Early this week I visited my friend in Yorkshire and we had the chance to visit a couple of gardens whilst my daughter was doing work experience locally.  My friend lives in a beautiful part of the world – Helmsley – within striking distance of some fabulous Yorkshire gardens. Try as we might, we had time to visit only two – Helmsley Walled Garden and Yorkshire Lavender but both were knock your socks off terrific.  Here are some highlights from these two, along with a couple of related things in my own garden.

Helmsley Walled Garden bordersHelmsley Walled Garden

This garden is a gem of a place and a testament to what is possible when a person with drive and gumption gets hold of 8 acres of derelict walled garden.  Built in the shadow of derelict medieval Helmsley Castle, the garden once provided fresh produce to the Faversham family at nearby Duncombe Park but fell into disrepair when a commercial leaseholder left in the late 1980s.

The reclaimed garden was the vision of Alison Ticehurst back in 1996 and is now maintained by a small core team together with a small army of volunteers.  The garden is a stunning collection of garden rooms, orchards and herbaceous borders and also home to a horticultural therapy project. Pictures of the derelict garden can be found at the Helmsley Walled Garden website and the transformation is remarkable.

I’d love to visit in other seasons but in late July it was the borders that really shone out for me – in glorious golds and yellows.  The song by Donovan describes mellow yellow but here the yellow is far from mellow.  It’s in your face bananarama, and in the bright sunshine just glowed.

Hopefully you can see from this picture, but the hedges that provide structure here are copper beech.  They provide a dark backdrop which sets off the glowing perennials.

Helmsley Walled Garden greenhousesHelmsley Walled Garden

Regular readers of this blog will know I love my greenhouse and I can’t resist visiting any glasshouses I stumble across.  The huge wooden greenhouses at Helmsley Walled Garden have been restored.  One houses a giant vine and a great cafe, and the second these lovely  stands of pelargoniums, aeoniums and other sun worshipping specimens.  The plants at the table nearest the window have a stunning view of the borders beyond.
Helmsley Walled Garden

These glasshouses face south-east and I know from experience that few plants that can withstand the heat and strong light here in the summer months.  Like the team at Helmsley Walled Garden, I have chosen to grow pelargoniums in the hot porch of my greenhouse.  I’ve previously shared images of some of the plants in my collection and you can read about them here. Mine are much smaller than the collection at Helmsley but I’m hoping I’ll overwinter them successfully and that they’ll fill out in the coming years.  I’m tempted to source some aeoniums now too…

Pelargoniums in pots

Yorkshire lavender – Lavendula ‘Grosso’Yorkshire Lavender

Few car parks in this world smell lovely, but stepping out of the car at Yorkshire Lavender and that’s exactly what you smell – Lavender.  Overlooking the rolling hills of rural Yorkshire, the fields of this site have been planted with rows and rows of billowing lavender.  Buzzing with bees, the variety shown in this picture is ‘Grosso’, used extensively in the lavender fields of Provence.

It’s a large plant needs a bit of space to show it off adequately but here it simply took the breath away.

Yorkshire lavender – pick and mixYorkshire Lavender

If ‘Grosso’ isn’t for you then this a great place to go to sample other varieties.  In the gardens behind the nursery, rows and rows of different varieties can be seen to stunning effect in various shades of purple, mauve, white and pale pink.Yorkshire Lavender

I’m not a lavender expert at all and was bamboozled by the range available in this much loved plant.

Whilst visiting I realised that since removing a series of woody, sickly plants I have no lavender at all in my garden.  A visit to the plant nursery put this right and I bought three plants of a lavender called ‘Melissa lilac’ which has largish flowers and silvery foliage. Lavender melissa lilac

Giant scabious – Cephelaria gigantiaGiant scabious

I’m featuring this plant as I saw it at both the Helmsley Walled Garden and the side borders at Yorkshire Lavender.  A magnet for bumble bees, this tall plant waves in the breeze providing eye-level interest in a pretty primrose yellow.  I really love it but came away thinking I couldn’t think of a suitable place in my garden for such an impactful plant.

Giant scabious

Yesterday it struck me that actually I do.  This border that I shared last week has a row of tall white leucanthemum daisies at the back.  They were already elsewhere in my garden and were an obvious free choice to provide a floral backdrop to this border.  But the white colour has been troubling me as it doesn’t blend well with the blues, yellows and oranges of the other plants here.  But the scabious would be a fabulous alternative.  I’m mulling over whether to move the daisies elsewhere and invest in some of these smashing scabious.

herbaceous border

Picking for the showFlowers in jugs

I left the sunshine in Yorkshire and returned home yesterday to heavy rain.  Much needed for the garden, with my local show today, I was very worried that many of the plants I want to enter would be flattened.

I normally pick the morning of the show but I decided to dodge the showers and pick some of the more vulnerable plants on Friday. I put these in jugs of water by the back door, where they were sheltered from the rain but could remain cool with a breeze coming through the open door.

On the left is a jug of Cosmos ‘Xanthos’, a pretty lemon yellow variety and on the right are nepetas, salvia, oregano flower and verbena bonariensis for a new category for the show this year – a vase of blue/mauve flowers.


This seasonal diary is part of a weekly link-up of garden bloggers from around the world, called Six on Saturday.  For more information and links to other blogs crammed with gardening activity, check the blog of host The Propagator.