I was watching a short piece by Adam Frost on Gardener’s World, having just fixed up a visit to Leeds for a few days, when I heard him say that York Gate was in Leeds, not York as I had dimly imagined without checking. To cut a long story short, on a cold afternoon with sunny breaks this week, I found myself in York Gate Garden in Leeds- a garden that I have always wanted to visit. Brilliant.
This is not a grand or massive garden- but it is a garden gardened beautifully with real attention to detail and designed by the family who owned it until the 1990s with a lovely mix of quirkiness and boldness.
Take the opening photograph. Ignore the superb spikey shapes top left, and what you can see is a shape redolent of Edwardian or Arts and Crafts gardens, a lozenge-shaped pool, with off-centre plinths, on one of which is a darkly painted planting urn of the period, neatly edged gravel paths and sweeping shapes. The planting has all of the expected Spring plants that are quintessentially English in style- but looking closely, there are already planting gems, such as this stunning narcissus below. From afar, what looked like daffodils massed in the borders, but this were a lovely surprise. No idea as to variety, and only the stems and leaves say ‘narcissus’ to me, but the flower is creamy yellow something else.
Robin Spencer made the Arbour from recycled wooden beams from a fire-damaged chapel at Armley, and the wooden beams sit on chunky stone legs, very Lutyens- like in their stockiness and practicality. Close to the Arbour is a woodland area with water from the lozenge-shaped pool trickling through it- I am not a trillium expert as you might imagine, but the red buds rising up from silvered foliage looked magical in the partial sunlight.
Looking fragile without leaves, the Nutwalk nevertheless must be pretty tough to take the Yorkshire winds, hazels can take a lot. Underneath their slender stems, masses of brilliant red tulips had been planted. The Spencers knew a thing or two about light in the garden- all the paths are angled to make the most of the sloping situation of the garden. The tulips were shining like stained glass in the fractured sunlight that afternoon.
A touch of William Morris here in the beautifully constructed path leading to the Perfect Pot at the top. Fringed by dark and mysterious Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens, the path glitters in the light, bordering the borders filled with spring and summer perennials and bulbs. The Perfect Pot provides the focal point, simply placed on a gravel round edged with stone pavers.
Look at the precision of the topiary, and then also at the distance and perspective that the shapes create- and then think about how long-lasting this vista is. All year round shape and interest. I am a straggly gardener, but even I love the clarity of these shapes and also the slightly surreal atmosphere that they create. And the Perfect Pot stars in the far distance. More of York Gate to follow.