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History of Harlow Carr

History of Harlow-Carr1950The RHS merged with the Northern Horticultural Society in 2001 and, with the merger, came the acquisition of Harlow Carr.

The Northern Horticultural Society was founded in 1946 with the objective of 'promoting and developing the science, art and practice of horticulture with special reference to the conditions pertaining to the North of England'.

The Society leased 10.5 hectares of mixed woodland, pasture and arable land at Harlow Hill from Harrogate Corporation and opened the Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens in 1950.The chief aim was to set up a trial ground where the suitability of plants for growing in northern climates could be assessed and the original 10.5 hectares has since been extended to 27.5.

The gardens stand on what was once part of the Forest of Knaresborough, an ancient royal hunting ground. Springs of sulphur water were discovered here in 1734 but development of the site as a spa did not take place for over a hundred years. In 1840, Henry Wright, the owner of the estate, cleaned out and protected one of the wells and four years later built a hotel and a bath house.

The hotel remains as the Harrogate Arms and the bath house now houses the Study Centre. The well heads in front of the bath house (at one time six wells were in use) were capped off but remain beneath the present Limestone Rock Garden. At certain times the smell of sulphur in this area is quite distinct.

Since the merger with the RHS there have been many developments at the garden including the creation of the Rose Revolution Borders, Gardens through Time and the Winter Walk. The Main Borders have undergone a stunning redesign and Annuals Meadows have been creatively themed using willow woven sculptures. The Woodland has been regenerated and now includes a Rhododendron Glade full of spring flowering bulbs. A new Alpine House has now opened and an award-winning Learning Centre, designed to be one of the greenest buildings in the country, was completed in 2010.

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