We have returned from a break away in North Yorkshire. We’ve had a fabulous time glamping out in the moors. We’ve crammed a lot into a short break away but today’s blog will focus on our trip to Helmsley Walled Gardens. I had heard of the gardens previously but haven’t visited. We opted for it as we had for one through the gardener’s world magazine card. This comes free with the magazine once a year and is well worth the issue price. Just this one trip has paid back for the magazine. Alice was free as under 16’s don’t have to pay. She also got a good activity booklet to take away.
The walled gardens go back to 1758 when it was built by the Feversham family to supply them with fruit and veg at the nearby Dumcombe Park. It fell into disrepair after WWI but was re-envisioned as a therapeutic garden by a local practise nurse, Alison Ticehurst. While she didn’t get to see her idea come to her fruition it has continued as a place for people to heal through horticulture. The garden continues to aid people with a variety of physical disabilities as well as depression and anxiety. It is maintained by a core of staff and friendly volunteers, many of whom we chatted with as went around.
The Orchid House
You enter the gardens through the cafe area and we then turned around to see the Orchid House. This is in the process of being renovated. The panes have been replaced which has been a painstaking process as the spaces are of many different sizes. A new heating and water system is going in. It is looking good and when it’s all complete and stocked it will be able to house some fascinating plants I’m sure.
Currently, it is housing the pelargoniums in the centre.
Then one side has a good collection of aeoniums. I enjoyed a talk from the British Cactus & Succulent Society last month on aeoniums so it was good to see many together. It showed their native spread across the Canary Islands. It was interesting to see the variety in the lecture as we normally see just a handful that have emerged from the same couple of cultivars. My own two are a bit sorry looking and I want to try and give them better care through this winter.
Then a few random succulents along the bench.
There were several moth traps set along the orchid house and outside and several of the catches were on display before being released. There was a good variety and a volunteer showed us some of the catches.
The Long Border
From the Orchid House we went along the long border. This runs from one end of the garden to the Orchid House. This is largely herbaceous perennials and it was looking very nice currently. The central hot border was used for the 2018 film of the Secret Garden.
The Echinops were stars currently. They grow in poor soil and are drought tolerant. But when grown on richer soil they grow taller. These had formed large globes.
The bees could get enough of them.
Alice was excited to explore all the paths from the side of the long border which she considered to be secret paths.
Little border run off the long border with spots to sit and explore.
The annual border
To what I think was the east side of the gardens several large beds had been given to annuals. The cornflower were dominating the mix currently. I hope they get left to go to seed as the birds will love all the seed heads.
Then some daises and poppies stood out amongst the blue.
Alongside the annual beds there is a good orchard stocking a good variety of fruit trees, then a few more growing as cordons along the wall.
They are looking to have a good harvest in a few months. The shop sells a number of preserves and chutneys so I imagine these are harvested for those.
Neighbouring the orchard is a labyrinth cut into the grass. Garden labyrinths fit well into the therapeutic garden as they are meant to be walked as a time and place for contemplation.
Alice on the other hand has no respect for tradition and sees them as a race to the centre.
At the other end of the garden is a wildlife pond and chicken area adding to the productivity of the garden.
Not the friendliest-looking birds though.
And in the corner a shaded area with a good grouping of Acers.
The west wall is given over to Irises which are over now but I’m sure make a spring visit worthwhile. There were a few Kniphofia still in flower.
There are a number of metal statues dotted around the garden. These are nicely displayed and fit nicely within the loose planting style.
Even though it was a bit of an overcast day there was still plenty of pollinator activity.
There were many busy bees taking advantage of the garden. In many ways, I think gardens encourage more biodiversity than reserves with the gardener’s desire to ram in many different plants rather than small monoculture areas of limited planting.
Wasps have a bad reputation but they are actually quite useful as pollinators and they attack many pests of garden plants maintaining a natural balance.
A wall of passionflowers in the plant sales area was buzzing with many visitors.
The Vinehouse Cafe
No garden visit is really complete without refreshments. The cafe is housed within an orangery setup along one of the garden’s walls. It was worth a visit having been voted Visit England’s Visitor Experience Award winners in Yorkshire within the food and drink category. Grapevines grow up from one edge and hang over the tables.
We both enjoyed a savoury scone, while Alice had a caramel shortbread slice. I particularly enjoyed mine as I went for a blue cheese and walnut scone. Blue cheese is frowned upon by the rest of the family when at home but I can get away with it when out.
The grapes are reaching a good size. I don’t know how well they ripen but it looks very nice.
Normally a garden visit would have ended with a plant purchase but as the car space was going to be needed for the return journey after glamping I had to forgo that pleasure. The plants for sale were largely from the Yorkshire Plants company which are stocked local to me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t get closer to home. If space wasn’t an issue there was a decent selection of plants available at a reasonable price. I would recommend a visit to the gardens. It was a good family day out The gardens were looking good. The food was delicious and we all came away happy. Plus by visiting and spending you support the therapeutic side of the garden. Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour.