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RHS Harlow Carr Garden October 2022

October 23, 2022
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Last weekend I made the long journey up to Harrogate for the last show of the season, at RHS Harlow Carr garden.  Because I am so busy during a show, we went up early, so we could spend Friday viewing the garden.  I’m going to share some of that visit with you, before moving on to the show itself.

Salvia bank

What a glorious day – we had bright sunshine all morning, before the sky gradually clouded over, and a heavy shower curtailed proceedings around 3pm.  When we entered the garden, our first objective was the alpine house.  We walked along the path at the top of the garden, with a bank of salvias on one side of us, and views over the lower garden and the herbaceous borders on the other.

Dianthus superbus

In several places in the garden we found plants of Dianthus superbus, with its spidery scented flowers.  This is one of my many favourite plants, but you seldom see it grown now.

Autumn Borders

At the far end of this walk, we came to some late summer/autumn-themed borders, planted with Michaelmas daisies, dahlias, salvias, geraniums, Penstemon, Persicaria, Rudbeckia, Sedum spectabilis and grasses.

Troughs and Tufa

Around the alpine house things were quieter.  The troughs and tufa walls were neat patterns of foliage, with some hints of autumn colour.  This time of year makes you really look at the colours, patterns and textures of the leaves.


In the bed above the tufa walls, which presumably is extremely well drained, two poppies offered their last flowers

  • Dicranostigma leptopodum (yellow)
  • Argemone platyceras (white)

Cyclamen hederifolium

At the base of the wall, in a rather cooler and shaded environment, Cyclamen hederifolium greeted us cheerfully.  Elsewhere in the garden we found white ones.

Alpine House Cushions

Inside the Alpine House, the picture was much the same.  The majority of flowering plants were over, but some impressive cushions drew the eye:

  • Draba Buttermilk
  • Raoulia hookeri
  • Helichrysum County Park Silver
  • Rhodanthemum hosmariense

Alpine House Colour

In between the cushions we found welcome splashes of colour.  Cyclamen graecum was flowering well, with a pretty sky blue gentian, Gentiana Devonhall.

I found an interesting Nerine in a pot without a label; I suspect this is one of the many forms of Nerine humilis, but it was hard to be sure.  Erodium foetidum Frans Delight made a wonderful close-up – I love the pattern of veins in the petals.  This has probably been in flower all summer.

Flowers were beginning to appear on two different miniature goldenrods, Solidago cutleri and S. multiradiata, the latter perhaps more eye-catching.

Jamesbrittenia bergae

This South African produced what were undoubtedly the most eye-catching flowers in the whole alpine house – a startling scarlet.

Yellow Gesneriad

However, for me the star of the alpine house was this primrose yellow Gesneriad, a bit like a pale yellow Streptocarpus.  The label declared it to be Primulina lutea, but I am not convinced that was correct – it does not have the prominent bracts which appear in the most credible photos of this species.  However, it looks like the bracts shrivel after the flower opens – those in the background do have bracts, so maybe the label is correct.

Scented Garden

From the Alpine House, we descended, through the Sub-Tropicana garden, burgeoning with sumptuous foliage, salvias and dahlias, to an area known as the Scented Garden.

Here there were Echium, and Clerodendrum bungei, but my favourite planting was an area under a mature oak, gloriously planted with coloured foliage.

White Garden

At the bottom of the hill, the White Garden produced its usual tapestry of white flowers, grasses and white berries overhead.  I found the display less impressive than last year, perhaps because the wonderful Leucanthemella serotina was less in evidence.

Herbaceous Borders

We moved on to explore the riot of colour provided by the herbaceous borders.  The major players were Helenium, Michaelmas daisies and grasses, but all manner of plants provided highlights:

  • Scabiosa
  • Gaura lindheimeri (beautifully intermingled with a low-growing Aster),
  • Salvia
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Achillea
  • Helianthus Lemon Queen
  • Rudbeckia subtomentosa Henry Eilers


One of my favourite features was this little clump of grass on the corner of one of the beds.  It looks like a Pennisetum, perhaps P. orientale, but I am really uncomfortable trying to put names on these.  If someone can be more definitive, please let me know.

Euonymus alatus

From here we moved into a more clearly autumnal garden.  The rock garden was dominated by the beautiful magenta red leaves of Euonymus, carefully set against the yellow of a Taxus, with a silver conifer above.


A lemon-yellow redhot poker provided a similarly effective contrast against a red Persicaria, with turning leaves and a deep red leaved shrub behind.

Rock Garden Pool

I always love the way the light falls on the pool here, with its patterns of water lily and fallen leaves.

A few sumptuous late blooms remained on Iris Draco; in contrast, Hesperantha coccinea Mrs Hegarty was just coming.


As we moved along the valley, the autumn colours of Japanese maples became more prominent.

Aruncus Guinea Fowl

Below the trees, the leaves of Pulmonaria and Aruncus Guinea Fowl provided pattern and texture.

Anemone x hybrida Honorine Jobert

A white Japanese anemone, probably Honorine Jobert, sparkled along the steam, among the autumn leaves.

The white trunks of these birches were placed artfully against a dark wall.

Annual Meadow

At the east end of the garden, beyond the Queen Mother’s Lake, a small annual meadow offered a few late jewels.  I always love these annual plantings, even in their autumn decline.

Lakeside Gardens

The Lakeside gardens contained some more attractive borders.

Lakeside benches

Overlooking the lake is a paved area lined with attractive benches, each decorated with a carving of a different plant:

Leonotis leonurus

In between the benches were huge ornamental planters.  One of the highlights of these was the orange spires of the South African shrub, Leonotis leonurus. 

Turning back towards the entrance, we passed a mobile sculpture of thistledown, stirring and whirling in the breeze.

By now, the sun had gone and it was starting to drizzle.  As the drizzle grew heavier, we took a few hasty glances at more borders in the Teaching Garden, and around the Bramall Learning Centre.

Rudbeckia fulgida Little Goldstar

This little Rudbeckia stood out, even in the rain.

The autumn colour here was fantastic, enhanced by the increasing damp.

Perhaps the rain curtailed our visit a little, but we saw nearly everything we wished to see, and thoroughly enjoyed the garden, mostly in beautiful autumn sunshine.  We had walked further than we expected, and needed a thorough rest before the show the following day.  Check back here in a couple of days to see my account of the show.

Image of Jon Evans Jon Evans

Jon lives and gardens on the north side of the Hogsback on the border between Hampshire and Surrey, on a heavy clay soil. He is a long standing member of the AGS and has been treasurer of the local group in Woking for many years. He is interested in bulbs of all sorts, particularly those from South Africa, and is progressing slowly towards his Gold Medal at shows, at the rate of roughly one first per year.

However, he is best known within the AGS as an enthusiastic amateur photographer. For about 10 years he was responsible for organising the artistic and photographic section of the AGS shows around the country, and also for organising the show photography. During this period, he set up and ran the AGS Digital Image Library. He still visits many shows each year to catalogue the extraordinary achievements of the exhibitors, and is actively involved in other plant photography, both in gardens both public and private, and on outings to view and photograph wild flowers in the UK.

If you have any comments or queries for Jon, you can contact him direct at