At York Gate Garden you seem to be witnessing living garden history, without any sense of the faded past glories you sometimes feel, even in the best gardens.
On our first slightly hurried visit, the midday sun was unsparingly harsh and contrasty, making photography a challenge, but we got a good feel for the garden and the loving way it is cared for. I’m sure we’ll be back!
Taking inspiration from Hidcote’s garden rooms and Arts and Crafts style, York Gate was designed by Robin Spencer to make the most of a much smaller space – just an acre. Well defined, decorative paths lead visitors from one garden feature to another, making the garden feel more expansive.
The structure and details of this garden will delight and intrigue anyone on the lookout for inspiration. I fell in love with the stone half seat – it’s just one tiny way the space is made to feel larger than it is.
The garden has well-maintained topiary features that frequently appear in pictures you’ll find online, and many happy plant combinations. Robin’s mum, Sybil, a keen plantswoman, is credited for seeking out unusual plants to add to the mix.
Many of the elements we might expect to see at a major garden can be found at York Gate Garden on a smaller scale: a tiny potting shed, a loggia, a folly or two, a rill garden, herbaceous borders, garden art, creative paving effects, fine examples of cordon pruning, a kitchen and cutting garden and artfully staged views.
Succulents on the patio and in a small glasshouse were looking wonderful in the sun, but the more demure flowering plants stole my heart, such as the woodland geraniums, ferns, linaria and Turkscap lilies.
My sweetheart had a great time talking to the gardener whose insights and dedication impressed him, while I walked around again, then lingered in the areas nearest to the house, admiring some covetable garden accessories including a large copper kettle, and some fine stone pieces including planters, a dolphin and a bird bath.
Even on a first visit, you sense a ritual underpins everything here, as if some things always are that way: not just the topiary, but the tender plants that must be lifted annually and replanted back outside when the late frosts are over; the feeling that this potted staghorn fern has its own nook. Gardening at its most intensive can be like that.
If you feel tempted to visit, York Gate Garden is actually in Leeds. Its full address is:
Back Church Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS16 8DW
The garden was bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society, so by calling in to see it, you’ll be supporting the charity. The garden opens five afternoons each week during spring and summer. Please check the details on Perennial’s website as they might not be the days you’re expecting!