Art blooms at York Gate

19 January 2024

Garden News

4 min read

Well, it has finally stopped raining! Cue the sound of applause from gardeners across the country.

The stream flowing through the Dell at York Gate has been a raging torrent for months now and as lovely as it has been to see water flowing through the garden again, it’s becoming a bit of an issue as it’s eroding the banks of the stream away. We’ve even lost a couple of interesting plants that will probably now be a couple of miles downstream. Either the woodland behind us or one lucky person whose garden backs onto the beck is going to receive a generous, nicely sized clump of meconopsis. It was thriving on the banks of the stream before Christmas but has since vanished entirely.

Looking forward, we have our snowdrop days coming up where we open the garden for visitors to come and see our growing collection of interesting snowdrops.

My worry is that the lawns at York Gate are mostly standing water at the moment. Something we might have to do to compensate for this is aerate the lawns, a fancy way of saying stabbing a garden fork into the grass many many MANY times. This can be done with a hollow tining machine (the sort of thing you see used on a golf course or bowling green) but I think if we run a big heavy thing over the grass in this waterlogged state, we’ll just make things worse. We have had enough rain for now so if anybody has a personal connection to the big weatherman in the sky, please ask him to stop sending any more of the wet stuff down to us.

As I say, we will be open for our snowdrop days in two weeks, so we are working hard to make sure everything is looking spotless. We will be re-gravelling some of the paths; I am fairly convinced our visitors are not stealing pocketfuls every day, but it just seems to disappear, so we do this job annually. The team will be cutting back any plants that are turning to mush but selectively leaving any nice standing dead twigs from perennials.

One of the most exciting things that’s happened at York Gate in January is the wonderful new artwork going up in the café and plant sale hut.

The café will showcase art from a group of West Yorkshire artists known as the Redbrick Artists. The group were allowed into the garden on closed days last year to sketch and draw the garden.

One of the Redbrick Artists, Sumi Cannon, who is also a volunteer in our nursery said “This project has been a really interesting one. It is fascinating to see all the different sources of inspiration the artists have discovered in the garden and how they have each interpreted them in their own styles. There will definitely be something for everyone in this show.” The paintings will be shown in the café at York Gate from 27 January, for 6 months, during normal opening hours.

The works on show are very diverse, from scenes of the garden to individual flowers and plants in both modern and traditional styles. All work is for sale with 30% of all sales being donated to Perennial which is obviously fantastic for us.

To complement the snowdrops for sale in our Plant Sales hut, we will be showing and selling beautiful line illustrations in a combination of digital and traditional sketches and paintings of Galanthus (snowdrops) by Glen Southern.

Glen is an award-winning artist and a great friend of mine. He’s known as The Aroid Artist and he’s a concept artist and sculptor, with a background in TV and film over the past 30 years. Glen has a passion for growing and drawing aroids and other rare plants.

Thinking about your own garden, now is a good time to prune your fruit trees. It’s early enough that the sap shouldn’t be rising yet, and late enough that the trees won’t have months of open wounds before they have a chance to heal.

Our trainee Amy has been on a fruit pruning day with her college course so she will be putting all she has learnt into practice on our ‘John Downie’ crab apple tree.

We will also be performing winter pruning on the wisteria at the front of the house. A sort of adage of wisteria pruning is second to two and seventh to seven, so basically pruning the growth back to two buds in the second month (yes, I know it is still January but it’s not a hard and fast rule). I personally might leave three or four buds but that doesn’t relate to the month adage. At the base of last year’s extension growth, you should by now see fat round buds that will be this year’s flowers and further up the stem the buds will be smaller and pointier: these will be the leafy growth. On the seventh month you prune the vigorous growth back to seven buds just to contain the plant, so it doesn’t take over the world.

Tom will be working his magic on the climbing roses, firstly removing any remaining foliage and old hips then any damaged or dead wood. He will then untie the whole plant from the wall, select which stems he is going to keep and retrain and retie back into place. This might seem like a faff, but it is important to take off the old ties as they can harbour overwintering pests and might be starting to rub or bite into the bark. Tom honed his skills on a rose pruning course at Sissinghurst and takes inspiration from the likes of Jenny ‘Niff’ Barnes.

Lastly, we are applying mulch around parts of the garden. We have composted bark for the Woodland Walk and Old Orchard, leaf mould for the Dell, manure and compost for the Kitchen Garden and some new fine gravel for the Rockery.