• People in Helmsley Walled Garden

July 2019 – Working in the White Garden

It’s all hands to the pump here as we swing into July. Our head gardener is unwell so I have had to step into her shoes. Mind you with a diminutive shoe size 3, I find it hard to fill anyone’s shoes but I’ll always have a go.

This is the most exciting time to be in the Garden as everything is putting on leaf and colour and the Hot Border in particular is gearing up for its summer extravaganza. But for anyone who is waiting for me to phone or email in my capacity of marketing manager, I can only give you my sincere apologies and say I will be in touch as soon as I can.

One of the joys of escaping my desk and putting my assistant head gardener hat firmly on my head, is the chance to work in parts of the garden I don’t normally.

For the past week I have been deep in the White Garden batting the Coltsfoot and Pink Fumitory. Coltsfoot is a thug of a wild flower with deep roots and a pretty yellow daisy-like flower. It’s a medicinal plant; its Latin name Tussilago farfara indicates that it is very good for soothing sore throats and bronchial complaints. But it is very invasive and so far I haven’t dared plant it in the physic garden. People make a tea or tisane with the leaves as well as Coltsfoot jelly. Does anyone make Coltsfoot jelly anymore? It seemed to be something fed to invalids in Victorian novels; I bet it was made out of that pig of a root. Anything that goes that deep just has to be medicinal.

I have replaced it with the beautiful pure white Scabiosa perfecta alba, Astilbe x arendsi and one of my favourite spring plants, the delightful Brunnera macrophylla “Betty Bowring”. I’ve mentioned her to you before, such a well-behaved girl with a pure white flower. Every garden should have her in a shady spot somewhere.

Whilst I have a think about what else I’d like to plant I’ve been putting in a few annuals. Now, at the risk of being convicted of crimes against annuals I have to confess I’m not their biggest fan. Unless I can direct sow, I struggle to fit with their timetable. They need pricking out and potting on when they need it not when I’m able to do it. Result, leggy etiolated plants that never really get away properly and don’t look as good as they should. I know I should be able to plan for them but I sometimes struggle to juggle everything I’m doing.

However, for one or two I am prepared to make an exception. One is Nicotiana affinis, a real surprise to me. I’m not noted for my love of the tobacco plant but its lovely plate-like rosette of basal leaves and tall stem with beautiful trumpet-shaped brilliant white flowers with just a hint of baby-pink blush on the underside truly took my breath away. Another would be zinnias. I’m putting “Polar Bear” in here but there are many beautiful shades of this overlooked flower. But enough, I’ll leave my passion and proselytising for zinnias for another day.

I hope you’ll be able to come and spend some time sitting in the White Garden and admire some of these lovely plants along with all the different shades of their foliage this summer. Enjoy your garden.

Tricia Harris July 2019