies and Delphinium, but later specialising in Dahlias and Chrysanthemums. The nursery is based in the walled garden of Heddon House. The trial fields have over 6000 stock plants and 293 varieties of Dahlias including 70 varieties bred by amateurs.

Although Dahlias originated in Mexico, they flourish particularly well in the UK. They were introduced to Spain in 1702 initially as a food crop, and have been exhibited for their blooms since 19th century. They can be relied upon to produce an eye-catching display of colour in almost any garden from late summer until the first frosts providing they are given a few basic requirements. To perform at their best Dahlias need a sunny position with a well-drained soil whilst at the same time needing plenty of water. They require regular feeding to produce good blooms. They should be grown in an open sunny site, with some protection from prevailing winds. They will grow in most soils but a rich soil with good drainage is ideal. Dahlias need plenty of moisture but will not cope with being waterlogged, and a complete fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone should be applied to the soil a couple of weeks prior before planting.

Tubers store water and should therefore be protected from frost depending on the prevailing conditions of the region where they are grown. Commercially, tubers are lifted and kept in heated greenhouses. It is possible, with the right conditions, to get 6-10+ cuttings from each tuber before the time comes for planting out. Although it is possible to plant the tubers directly into the garden and grow on as they are,  one has more control over the growth of the plant by starting off with fresh cuttings each year. Planting out should not be attempted until all risk of frost is over. This will be late May in the south of the country, but in the north, mid June might be best.  Plants should be well hardened off before planting, although tubers can be planted in mid April taking precautions to protect emerging shoots from frost by earthing up or covering with newspaper overnight. Plants should be well watered before planting. Dahlias need staking and tying in, but do not require disbudding.

For more details on cultivation follow this link.

Pest and diseases that can affect Dahlias include aphids, greenfly, capsid bug, earwigs, mildew and viruses. For more information follow this link.

David described the 15 groups of Dahlias; amongst the most interesting for gardeners as opposed to the show bench are:

  1. Single flowers: Twynings After Eight, Hadrian’s Sunlight and Midnight
  2. Anemone flowers: Purple Puff
  3. Collerette flowers: Christmas Carol – good for butterflies. First introduced in 1850’s.
  4. Waterlily flowers: Kilburn Glow – double flower
  5. Decorative: Black Monarch (giant) and David Howard (miniature) – showing
  6. Ball: showing
  7. Pompon: showing
  8. Cactus: showing
  9. Semi-cactus: Doris Day – good in pots and containers.
  10. Miscellaneous including: species, Star, Orchid, Anemone and single flowered Dahlias.
  11. Fimbriated: showing
  12. Star: Honka – sweet pollen
  13. Double orchid:  Art Deco – bedding
  14. Peony: Bishop group – old species
  15. Stellar: USA introductions with vibrant blooms

Images from Halls of Heddon

The RHS first published the International Dahlia Register in 1969 and have published regular supplements since then.

The national trials bed are held annually at Golden Acre Park, Leeds.

Pat Inman gave the vote of thanks.

Page image: Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ (Sin) AGM (Image courtesy of HPS image library)

‘Plants Grow in Dirt’ by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers. 14 September 2018.

The hall was full for the welcome return of Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers Nursery near Evesham, which stocks a wide range of unusual plants. The catalogue makes for an interesting read. He is a world-renowned gardener and garden writer (Gardening Which).

Before the start of his talk there was a sales area with a variety of plants from his nursery, which he started in 1990.

His talk was designed to stimulate and provoke. He gave us lots of information, which I admit seemed a bit random but the tips and topics were varied:

  • Plant Nerine bulbs in spring, but on no account should you mulch them.
  • Agapanthus cultivars including ‘Navy Blue’ which is very hardy, can be planted in January, but do not apply a mulch otherwise the bulb rots. ‘Silver Moon’ is a good variegated sport from ‘Headbourne Hybrids’ that flowers well.  Agapanthus need room to grow, food and water for them too flower and sometimes struggle in pots. Most are hardy and they need sun on the neck of the plant (like Nerine) to set seed. Only 5% are not hardy. Replant just as the new growth appears.
  • Camassia look like Agapanthus!
  • DO NOT DIG the ground (life is too short!) – do not bury compost in the ground but put it on surface – the worms do all the hard work of incorporating the compost. When there is a clay soil mix compost with sharp sand and grit (including builder’s sand) and cover soil with a layer 3 – 4 cm deep.
  • TOP DRESS – pelleted chicken manure is less attractive to foxes.
  • Herbaceous plants with the exception of grasses and Michaelmas Daisies, can be planted in Autumn; not in clay unless improved. If plant in Spring need rain to get established.
  • Growing in pots – slugs hide amongst the crocks at the bottom;  whilst it allows water to drain the result is often that the compost dries out. Capillary matting can overcome this problem. If I remember correctly, when it comes to pot feet it is on in winter to prevent water-logging and reduce the risk of frost damage, and off in summer.
  • Slug pellets – concentration matters – 2 pellets/m2 – and not next to the plant because the slugs will eat the soft shoots. Fine grit may help. Other remedies include garlic spray in the greenhouse and keep chickens. Apparently slugs eat slugs so my tip of drowning slugs in water and using the water to deter other slugs doesn’t work!
  • PLANTS THAT GROW IN DIRT  include Spanish Bluebells, Ash, Sycamore…
  • Remember to clean secateurs – use methylated spirit, but the best advice of the evening was:

Images from

Alan Wilson gave the vote of thanks and wished Bob and his wife all the best on their 50th wedding anniversary.

Epimediums and friends by Sally Gregson of Mill Cottage Plants, Somerset. 13 April 2018

There was a very full hall for Sally’s talk, 4 ½ years after a previous visit when her talk was about her other plant love, hydrangeas.

As she had brought some plants from her nursery, (click here for link to nursery website), members had to be called away from the plants to enable her talk to start.

Sally, who has recently written a book on Epimediums, has obviously done a lot of research. The talk was illustrated with pictures of Epimediums and the major players in their introductions and hybridising.

There were plenty of pointers on the cultivation of the different varieties. They are essentially a deciduous woodland plant which gives a clue to their ideal place in the garden. This works for Sally, as she can plant them under her Hydrangeas! The older varieties, she suggests, should have their leaves sheared in February to show off the new seasons flowers.

The grandifloras from Japan are acid lovers and deciduous. They grow well in pots for those of us with high pH. Two other cultivation tips, split after flowering and replant with plenty of leafmould in the bottom of the planting hole.

The definitive reference collection is in the Ghent Botanic Garden.

The vote of thanks was given by Peter Williams.

Report submitted by Pat Hunter

Page image: Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ (Image courtesy of HPS image library)

‘My Dream Garden’, Heather Russell, 9 March 2018  

Many West Yorkshire Group members have been fortunate to visit the glorious garden belonging to Heather Russell. We visited her garden on our day trip back in July 2012.

She had previously given a talk to the group in October 2010 titled ‘My Garden Changes’ and subsequently given a talk at our biennial conference in May 2011.

This was a welcome return by Heather talking of the changes she has made to her garden at Bolam, Northumberland.

In 2000 Heather began a wild garden over the wall from her beautiful main garden which culminated in a beautiful natural planting of geraniums, cephalaria, amelanchier, tellima, calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, and eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmot’.

She made the courageous decision to make a drastic change to what is widely acknowledged one of the best gardens in the north. Since the group visited Heather’s garden she has developed her own ‘Dream Garden’ and she told us about the changes, and showed us the result in this widely anticipated talk.

It was a story of a new grass garden. This is a relatively new area to the garden and, despite being created to be less labour intensive, has real impact.

Heather’s Dry Garden

Heather’s ‘dream garden’ is a successful mix of grasses and perennials, well established within a two-year period and needing remarkably little upkeep. Heather guided us through the process of creating the garden, the plants used, and ongoing maintenance required to create the ‘Dream Garden’.


Newby Hall Gardens

A talk by Mark Jackson, Head Gardener of Newby Hall, was given on 9th February 2018.

‘Newby Hall Gardens’

The present design is largely attributable to the present owner’s grandfather, Major Edward Compton, who inherited Newby in 1921. Influenced by his friend Lawrence Johnston’s Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire, Major Compton decided to create a main axis for the garden, running from the south front of the house right down to the River Ure. The axis consisted of double herbaceous borders flanked by double yew hedges, with a broad grass walk running down the middle. Off this he planned compartmented gardens of formal design, like rooms off the main passage of a house – each filled with plants to be at their best in different seasons – truly a ‘Garden for all Seasons’.

The management of the Gardens has been taken over by Mrs Lucinda Compton alongside Mark Jackson, Head Gardener.

Mark told us about the replanting of the herbaceous borders over a period of two years.

Newby Hall border 1
(Image courtesy of HPS image library)



Newby Hall border 2
(Image courtesy of HPS image library)

Spring at Newby Hall
(Image courtesy of Carine Carson)

Following this talk, one of our committee members visited the garden for the first time on 29 May. She kindly sent me some images of the garden in late spring / early summer.




Spring Walk at Newby Hall
(Image courtesy of Carine Carson)

Close up of Primula at Newby Hall
(Image courtesy of Carine Carson)






Alistair Baldwin of Wynyard Hall

We enjoyed an excellent night on 14th April with Alistair Baldwin, who told us about the making of the garden at Wynyard Hall on Teesside. We learned about the importance of colour balancing as part of garden design, and also how to place visitors within a garden, so as to give them the best perspectives.