RHS Harlow Carr: Garden Visit

I've a few garden visits to show you over the coming weeks, not necessarily in the order I visited them as the planting in some of them can keep for a while. First up is RHS Harlow Carr from just over two weeks ago, chosen for today's post as these wonderful displays of candelabra primulas are sure to be fading fast.

I hadn't really read much about Harlow Carr before my visit, so there were quite a few surprises in store. Firstly I found the Yorkshire Rhubarb and Custard Garden, the People's Choice in the small garden category from last year's Chelsea Flower Show.

This wasn't far from The Alpine Zone, the largest alpine house I've ever seen. Lots of opportunities to get close and personal with this most dainty of groups.

I was pleased to see that Wisley doesn't hog all the RHS trials - an oft voiced criticism by many people. I chanced upon the tail end of the Meconopsis one. Visitors were asked not to touch the plants as the seeds were being saved as part of the trial, though I did manage to 'steal' this photograph ;)

It seems every RHS garden has its own version of an enormous double border with lush lawns and Harlow Carr was no exception.

But there was also plenty of wispy meadow, especially towards the woodland area.

As the RHS' northernmost garden, another emphasis is on the growing of tough, hardy plants. This means shrubs, conifers and foliage contrasts take a centre stage in many parts of the garden.

Carr is derived from the Northern Middle English kerr, which is an old topographic name for wet ground. A stream runs through the garden, so there are mass plantings of ferns, rheums, Gunnera and other moisture loving plants streamside in the dell. Many of the vistas, mass plantings and walkways are along this axis. Except where there's a bridge of course.

The latest addition to the garden is the very eco friendly Bramhall Learning Centre, together with its fresh herbaceous planting and teaching garden. NB the best view of the centre's green roof is from the car park.

Another unexpected surprise was the Gardens Through Time exhibit: a series of small gardens illustrating the varied styles of the Regency, Mid Victorian, Late Victorian, Edwardian, 1950s and 1970s periods. The last garden in this series is the pictured 'Contemporary' by Diarmuid Gavin. It's interesting to wander through these 'slices' of garden history, note their characteristics and see the innovations introduced in each age. We often mix and match these in our own gardens without realising just where we're borrowing from!

Unfortunately my visit was cut short as it started to rain by the bucket load - as you can see in this recent Friday Bench from Sign of the Times, so I didn't get the chance to explore the woodland, childrens garden and vegetable/fruit areas.

They're saved for a sunnier day :)


  1. I do love mass plantings of candelabra primulas, something about them is so pleasing.
    Interesting post VP

  2. 'gardens through time' fascinates.

  3. What a magnificent garden. Talk about something for everyone.

  4. I am envious... I can't wait to read about your visit to their children's garden and vegetable & fruit areas...

  5. Karen - about half my photos I took were of them, they were looking so gorgeous

    Petoskystone - such an obvious way to learn about garden history too!

    Commonweeder - a really good learning garden and I don't just mean the bit that's called that!

    PGG - that'll probably be a while, but I will go back there some time...

  6. Fabulous primulas, and I like the look of Diarmuid's garden too. Plus one eager to "see" what the veg patch looks like...

  7. Janet - I took one hasty picture of the veg patch as NAH was with me at the time and was keen to get to Betty's cafe further down the garden. I was going to go back later (he'd gone by then) and do a proper job, but sadly the rain cut my visit short. A good excuse to go back again though eh?

  8. Magnifique endroit. Merci pour cette belle visite.

  9. Glycine - salut! Merci beaucoup :)


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