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MY LIFE WITH PLANTS: Northern England Gardens

By Jim Bishop, for Let's Talk Plants! September 2023.

Formal Garden at Littlethorpe Manor, York.

Northern England Gardens

I'm not exactly sure when Scott or I last toured English Gardens. I'm guessing that it was sometime before 2015. So, when we saw an opportunity to tour gardens in Southern Scotland and Northern England with the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, we decided it was time for a return visit. We hadn't previously visited any of these gardens or this part of the UK so were excited to see some new places.

The tour was 14 days in mid-June, starting in Glasgow Scotland and ended in Manchester England. Each day we would usually visit 2 to 3 gardens. Along the way, we'd visit small private cottage gardens, grand estate gardens, botanical gardens, and castle gardens.

I'm uncertain of the exact number of gardens we visited. But thank goodness for the iPhone so that I could capture photos and locations to aid as a memory device.

For this blog, I selected three of the gardens which I found the most interesting and photographic and then created short videos of each garden. It was a difficult task to decide which three to choose as I spent hours remembering and looking through the 1,933 photos I'd taken.

Here they are....

Gresharth Hall, Landcaster

Gresharth Hall is the private garden and home of landscape designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd. Arabella and her family have lived on the property since 1978, but most of the garden was designed and built starting in 1989. Arabella has designed over 400 gardens worldwide spanning the last 45 years. She's designed 6 Gold Medal gardens for Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show including winning the Best of Show in 1998. I believe the 'ruin' that was created for that garden was located near the stream in her home garden.

The garden had a very romantic style combining traditional English and Italian garden elements. The house was situated on a large pond with waterlilies creating stunning views with reflections of the house and garden. There was also a large rose garden, a workshop, kitchen garden, several formal gardens, a woodland garden and many others. Most impressive and inspirational for me were some of the pebble and cobblestone mosaics created by Maggie Howarth.

Jackson's Wold Garden, Sherburn

Jackson's Wold is another private garden. Three acres set atop a wold (high hill) in the wheat field area of Yorkshire and sheltered from the North Sea winds by the surrounding woodland. In fact, Richard and Sarah Cundall are wheat farmers that created the garden from the farmhouse and surrounding buildings starting in 1984. Their love of cottage gardening shows in the many vignettes they've created throughout the garden using plants and sometimes farm items. The garden has many 'rooms' each with their own style, but also has a wildflower meadow and woodland garden. Like almost every garden we visited on the tour it features a walled garden.

Arley Gardens - Northwich, Cheshire

Technically it is Arley Hall & Gardens, however, we were there late in the day and only visited the gardens. The garden is said to be one of the finest in Europe. The herbaceous border was the highlight of the visit and said to be the first in England dating back to at least 1846. It was one of the best borders we visited on the tour.

The garden has 2 areas - 7 acres of woodland gardens and 8 acres of formal gardens. We focused our visit on the formal garden which include a kitchen garden, teahouse garden, rose garden, and of course a walled garden. However, the Double Herbaceous Border was the star of the show.

Final notes -

I decided for this article not to identify the plants but instead to focus on the beauty of the gardens. Plus, many of these plants would be difficult for us to grow here. However, when a garden had a greenhouse, it often was full of plants we commonly grow here in San Diego.

But I did have to include this one photo of a stunning Erynguium. Most are difficult if not impossible to grow here, but almost every garden we visited in the UK had one or more varieties.

We enjoyed our tour with the Hardy Plant Society so much that we are planning to join their tour of the South Island of New Zealand in November 2024.


Jim Bishop is currently the SDHS board member in charge of publicity and he is also a past president and the 2019 Horticulturist of the Year.


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