York Gate in Leeds: An Arts and Crafts Style Garden

View of York Gate Garden looking towards the house

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.

The white garden at York Gate Garden
The white garden looks like a black and white garden in the contrasty lighting

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.

Beautiful wooden bench with wicker canopy
Unusual combination: a wooden bench with a wicker canopy

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.

Contrasting foliage in shades of green and blue

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.

Lilium martagon (purple Turkscap lily)
Lilium martagon at home in the dappled shade

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.

Ivy around an arched nook with a potted staghorn fern
A green nook for a stag horn fern, almost buried in ivy

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.

California poppies with lavender in a cutting garden

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!

47 Replies to “York Gate in Leeds: An Arts and Crafts Style Garden”

    1. It is deceptive. I can imagine someone hurrying through it and concluding it was small, but if you linger and roam around from room to room, it’s big enough to feel very satisfying.

  1. I really enjoyed ‘visiting’ the garden through your words and your lovely photos – would love to see i in real life. 🙂

  2. I visited at the end of March and loved it- so carefully and lovingly made with, as you say, lots of lovely little moments…and the planting was sensational, even early in the year. Also, the statuesque topiarised evegreens, superb. And a great caff…what more could you want? Lovely to see it in the summer in your photos.

    1. As you’ve seen the garden you’ll be well placed to appreciate just how much I missed off. I’d love to go back in late spring. Did you post about it? If so you are very welcome to leave a link here.

    1. You would love it, Laurie, but it’s a bit off the beaten track for you. All the nicer to be able to share it though.

  3. I have seen this featured in a magazine and I believe restless Jo has visited too, it does look like the kind of garden I would love. Maybe when I get up to Yorkshire for a long promised holiday I should make time to visit this place. Thanks for the lovely photos Susan.

    1. You’d like it, I’m sure. I’d love the chance to see it in the winter with a little frost on the ground, but it’s closed then.

    1. Some gardens are almost overshadowed by their reputation, but this one deserves to be better known. I wonder if they are wary of promoting it too much because of its scale.

        1. There’s no better sight than a field or roadside filled with colourful wildflowers. These must be glorious. I hope the powers that be will consider reseeding – that seems to be a trend in both our countries.

          1. Reseeding would not help after the first few years. There are too any invasive exotic species competing with the poppies. Also, the pollinators that the poppies rely on are being distracted by all the exotic species in home gardens. The ‘gardening for pollinators’ fad is not helping. The orchards that were here a long time ago were not so bad because they bloomed earlier.

          2. Our Royal Horticulture Society is promoting the idea of home gardeners together creating wildlife corridors, especially in built up areas. I can’t speak for over there but I think it is a wise thing to do over here where there are a lot of people in a relatively small space and wildlife gets crowded out. We are losing a lot of native insects and the trajectory is frightening.

          3. Every urban area is different. In the east (and in most parts of North America outside of the West and Southwest), urban forests are generally beneficial to the outside ecosystem. It is hard for me to imagine how, although I know they happen to use many species that are similar to or the same as native species. In our region, it is just the opposite. Most of our urban areas are in regions that were formerly chaparral or desert. People do not realize that the dreaded ‘Concrete Jungle’ that we don’t want our cities to be is actually more like what is natural in places like San Jose and Los Angles. Most parts of Los Angeles are so nicely landscaped and forested, but the region was naturally quite barren. San Jose was grassy chaparral, with only a few sporadic oaks and two riparian zones. Landscapes and the urban forests make it more appealing to the people there.

  4. Love your photos, Susan. I am looking for an antique garden pump for my garden – for display, not to be hooked up. When I told my sweetie, he took in a breath and didn’t respond. He finally got up the courage to ask if I really wanted to drill a well for it or have municipal water line put in. LOL.

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