Ideas and inspiration from garden visits

harlow_carr_alpine_greenhouse_viewWhen I renewed my RHS membership last year I made a vow to visit Harlow Carr at least once a month. This isn’t just so I can have a nice wander and a treat from Betty’s but it means that I can pay far more attention to what they’re doing each month and come away with some good ideas.


I find Harlow Carr really inspirational and contrary to popular belief I do feel you can get ideas to take back to your own gardens and veggie patches. For example, their alpine greenhouse has always inspired me to keep my own little alpine area and get more involved with alpine plants. I also joined the Alpine Garden Society last year as a result of a growing interest that stemmed from Harlow Carr.


The neatness of their veg planting is something I also aspire to achieving and with my new row markers that I got for Christmas I have no excuse!

harlow_carr_veg_plot Harlow_Carr_new_path2 Harlow_Carr_new_path1

During my visit last weekend I saw them creating new pathways. Marking them out with sticks and laying black anti weed membrane down first. Another really neat job but definitely something anyone could do. They’ll no doubt weave willow between the sticks to create nice borders.


It also gives me yet another opportunity to plug the wonder plant Kale, still looking pristine even though 2 days earlier we had the biggest snow dump of the month. Their planters of pak choi, which I first saw in November, have lasted perfectly. I’d have never thought about growing pak choi if I hadn’t seen theirs.


I was delighted to see their pots of garlic in cold frames. Last year I struggled to get my garlic planted due to water-logging so to solve the problem I planted some in pots as a bit of an experiment, but I see they’ve done the exact same thing!


It’s great seeing how they work and I think visiting gardens, big or small, professional or amateur is a must for any keen or budding gardener. If they can do it, so can you!

harlow_carr_strawberryOk, so I don’t know how they have a strawberry in January?

Have you ever tried doing new things as a result of a garden visit? Have you got any good tips that you picked up from a garden visit?

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27 Responses to “Ideas and inspiration from garden visits”

  1. Jo February 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    I love Harlow Carr too, but I’ve let my membership lapse now we’ve got a dog, as he isn’t allowed in, so we tend to visit places where he can go too. I have to admit that my favourite bit is the veggie bits, but I love the alpine house too. We usually make our way to the hide, it’s always fun reading which birds have been spotted that day.

    • Anna B February 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      Hello Jo! Yes, I love the hide too and saw some woodpeckers there last year! I’m thinking about getting a dog so will have to find some dog friendly places to visit too. Any recommendations would be brilliant. Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  2. tristakellman February 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Your pictures of this garden are lovely! I planted garlic for the first time this past fall, but mine are in large buckets so I hope they don’t rot. And my strawberries are blooming and fruiting now too!

    • Anna B February 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      Hello there! I hope your garlic will be as successful as your strawberries!! Thanks so much for dropping by and for your comments :)

  3. gardeninacity February 3, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    I have never heard of Harlow Carr. Another place to add to my list of things to see should I ever make it to the UK.

    • Anna B February 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      Harlow Carr is one of the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens and I would imagine their other ones in the south UK are awesome too. Other bloggers have recommended them. We also have the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan which get great reviews, oh and plenty more! I could give you a long list dude!! I tend to go abroad than stay in the UK but this year I really want to visit places a bit closer to home. Thanks for dropping by Jason! :)

  4. thesneakymagpie February 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    I do exactly the same thing, but with Wisley. I get loads of ideas and their allotment is a huge inspiration. Another big thing for me are the NGS open days, I got so many ideas from garden visits and allotment visits too. It’s great to see what people can grown in your area. After every single visit I head to my garden and spend hours planning and arranging things.

    • Anna B February 3, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

      Hello Sneaky Magpie!!! Yes, open days are amazing aren’t they and I can’t wait to visit a garden in York this year that I found on Twitter! It’s great actually meeting and talking to the garden owners. Thanks so much for your comments, recommendations and for dropping by :)

  5. Sue@GLAllotments February 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    I tried starting garlic in pots last year and they started off really well but didn’t perform at all well after transplanting. I don’t know whether it was last year’s conditions but I’m not repeating the exercise this year

    • Anna B February 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      Hello Sue!
      Well that is interesting? I hope mine transplant ok!! I know they like a good cold period to get going and I was surprised they were in the cold frames at Harlow Carr and not just left outside. Hmm, there is always the possibility that they will be going for a better stem and not bothered about the garlic itself?? Could it all just be for show?!! ;) Thanks for visiting Sue!

  6. Cathy February 3, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    Now I have rejoined RHS I hope to be visiting Harlow Carr again when I go up to Leeds to see my sister. I have enjoyed reading your references to it.

    • Anna B February 3, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      Hi Cathy, thanks so much and I hope you enjoy visiting it as much as I do when you come up to Leeds! :)

  7. Holleygarden February 3, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    What a smart idea! When I first started gardening, I went to the garden center every month so I would have something in my garden all year, not just in the summer. Seeing what they’re doing in the garden every month will give you loads of inspiration! I hope you’ll also tell us what they’re doing month by month. Love that little pot of crocus!

    • Anna B February 4, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      Hello Holleygarden! Yes, garden centres are a big favourite of mine too and I can never resist buying something all year round too! Thanks so much for your comments and I will definitely keep posting about what they’re up to :)

  8. Cathy February 4, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    It looks incredibly tidy there, and very well-organized. I have got ideas from gardens I’ve visited too, mostly just of plants that would do well in a certain position. But last year a display of alpine plants all in tiny pots of gravel arranged beautifully in one larger pot got me thinking if I could do the same…

    • Anna B February 4, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

      Hello Cathy! Yes, it is incredibly tidy indeed. I wish I could be the same!! Glad to hear you find visits inspirational too. Interesting that you learnt about positioning of plants too. I will look out for things like that next time. I generally learn the hard way – i.e. when a plant has frazzled from too much sunshine or slowly departed due to the lack of it! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  9. sannekurz February 4, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    I love their bend pathways. I should try this instead of the random “nice to step down here” plank I usually put down on the ground.

    • Anna B February 4, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      Hello Sannekurz! The paths are great aren’t they! I must admit I go for the plank on the ground quite a lot too!!! I never seem to be able to do things neatly but seeing them do it, I feel that I can do it too. Thanks so much for visiting and for your comment :)

  10. PJ February 4, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Harlow Carr is on my wish list of places to visit this year… it looks fantastic and I’ve never been! It just shows you that well designed gardens look as good in Winter as they do at other times of the year.

    • Anna B February 4, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

      Hello PJ Girl! I think it’s amazing how they keep the place looking fantastic in winter too and I definitely have my work cut out if I want to achieve the same thing!! It’s really worth a visit and a good place to visit in these gloomy months as well as during the good ones :)

  11. Roger brook February 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Harlow Car has a wonderful tradition of growing alpines right from the days of Geoffrey Smith who pioneered the garden in the days of the Northern horticultural society

    • Anna B February 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      I think it shows! It’s my favourite part of the garden. Thanks for your comment Roger and for dropping by!

  12. samsallotment February 5, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Hi Anna B, I agree that visiting gardens and historical houses with gardens are a great way to get ideas. I supported my peas with a ‘Knebworth House’ Style Chickenwire wrap-around last year and it worked brilliantly. I shall be back there this year to get another handy tip.

    • Anna B February 5, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      Hello samsallotment! ‘Knebworth House’ style chickenwire wrap-around sounds very intriguing!!! Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving a comment :)

  13. wellywoman February 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    I love Harlow Carr and it’s such a great idea to visit once a month. We used to live near Wisley and used to go a lot but there isn’t anywhere like that where we live now. :( I’m hoping to try growing some squashes along a sturdy panel this year. I saw it done at the Eden project last year and it looked effective and was a good way of using space.

    • Anna B February 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Hello Wellywoman! That sounds like a great idea! Looking forward to see how that turns out. I wouldn’t mind doing that myself as squash can take up a lot of room. Thanks so much for your comment :)


  1. Friday Scout | The Garden ScoutThe Garden Scout - February 15, 2013

    [...] Getting ideas from visits to RHS Harlow Carr on Dig the Outside [...]


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