Spring at RHS Harlow Carr

April showers lead to lush woodlands

Posing in front of a huge Rhododendron is a great slimming aid. All pictures by Gary Welford

Much as I love visiting Harlow Carr, in Harrogate, it never fails to rain when I’m there. It’s a mark of how good the garden is that you’re still prepared to walk around, even in the most inclement of weather.

Spring is a wonderful time to visit – those April showers mean the garden is bursting with life and colour, although the daffodils were mostly past their best.

It’s the best time to visit the tracts of woodlands and streamside gardens. Before the trees come into full leaf, the ground cover plants make hay while they can still see the sun – Epimedium, Pulmonaria, Anenome nemorosa, Erythronium, Fritillaries (crown and snakes head) to name a few.

Down by the stream, the yellow skunk cabbage is in full bloom – along with its warning signs (it’s an invasive pest), along with primulas and emerging perennial shoots. It’s fascinating to see the giant Gunnera and hostas emerging on the damper soils (no snail damage either).

On the other hand, the rhododendrons were starting to flower. I’m not a fan of them in domestic gardens but on the massive scale of the woodlands at Harlow Carr, they look spectacular.

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The Alpine House is also a great place to wait out any rain – as well as a treasure house of tiny gems like Corydalis, there are beautifully-shaped but tiny pines clinging to the rocks.

The Easter holiday Lindt treasure hunts were on, so there were a lot of children about but the garden’s big enough to cope and not be overcrowded. I did spot one of the prizes but was discouraged from scoffing it.

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The Lakeside Gardens change with the seasons, which is one of the reasons they always look good. Where dahlias bloomed last September, daffodils, tulips and powerfully-scented hyacinths take their place. The garden by the Edwardian pond is being revamped at the moment, so it will be interesting to see how it changes.

The plant centre was full to bursting and I came away with an unusual conifer – expensive but worth it.

One place to avoid, sadly, was Bettys, with massive queues at the shop and the cafe and restaurant. Make sure you get there early and not during school holidays unless you want to stand for an age!

For directions and more information, visit https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr.

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