Gardens mean so many different things to different people: a place to relax, an opportunity to learn and be inspired, a fun day out for families, or somewhere simply to enjoy a good walk and see local wildlife. I like to think we tick all those boxes at Harlow Carr, and we have an added extra too: our art and craft offering, writes Liz Thwaite, Head of RHS Garden Harlow Carr.
Harlow Carr is well-known for its sculptures, particularly our willow Boxing Hares and the Big Friendly Giant which are huge hits with our younger visitors. We’re growing the collection this year with a range of new additions designed to appeal to all ages.
A new willow ginger beer bottle has been installed as part of our Famous Five-inspired summer activities to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s first book, ‘Five on a Treasure Island’. Blyton’s books were all about adventure and exploration in the great outdoors, so the garden is the perfect setting. Children can explore winding paths and play in a willow wigwam camp and mums and dads can take a nostalgic look at the life and works of this much-loved author at an exhibition in the Bath House Gallery.
For the grown-ups, we’re working with ‘Just Makers’ to set up a wildlife and nature-themed Autumn Sculpture Trail which is a great way to showcase the talents of Yorkshire artists, from blacksmiths and ceramic specialists to carvers and willow weavers.
More than 45 handmade pieces will be on show throughout September and October; we’re still making the final selection and identifying the best locations to show them off, but a little bird tells me it includes an old washing machine recycled into a fun and interactive piece of art. Watch this space!
There are hard-to-miss highlights for children too, including a giant-sized ant, ladybird and caterpillar, as well as Betsy, our 15ft willow bee who flew to the garden this week following a stop-off at Cardiff Flower Show earlier this year. We’re encouraging visitors to post their photos with Betsy on social media using the hashtag #mewiththebee so please join in – we’d love to see your snaps.
We’ve also welcomed a new Artist in Residence to the garden. Nel Whatmore, who has lived in Yorkshire for more than 35 years, will produce a series of paintings charting the changing seasons at Harlow Carr.
She completed her first painting last month: ‘July 17’ features the pretty white and yellow flowers of the Leucantheum x superbum – commonly known as the shasta daisy – which at heights of up to 3ft, is one of the many flower giants to grace the Main Borders.
All 12 paintings – one for each month - will go on display at our own annual flower show next June so visitors have a chance to see the full collection.
Every year, the RHS hosts a photography competition to encourage people to get outdoors and record how inspirational plants and gardens can be.
This year the competition attracted more than 11,000 entries from the UK and around the world, and for the first time, we’re delighted to be hosting a display of the winning entries from 2017! Make sure you visit soon though as the photos are only on show until the end of August. Why not bring your own camera with you? Any budding David Baileys out there can enter the 2018 competition which is now open.