Dry-stones and daphnes

Amid hard rocks and frost, scented flowers bloom

Being a walker myself, I walk past many dry-stone walls in and around the Yorkshire Dales. Until recently I have never stopped to think particularly about their construction: we are having some work being carried out here at RHS Garden Harlow Carr.

Watching them working and rebuilding the walls along our boundary was mesmerising, that they could make something so organically beautiful from literally a pile of old stones. Neil the dry-stone waller heading up this operation explained that the cross-section of the wall needs to be 'A' shaped and each stone has to be carefully placed - so that the outside fascia tapers into the middle of the wall this adds strength. Every so often one stone will stretch across the whole section, again this is for added strength.

Into the middle parts go small stones which are in effect packing material - the equivalent of cement to bind it all together. I was so absolutely absorbed by my impromptu walling experience that I seriously considered joining one.


Dahne bholua 'Cobhay Snow'Scentsational


Today we have been blessed with very frosty crisp and cold weather, which for me is what winter is all about and I went off wandering along the length of our Winter Walk – celebrating 10 years here at Harlow Carr.

I spent much time with my nose in the flowering plants dotted along the winter walk to see which had the most enchanting scent. My conclusion was the Daphne bholua ‘Cobhay Snow’ was the clear out-and-out winner. Its flowers looked impossibly delicate; but the scent was exquisite: intense and yet delicate at the same time –beautiful! It made me smile.

Digger city

At the far end of the garden we have a digger at work, we’re never far from a digger here, there’s always something to prepare, level and tidy. This time it is cutting out an area for a Geum trial, we are running this in conjunction with the trials team at RHS Garden Wisley and several Geum nurseries.

Together we will be trialling over 129 different species of Geum and monitoring them for performance, colour, durability and strength. I shall report on this as we get going, all the geums are sheltering in our nursery area ready for planting out in March, very exciting, there are some fantastic names, can’t wait to see what Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’ or ‘Moonlight Serenade’ will look like, not to mention ‘Wet Kiss’ – all in a day's work eh?

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