Small wonder

York Gate, in Adel, was created by the Spencer family over the course of four decades but is now maintained by a charity.
York Gate, in Adel, was created by the Spencer family over the course of four decades but is now maintained by a charity.
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The North has many stunning gardens, from the stately to the intimate, but few 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 and was created between 1951 and 1994 by one family – the Spencers.

Frederick Spencer laid down the basic structure but it was his son, Robin, who was largely responsible for its development and its ultimate claim to fame.

In just one acre, he made a garden which, by the early 1980s, was regarded 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.

When Sybil died in 1994 the garden passed into the care of 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.

So it’s quite fitting that the garden has been honoured with three Yorkshire in Bloom Awards. It received a Gold Award in the Public, Private and Charitable Establishments category and was the overall winner in the group.

It was also presented with the discretionary Yorkshire Rose Community Award for small groups, recognising the work of the volunteers at York Gate.

York Gate was praised by the judges not only for the exceptional standards of the garden but also the knowledge and talent of its staff and volunteers.

The judges were impressed with its imaginative style and the range of plants and features packed into a relatively small space. The way the garden is being maintained in the manner of the Arts and Crafts movement, in the spirit of the Spencer’s design, was also commended.

Head gardener Martin Walker said: “I am so proud of our achievements and of the efforts of our garden volunteers for their help in making York Gate such a special place to visit.”

For further information about York Gate, visit www.perennial.org.uk or call 0113 267 8240.