The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Harlow Carr Garden is one of four public gardens run by the RHS and is located one and a half miles from the centre of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. We arrived by car, with ample free parking available. On a previous visit we walked from the town centre which is a lovely way to arrive on a sunny day. This walk starts from the town’s Valley Gardens and continues up through the Pine Woods taking approximately 45 minutes to reach Harlow Carr.
The main purpose for establishing this garden was to set up plant trials to assess the suitability of growing certain plants in a northern climate. Adult admission to the gardens is £11 and as the society is a registered charity all profits are used to maintain and improve the gardens and facilities. The entrance pavilion is bright and airy with an adjacent gift shop and a branch of Betty’s Tea Rooms which has terrace seating overlooking the gardens. The helpful staff provided us with a map and pointed out areas of the gardens currently in bloom as we were buying our tickets.
The garden covers 26 acres and our stroll began alongside the Queen Mother’s Lake which is landscaped with deep colourful borders and at the water’s edge ornamental grasses and candelabra primula bloomed. Recent developments have included the building of the Bramall education centre and the Montague-Burton teaching garden which benefit around 10,000 school children each year with short courses on garden education, sustainability and biodiversity. The education centre also houses the Blundell Library which is the principal horticultural library in the north of England.
Close to the education centre we came to Hedgehog Street which is a UK based conservation initiative set up by two charities, The People’s Trust for Endangered Species’ and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. The project commenced in 2011 in response to a decline in hedgehog numbers. Linked to the initiative is the Hedgehog Street website which provides useful information on the habitat of hedgehogs together with tips on managing gardens to benefit hedgehogs. The small patio garden featured above is part of Hedgehog Street demonstrating how shrubs and ground cover plants can help these adorable prickly little creatures.
Continuing our stroll we crossed the lake and followed the Woodland walk where the Rhododendron glade was in full bloom with a colourful array of spring flowering bulbs and bluebells around the tree trunks. There’s much to see at Harlow Carr whatever the season as when the spring flowers fade away, borders of summer annuals will provide a splash of colour.
Further on, we came to a series of small gardens, designed to provide inspiration on landscaping and planting. All plants were labelled which was such a good idea enabling notes to be taken for future reference. I particularly liked the garden featured below showcasing contemporary planting with a twist.
The Alpine House is another recent feature with excellent displays of rock plants. The glass house is 24 m (80ft) long and contains a collection of more than 2,000 different specimens. The Alpine House is unlike most greenhouses in that it doesn’t provide warmth but keeps plants dry, free of frost and cool having automated shading and air circulation fans. Outside, rock plants native to a northern climate grow on limestone walls, in old stone sinks and small rockery features.
We concluded our tour of Harlow Carr with a visit to the Scented Garden which lived up to its name with delicately perfumed fragrances drifting by as we followed the narrow paths brimming with spring colour. It was then time for a look in the RHS gift shop which includes a section on gardening books with a cosy window seat overlooking the gardens to sit and browse. Of course no visit to a public garden could be complete without looking around the plant centre and wondering what could brighten up our own small garden.
For those interested in visiting Harlow Carr or any of the other three RHS gardens more than once, then annual membership is well worth considering. Free entry is available to a family guest with a member, so the card can in fact pay for itself in just two visits, and more importantly allow you to enjoy the gardens year round.
More information on RHS membership is available here.
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