Six on Saturday: 36.6.21 RHS Harlow Carr

Last Monday I had my next round of RHS exams. I think the soil module went well. I may have managed a commendation, not so sure about plant health. I think I passed but not sure of what level. But I had less interest in learning about chemical controls I have no intention of using. On the way to my exam, I stopped off for a quick visit to RHS Harlow Carr. It’s the first time I’ve visited. I want to try and make use of my student RHS membership while I get it cheap. Sadly most of the gardens are open for RHS members on workdays so I rarely get to take advantage. The weather was good, cloudy but warm. Nice for walking around a garden. Not ideal for photos but I got some wildlife shots I’m quite proud of. My six are going to go beyond six photos into six categories because there were far more than six things to enjoy.


The gardens are providing for a rich and diverse variety of wildlife. I saw a good number of birds species, bees and butterflies. The combinations of stream, woodland, meadows and wildlife friendly plants provides a good range of habitats for wildlife. My wife is teaching more photography next year and I’ve been taking some pointers and it’s paying off.

A small tortoiseshell in the scent garden.

A blue tit near the bird hide. There were a lot of bird feeders around though most were empty. I think they are still probably getting by on lower staff numbers with Covid. The bird hide feeders were stocked and swamped by squirrels with a few birds venturing on.

A crow and ferns. I like corvids. They are beautiful birds in their satorical eleagance. Combined with ferns for a nice background.

Squirells were hovering up food all other the place.


I love an iris and right now there many at their best. Harlow Carr had a great numbe of beauties.

Iris robusta gerald darby

Iris chysographes. A stunning dark beauty.

The alpine house

I’ve never been that interested in alpines and rockeries. I grow a few but as I have put much my effort into my shaded front garden with thick clay they don’t have much place there. But it was interesting to see and alpine house. None of the local gardens we visit regularly have one so it made a change.

It was interesting seeing how some are planted in a roughly natural setup spreading through the rocks while others are contained in their pot.

And an orchid.


A lot of the outer areas had been left to go to meadow which was being visited by a few different insects even on a fairly grey day.

One of our native orchids.

The stream

The stream runs down the middle of the garden and had some of the most concentrated planting. This was very much to my taste. Lots of lush foliage with punctuations of flowers. The visitor boards explained how they are climate proofing the gardens by planting suitable plants and making use of the water and drainage.

The primula candelabra are what I will probably remember the garden for. These had been used in big blocks along a lot of the border. At the end of my visit I intended to buy some but I didn’t see any for sale. But it’s probably for the best as they worked so well here as they had been planted in large blocks, not just one or two.

The meconopsis were also looking grand, but I know their reputation for being awkward to grow to even consider spending the time on.

The inevitable purchases

Obviously, it was unavoidable that some plants would come home with me. The plants were largely at the silly price you would expect from an RHS garden. In some cases 3 times what I think I’d pay locally but there was some perennials at a reasonable price. I went with two salvias. Hot lips which I know many people dislike as there are now better lips on the market. But it is popular with bees and nice spilling out at the edge of a border. If they had amethyst lips I would probably have gone for that, but not available. I also went with one I know nothing about Salvia greggi mirage cherry red that looks to be a good vibrant red. This looks be a nice in your face colour. Then as the irises had been one of the stand out plants I went with iris Benton deirdre. This was a Cedric Morris bred iris with white petals with maroon feathery edging. It looks to be quite dramatic. The last purchase was a cheaper one on the way home from a toilet stop-off. I got a primula vialli. This was instead of the candelabras I had seen at Harlow Carr. This will fit better amongst my existing plants though I could probably do with another pot or two. But it will gradually spread.

I hope you have enjoyed my Harlow Carr visit and I make no apologies for featuring more than six photos. There are still lots more I could show off.

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22 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 36.6.21 RHS Harlow Carr”

  1. Absolutely stunning photos, I especially love the crow picture, I also love the corvids. I envy you your visit to Wisley, I’ve only been once but would like to go again. Glad the exams went well, a little bit of relaxation now? Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The crow was one of my favourite pics. I’d snuck around on it and like the soft focus ferns background. I’d be interested to visit at a different point of year to see what other seasonal interest they have as it struck me as a summer heavy garden. But might be wrong.

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  2. Very nice photo of the small tortoiseshell. I saw one yesterday on a primula vialii (which you have now) and I managed to photograph it between 2 showers. Soon I’ll post it on Twitter. These irises are also photogenic, and you succeeded in taking them, like all the beautiful photos of this weekend. Glad your exams went well

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    1. I’m surprised vialli doesn’t get listed as beneficial for wildlife as the flowers strike me as being suitable for a range of insects. Butterflies particularly. I do like an iris. I’ve bought a few too many recently and need to find space for them as they are border ones not really pot ones.

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    1. Thanks. Glad to get plant health out the way. Didn’t enjoy revising active chemicals in herbicides that are either already banned or set to be withdrawn from sale. The curriculum is a bit out of date in places but set to be getting phased out and updated. Hopefully change some of these areas.

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    1. The different species go over much of the year. I use a few of the winter iris unguicularis for January to March. Then reticulata take over for spring. Then bearded iris, Dutch and our native foetidisma. Quite a few others through summer though I have no autumn options yet. A few remain interesting for foliage. Iris pallida variegata has lovely striped grass like leaves that remain good after the flowers are gone.

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  3. I have not had the fortune of visiting this RHS garden, but Wisley used to be a regular when I lived in the south east. The planting around the stream is lovely, I like those blocks of colour. Irises have been fabulous this spring – we saw dozens of beauties whilst on holiday in Somerset the last week of May, I am very tempted to buy a couple of the bulb variety (Dutch). You have some lovely photos here. If you would like to see my irises they appear on my flower blog which has come back into life now!

    iris extravaganza

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  4. Nice to see a place I haven’t visited in a while (several years, nothing to do with the pandemic). There are always changes but the alpine house looks reassuringly familiar 😊


  5. All these photos really made my day Joshua – some very beautiful shots. Of course I like the look of the alpine house. There are always lots of wonders to be found in one of those.

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