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Rainy day at Harlow Carr

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Wellies
Inappropriate short Desigual wellies at Harlow Carr

A whole RHS garden to myself

Saturday’s torrential rain didn’t put me off going to RHS Harlow Carr (the other half was going to an FA Cup match down the road), so the opportunity of a lift was too good to miss.

If you’ve never been, or are put off by the thought it’s somehow exclusive, fear not. It’s the garden you come here for, not the tea room (more of that later).

When the weather is terrible, you’re assured of almost complete solitude looking around the borders, which are wonderful at this time of year and a great inspiration if your garden’s started to flag.

There’s a lot of Piet Oudolf-style prairie planting these days, most notably Echinacea, Rudbeckia and grasses, which look great, although the Mediterranean border had started to go over, unsurprisingly.

There was an autumn plant fair on, and I felt heartily sorry for the nurseries’ staff who attended, who were drenched.

When the weather got too bad even for me, I spent some time in the library (book sale) and in the plant centre, I was sorely tempted by conifer x Thuja plicata Goldy, almost yellow, with foliage that gives off a pineapple fragrance.

Back to Betty’s Cafe and Tea Room, where everyone who had decided to visit had crammed in. This is where I have to take issue with the RHS. There’s nowhere in the garden for families (or anyone) to eat at a sensible price. Another choice – Betty’s Tea House in the Garden.

No wonder it’s full of comfortably well-off middle and upper management types (retired) in sensible clobber and equally annoying families with children called Jocasta and Peregrine – they’re the only ones who can afford it.

The quality of the food is excellent – it’s only the prices and lack of choice I have an issue with. Sample price – Bacon and Raclette Rosti (£12) and a 500ml bottle of Landlord (£4.50) = £16.50.

Indeed, I appeared to be the only person who dared to venture in eating alone AND drinking beer. Combined with my ‘sex wellies’ and porn handbag, I was given a wide berth, so I thoroughly recommend this if you want peace and quiet.

Ticket prices if you’re not an RHS member – and why would you be, if you’re new to gardening – cost £11 per adult, £5.50 per child, or a family ticket (two adults, two 5-16-year-olds) is £28.25. That’s a hefty price tag before food and drink.

So come on RHS, if the organisation is so keen on encouraging more young people to become gardeners, give families an affordable choice for food and drink  – they may actually come and visit.

 

 

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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