RHS Garden Harlow Carr column with Liz Thwaite

Tom Cutter, Harry Johnson-Firth and Matt Brewer have made it to the Young Horticulturist regional finals.
Tom Cutter, Harry Johnson-Firth and Matt Brewer have made it to the Young Horticulturist regional finals.

Living in ‘God’s own county’, it’s easy to take for granted the beauty of the landscape that surrounds us; we’re very lucky. A defining and much-loved feature of Yorkshire is our dry stone walls, those beautiful, man-made boundaries that criss-cross the countryside, dividing the land into manageable parcels.

Until recently, I haven’t stopped to think in any detail about their construction, but as we’re having some work carried out to improve the entrance to Crag Lane – you may have noticed two huge stone monoliths which appeared overnight – I thought it was time to pay closer attention.

The huge stone monoliths at RHS Harlow Carr.

The huge stone monoliths at RHS Harlow Carr.

It really is an art form.

Watching Neil Beasley, the dry stone walling specialist and his team at work rebuilding the walls was mesmerising; that they could make something so organically beautiful from literally a pile of old stones is amazing.

Neil explained that the cross section of the wall needs to be A-shaped and each stone has to be carefully placed so that the outside fascia tapers into the middle of the wall, as this adds strength.

Every so often, a single through stone will stretch across the whole section, again for added strength. Smaller stones are placed into the middle part – which are in effect packing material – the equivalent of cement to bind it all together.

I was so absolutely absorbed by my impromptu walling experience that I’m seriously considering signing up for one of the dry stone walling courses that we run here as part of our adult education programme!

Boot camp for plants

At the far end of the garden close to the hen hotel (Cluckingham Palace!), a digger has been at work; we’re never far from a digger at Harlow Carr as there’s always something to prepare, level and tidy.

This time we’re using our heavy machinery to cut out and clear an area for a Geum trial in partnership with our sister garden at Wisley.

Geums are a great addition to any garden, and the trial of more than 120 different species is like a boot camp for plants, designed to test their performance, colour, durability and strength.

The Geums are currently sheltering in our nursery area, ready for planting out in March. Some have fantastic names, and I can’t wait to see what Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’, Geum ‘Moonlight Serenade’ and Geum ‘Wet Kiss’ will look like when they’re planted out.

I’m sure these sound more like cocktails than plants!

Young Horticulturist of the Year competition – countdown to the final

I’m thrilled to report that three of the younger members of Harlow Carr’s garden team have made it through to the regional finals of the 2017 Young Horticulturist of the Year competition.

Run by the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Young Horticulturist of the Year is a celebration of the brightest young talent in the horticultural profession.

Tom Cutter, Harry Johnson-Firth and Matt Brewer all made it into the top three in the local heats, and now go on to the regional finals at Harlow Carr in March.

Good Luck Tom, Harry and Matt.

Upcoming events at Harlow Carr

18 – 26 February: ‘Whatever the Weather’ Half Term Family Fun.

Until 26 February: ‘Gardens Behind Barbed Wire’ exhibition.

1 – 28 March: Bath House Wool and Textile Showcase.