How RHS Harlow Carr has stepped up efforts to offer escapism as spring comes into full bloom

The hunger for new life and colour is perhaps greater than ever this year, in the shadow of the pandemic.

Pictured flowering rhododendrons at RHS Harlow Carr, in Harrogate. It has some dating back to more than 60 years ago including a fiery red rhododendron barberton species, with dozens scattered throughout the woodland. Bruce Rollinson/JPIMediaResell

A sea of pale pinks and vivid reds has swept over one of Yorkshire's major outdoor attractions as spring comes into full bloom.

The blossoms always come a little later to the most northerly of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gardens, but this April Harlow Carr, in Harrogate is alive with colour as rhododendrons burst into flower throughout the woodland, while spring bulbs and cherry blossom throughout herald the longer, warmer days ahead.

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The 58 acres of garden at RHS Harlow Carr expect to see a steady increase of people as social distancing measures start to relax in April with the gardens slowly increasing capacity week by week adding 100-150 additional slots each day. Photo credit: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMediaResell

The 58 acres of garden is expected to see a steady increase of people as social distancing measures start to relax in April with the gardens slowly increasing capacity week by week adding 100-150 additional slots each day.

Visitors must book tickets in advance to gain entry to limited places at RHS Harlow Carr, while enclosed areas of the garden, including the Alpine House and Bird Hide, remain closed.

Behind the scenes at the castle there has been a hive of activity in the gardens including the plantation of 50 new flowering cherries, a new south facing sun border which will have a mix of summer flowers and bulbs and perennials.

Rhododendrons have been a familiar sight in this country since the middle of the 19th century when the Victorian collectors and plant-hunters began bringing back specimens predominantly from China, Japan and the Himalayas.

Spring is in full bloom at RHS Harlow Carr. Photo credit: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMediaResell

Harlow Carr has some dating back to more than 60 years ago and Curator Paul Cook said this Spring was a significant year for seeing the blossoms particularly from the fiery red rhododendron barberton species, with dozens scattered throughout the woodland.

“It’s probably one of the best years for rhododendrons, particularly the older ones.

“The gardens and woodland have come alive with classic soft pinks, and really fiery reds.”

Mr Cook, who works alongside 18 gardeners and eight apprentices, said the gardens had “really missed” the help from a usual annual strong team of 60 volunteers, with only a core number able to assist under restrictions.

Extra seating and widened paths are just some of the work that has been done behind the scenes at Harlow Carr over the past few months. Photo credit: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMediaResell

Looking ahead RHS Harlow Carr will run a programme of summer activities including an extended annual flower show four four days from June 21 while Alice in Wonderland themed activities will take place from July.

Mr Cook said: “Towards the end of June it will be feeling more back to ‘normal’ but it is just small steps at the minute.

He added: "The interest in the gardens has really grown over lockdown- and that made us rethink about what we do in the garden and whether we do more community gardens and how to engage more with people.

“We have used this time to rethink and reset.

“When people see the gardens we hope it will bring them inspiration to take into their own and happiness.”

For more information about RHS Harlow Carr, visit here.

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