Herb work at mini masterpiece

Head Gardener David Beardall, pictured at York Gate, Adel
Head Gardener David Beardall, pictured at York Gate, Adel
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The North has many stunning gardens, from the stately to the intimate, but few, if any, can hold a candle to one specific acre in Leeds

York Gate, at Adel, is regarded as an outstanding example of 20th-century garden design. It’s been called a mini-Hidcote, a masterpiece of geometry and planting created between 1951 and 1994 by one family – the Spencers.

Frederick Spencer laid down the basic structure of the garden but it was his son, Robin, who was largely responsible for its development and its ultimate claim to fame. In just that one acre, he made a garden which, by the early 1980s, was regarded by many as one of the most innovative small gardens in the world. His extraordinary vision, remarkable sense of perspective, inspirational use of materials and meticulous attention to detail were the key to its success.

Robin died suddenly at the age of only 47, and for the next 12 years his mother, Sybil, cherished the garden. She added to the already considerable plant collection but the overall layout remained largely unchanged.

Sybil Spencer died in 1994 the garden passed into the care of the charity Perennial – Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society, who have continued to lavish the care and attention needed to maintain York Gate’s position in the horticultural world.

Yew and beech hedges divide the garden into “rooms” with different themes and styles. These include the Dell, with half-hidden pathways and a stream; the herb garden, with topiary and summerhouse; and a newer more contemporary garden with grasses and summer-flowering perennials.

Other highlights include the White Garden, with roses, peonies and campanulas, and a Kitchen Garden.

And this spring, the popular Herb Garden is to be restored and replanted. The replanting is the second part of the Herb Garden restoration. The first part was to restore the overgrown mature yew hedges surrounding the garden.

Head gardener Martin Walker says: “The restoration needs to be done sensitively to maintain the character and structure of the Spencers’ original design.”

York Gate, Back Church Lane, Adel, Leeds, LS16 8DW. For details of opening times, phone 0113 267 8240, email yorkgate@perennial.org.uk or visit www.yorkgate.org.uk / www.perennial.org.uk