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Garden to visit

                                                              ‘An ambitious planting
                                                             programme means that
                                                             the garden now has one
                                                                   of the UK’s largest
                                                                collections of species

                      Laura Fanthorpe meets Peter Roberts,
                      the man behind an exotic Himalayan                      tUrn over
                                                                                 to find
                      garden in North Yorkshire                                oUt more

  38 Garden Answers                                                         Garden Answers 39
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Garden to visit
                                                                                                         distinct areas – from boggy to dry –
                                                                                                         in the garden and it can be trial and
                                                                                                         error to work out where certain
                                                                                                         plants will thrive,” says Peter.
                                                                                                         “Some difficult sections have been
                                                                                                         planted up four times already.”
                                                                                                            Now magnolias, sorbus and
                                                                                                         cornus give additional colour.
                                                                                                         However, it is the rhododendrons
                                                                                                                                                   ‘i love the sense
                                                                                                         that Peter adores: “What most
                                                                                                         people don’t realise is that in
                                                                                                                                                   of fun you get in
                                                                                                         addition to the fabulous colours,
                                                                                                         they have lovely foliage with             experimenting
                                                                                                                                                   with unusual
                                                                                                         intricate leaf shapes. Every single
                                                                                                         variety is different.”
                                                                                                            One such example is Rhododendron
                                                                                                         roxieanum var oreonastes, with its
                                                                                                         narrow, glossy leaves.                    plants’
                                                                                                                The collection is vast and the
                                                                                                                   rhododendrons add
                                                                                                                      splashes of bright
                                                                                                                         colour to the hillside.
                                                                                                                           ‘Roza Stevenson’
                                                                                                                            stands out with its
                                                                                                                             elegant, creamy
                                                                                                                             white blooms, as
                                                                                                                            does ‘Nancy
                                                                                                                            Evans’, an RHS
  Gunnera by the lake with heron sculptures behind                                                                         Award of Garden
                                                                                                                          Merit winner with

           idden from sight in a wooded                        Sheltered site                 Rhododendron              gorgeous yellow and
           valley, amid sweeping                               Exotic plants thrive            ‘Halfdan Lem’         pink petals, coloured like
           farmland in North Yorkshire,                        in the sheltered garden,                          the inside of a sea shell. The
  is a spectacular garden.                                     which has a northerly aspect, a           enormous red blooms of ‘Halfdan
      The Himalayan Garden is a                                series of natural springs, and            Lem’ are showy, while ‘Loderi
  20-acre rich tapestry of spring                              ericaceous soil, all on a slope down      Venus’ has huge blooms and a
  colour. It has more than 1,000                               to a lake.                                lovely scent. Rhododendron
  rhododendrons, 250 azaleas and                                  The original part of the house,        ‘Starbright Champagne’ has new
  160 magnolias, as well as the                                which overlooks the valley garden,        growth that is burgundy red, fades
  glorious primulas, bluebells and                             was built in 1780 although there          to pink and then to white.
  daffodils that carpet the ground.                            was a settlement there from the              However, Peter doesn’t limit
      At Grewelthorpe near Ripon,                              Norse times. In the grounds               his love of exotic plants to
  it is a true plantsman’s garden         visitor              there were remnants of an old             rhododendrons. Other star
  – its creation is testament to          informAtion          rhododendron garden, including            performers in the garden include
  one man’s enormous enthusiasm             The                a magnificent 100-year-old plant          Azara lanceolata, a Chilean
  and knowledge.                          Himalayan            smothered in blooms. It was               evergreen shrub with yellow petals,
      Peter Roberts started the project   Garden &             this original garden Peter decided        while the pink heart-shaped flowers
  in 1998, two years after buying the     Sculpture Park,      to reinstate.                             of Dicentra spectabilis hang over all
  house and land. “I was not              The Hutts,              His first job was to eradicate a
  interested in gardening to start        Grewelthorpe,        Japanese knotweed infestation from
  with,” he explains. “Then one day       Ripon                the coppiced woodland. “It looked
  I got advice from Alan Clarke, an       HG4 3DA              like a jungle!” he says. Another task
  eminent Himalayan plant collector,      Open 24              was to remove overgrown
  who said our garden was one of the      April-13 June        sycamores to let more light into the
  best possible sites for this type of    2010, Tuesday-       undergrowth. Then he started
  garden. This intrigued me, so I         Sunday 10am-         planting up the garden.
  decided to give it a go!”               4pm. Open               The idea was to grow many
      Since then, Peter has developed     Bank Holiday         varieties, then collect seed and
  an enormous passion for his plants.     Mondays.             cuttings from them to sell in a
                                          Visit www.
  In the woodland garden, 850ft                                nursery. Rhododendrons, azaleas,
  above sea level, visitors will find                          and magnolias loved the site and
  plants from around the world,                                grew extremely quickly.
                                          Facilities – plant
  including New Zealand, Mexico,          nursery, tea
                                                                  An ambitious planting
  Northern India, Bhutan, Tibet,          room, toilets        programme, and a collecting trip to
  China, the Himalayas, Vietnam,          The garden is        Bhutan in 2008, means that the
  Taiwan, South Korea, Nepal, Chile       not suitable         garden now has one of the UK’s
  and Japan. “It is not just a            for wheelchair       largest collections of species                                   Metal herons
  landscape, but a comprehensive          access               rhododendrons.                                                       in the lake
  plant collection,” says Peter.                                  “There are many different and

  40 Garden Answers                                                                                                 
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Garden to visit
  the narrow pathways, and Acer
  palmatum ‘Katsura’, with its lime
  green foliage tinged in red, grows
  like a weed.
     “I love the sense of fun you get in
  experimenting with unusual
  plants,” says Peter. “Chilean plants
  just shouldn’t be able to grow in
  this part of the world but, against
  the odds, they do.”
     Standing at the lowest point of
  the garden, you look up and see
  vibrant patches of colour billowing
  up the sides of the hills, threaded
  with zigzagging paths. The air is
  heavily perfumed by the scent of
  the spring blooms, which mingles
  with an earthy aroma from the
  woodchip paths. Visitors can walk
  along these paths, past the green
  shoots of hostas, the hellebores and
  snakeshead fritillaries.
     Bluebells carpet the ground,
  looking beautiful next to pink
  rhododendron blooms. Not a single        The spiral copper fountain by
  bluebell appeared on the site before     Giles Rayner
  work started on the garden, but
  opening up the canopy has allowed        put down the pellets and lost
  light to reach them.                     every single one! There are
                                           difficulties with controlling
  Pest control                             pests on such a vast scale, and
  The birdsong is noticeable and, as       Peter has had to install wire
  you wander around, birds rustle in       fencing around the boundaries of
  the undergrowth before hopping           the garden to rabbit-proof it.
  out, surprised at your intrusion.           The garden has been recreated as
  “We wanted the garden to look as         a sculpture park. Eight new
  natural as possible, as if the plants    sculptures have recently been          While             place next to towering gunnera.
  have always been here,” says Peter.      installed, with the centrepiece a      yoU’re in            Throughout the garden,
                                                                                  the AreA
  He is keen to encourage birds in the     new work by Giles Rayner, a leading                      sculptures of hands and shells look
                                                                                    Newby Hall &
  garden, and believes numbers have        UK water sculpture artist. Other                         so polished you just have to touch
  increased since the planting             sculptures include works from a                          them. An open field next to the
                                                                                  Ripon, North
  scheme began.                            Zimbabwean group of artists.           Yorkshire HG4
                                                                                                    woods shows off a sculpture of a
     The birds act as a natural defence       Peter plans to keep on adding       5AETel. 0845      6ft swift, wings extended, flying
  against slug and snail damage.           sculptures, one or two every year.     450 4068          between two oak trees. In the
  However, slug pellets are still          Metal mushrooms spring up from         or visit www.     lake, metal herons eat metal fish
  scattered around the primulas,           the undergrowth, while sculptures     in the shallows.
  which are the most vulnerable to         of dragonflies sit on rocks beside                          The Himalayan Garden also
  attack. One year they decided not to     boggy areas, looking perfectly in        Fountains       has a nursery selling nearly 200
                                                                                  Abbey & Studley   different varieties of rhododendron
                                                                                  Royal Water       as well as many other unusual
                          Rock                                       Plants for   Garden, Ripon,
                          waterfall                                  sale &                         ericaceous shrubs and perennials.
                                                                                  Nr Harrogate,
                                                                     nursery                        The majority of the rhododendrons
                                                                                  North Yorkshire
                                                                                                    and azaleas are sourced by seed
                                                                                  HG4 3DY
                                                                                  Tel. 01765
                                                                                                    from the Himalayan area.
                                                                                  608888 or visit      What makes this garden so
                                                                                  www.              interesting is that it feels a bit like a
                                                                                  fountainsabbey.   secret club, with a dedicated group
                                                                                    of followers. Once people discover
                                                                                                    it, they come back year after year.
                                                                                    Constable          “Sometimes I overhear visitors
                                                                                  Burton Hall       saying ‘Oh, there’s a new plant
                                                                                                    here’,” says Peter. “They really
                                                                                  Leyburn, North
                                                                                                    remember how everything looks
                                                                                  Yorkshire DL8
                                                                                                    and are excited every time we add to
                                                                                  5LJ Tel. 01677
                                                                 Hybrid           450428 or visit
                                                                                                    it.” The collection is continually
                                                                                  www.              evolving, meaning that there is
                                                 Large leaf
                                                                                  constable         always something new and exotic to
                              The lake                                                              discover at the Himalayan Garden
                                                                                     in North Yorkshire.

  42 Garden Answers                                                                                    

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