May meadows and spring showers

24 May 2024

Garden News

5 min read

Everyone’s favourite topic of conversation seems to be the weather. I’m not going to break from the norm too much, so here goes.

The weather this year so far has been pretty wet. We have had about three days off from the perpetual rain and cold, and then suddenly, just like that, we have hot, sunny days. There hasn’t been a gradual change from winter to spring. It was as though someone just flipped a switch.

On top of that we had a huge rain storm which meant we had some challenges at York Gate. It tore up paths and dragged in massive amounts of mud and debris from outside the garden; it destroyed parts of the dell as the stream overflowed, smashing up a wonderful stream wall built very recently by one of our Wednesday volunteers.

Just the week before, I had bought some more of my favourite ever fern, Pentarhizidium orientale (I’ll admit it’s not the catchiest name but it’s a great plant) from Alchemy Ferns at the Harrogate Show to add to the stream banks of the dell, but the water surge has completely washed them away.

The garden has felt the change as well. The trees have sprung into leaf overnight and the race for growth has almost been audible in the beds and borders.

Our big planting out session has begun; with the new planting in the white garden complete, we have moved on to the planting up of Sybil’s garden with the jungle style plants. Sybil’s garden always has a slow start to the year with the tender plants needing the summer warmth to really get going, but its hardy stars are already moving.

The wonderfully large croziers of the tree ferns are unfurling and the silver new growth flushes of the umbrella trees, Schefflera, are worth closer inspection.

Next we move on to the succulent house residents. This year we are returning the Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ to the hot garden as their dark purple rosettes on sticks will fit very well with the colours. The paved garden itself will be planted up with an array of succulents and spikes, so if there was ever a part of the garden that’s ‘look but don’t touch’ it will be that. I am even returning the amazing electric shock plant from Chile, Loasa acanthifolia, with its bristly stinging leaves and profusion of beautiful orange flowers. Don’t worry too much, the common name is a complete exaggeration and its sting is no worse than our native nettle. It will be right at the back of the border, away from inquiring hands or noses.

Our team of intrepid garden volunteers have been working hard tackling the sea of weed seedlings appearing all over the garden. The plants we don’t want are growing just as quickly as the ones we do!

Our trainee gardener Amy has been at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival helping to plant up the People’s Choice award-winning garden that The Laskett created by garden designer David Lewis and now she is off to spend the week working at my old stomping ground up the road, Harewood House.

A major job for us still at the garden is emptying out all the finished spring display pots and planting up the summer ideas. It is a huge waste to throw away your finished spring bulbs but we don’t have enough terracotta pots for everything, so a great tip is to just tip out your bulb pots and drop them into plastic pots to let the bulbs die down naturally and reabsorb all that leafy goodness back into the bulbs, then plant them out in your garden.

As I am sure regular visitors to the garden know, the meadow looks fantastic at this time of year. Orchids, pignut and yellow rattle are all fighting for your and the York Gate bees’ attention, but what some of you might not realise is that we have a second secret meadow in between us and Stair Foot Lane that has been overrun by Himalayan balsam and Japanese butterbur. I would love to make this an accessible part of the site but it will take some taming before it is public-ready. Tom has spent many early mornings of late disappearing down the hill with his scythe in hand to do battle with these invasive species.

Ellie and Sarah have been on a mission and the plant sales area is looking great. When you visit us make sure you stop in and check out the amazing range of plants we have for sale this year. One of our volunteers will be happy to help you with any questions you might have.

With so many jobs to do in the garden at this time of year it’s easy to forget why you do it. Life (not just in the garden) can be unpredictable and stressful. You only get one. Make time to stop, sit, look and listen to your garden. Inspect the fine details of a tiny flower or lie on your grass and get a bug’s eye view.

Happy gardening.

York Gate was generously gifted to the charity Perennial in 1994 to help people in horticulture.

Your visit to York Gate or one of our other fabulous gardens helps Perennial as a charity to support everyone who works with plants, trees, flowers or grass.

Perennial is the UK’s only charity supporting all those working in the horticultural community, as well as those who have retired, who dedicate their passion, time and energy to keeping Britain beautiful.

Every plant, tree, flower or lawn across our beautiful parks, commons, woodlands and gardens has a story to tell of the people who not only grow, tend, nurture and protect, but who also design and build these all-important green spaces.

The ultimate aim is for everyone to know that Perennial is there for them. That not only is there free, tailored one-to-one confidential support on hand when needed, but that everyone can access the free advice and information available 24/7 online; covering topics such as the impact of health issues, bereavement, redundancy, family breakdowns, career progression, as well as impartial money management and health & wellbeing tools.

By offering the right information and support at the time it is needed, the charity aims to help build better lives for all those within the horticultural industry – as we have been for over 185 years.

Arborists | Florists | Foresters | Gardeners | Garden Centre Employees | Garden Designers | Greenkeepers | Grounds Staff | Growers | Landscapers | Nursery Staff | Tree Surgeons | Viticulturists…

To enable us to continue our tailored support to the community, Perennial is calling upon all those working across all sectors of horticulture to participate in the 2024 Wellbeing Survey as their feedback really will make a difference.

The charity wants to understand more about people’s daily lives, both inside and outside of work, and the pressures they may be facing - not only to develop their services but to inform others within the industry on the key issues and challenges being faced.

The anonymous survey will run from 17th May until the end of June and is open to all sectors within horticulture. The results will be analysed and reported on by the University of Exeter and the findings shared with the industry this coming autumn.

Take part today