5 spring flowers to discover in Yorkshire

Helmsley annual meadow (c) Colin Dilcock

Helmsley annual meadow (c) Colin Dilcock - Credit: Archant

Happy days are here. Discover gardens to explore and blooms to make you smile for spring.

Himalayan garden cascade at Harewood House (c) Trevor Nicholson and Harewood House Trust

Himalayan garden cascade at Harewood House (c) Trevor Nicholson and Harewood House Trust - Credit: Archant

Bare branches, crunchy grass and frozen ponds. There is a certain spare beauty to the winter garden landscape. But it cannot be denied that the first shoots - the snowdrops, crocuses and cyclamen - bring a fresh optimism to the year, and in their wake come the real showstoppers of spring, with bright colour and bold scent to accompany the joys of (hopefully slighter) warmer temperatures and lighter evenings.

With them comes the reopening of many of Yorkshire's best houses and gardens, as well as some cheering flower festivals.

Here are some suggestions of where to spot your favourite spring blooms.


There is arguably no flower more synonymous with springtime in the UK than daffodils, and no work describes the thrill of their arrival better than William Wordworth's I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. Which is why the RHS is putting on a daffodil spectacular this year in celebration of the poet's 250th birthday.

Harlow Carr, on the edge of Harrogate, will take on a distinctly golden hue from March 2, with more than 70,000 daffodils in dozens of varieties popping up across the 58-acre garden, beside the lake, beneath the trees, and in beds, borders and containers. Words from Wordsworth's poems will accompany the displays. The garden's curator, Paul Cook, has selected his top ten daffodil varieties ahead of the event, which include the sweet-smelling Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or' and Narcissus 'Jetfire', with its distinctive orange trumpet. All ten varieties will be available to order from the Harlow Carr Shop & Plant Centre. Meanwhile, swathes of daffodils carpet the grounds of Castle Howard to greet the first visitors to the house when it reopens on March 21, and the riverbanks of Fountains Abbey will bloom with the buds of 20,000 new daffodils planted last October. Don't forget Farndale as a place to see daffs at their best too.


For unabashed, vibrant colour, tulips are hard to beat, and many varieties will be on proud display at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show. Take in the beautiful show gardens and get invaluable advice from nearly 100 nurseries - tulip fans should keep an eye out for Brighter Blooms.

This year's event, held at the Great Yorkshire Showground from April 23-26, has a Roaring Twenties theme, looking at gardening trends from a century ago, and visitors will be encouraged to join the party by dressing in 1920s costume, with a special prize for the best outfits each day of the show. Over in Pocklington, at Burnby Hall Gardens, the popular annual Tulip Festival returns from April 20-May 4, with a staggering 14,000 tulips, comprising over 30 varieties, displayed throughout the site.

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The ancient woodland at Thorp Perrow in Bedale plays host to a spectacular purple display in spring, which can be seen to full advantage on a guided 'Bluebell and Blossom Trail', running throughout April and May. Faith Douglas, curator, says: 'When buds burst, the arboretum is filled with life, colour and scent. Bluebells show off their wonderful blossom in the beech wood near the autumn bays. This area is carpeted with the rich blue and wonderful scent that comes with this timeless classic naturalised bulb.' As well as the bluebells, springtime at the 100-acre arboretum brings magnolias, forsythia and forget-me-nots, among many other beautiful and cheering seasonal blooms.

Elsewhere, the extensive grounds of National Trust properties throughout Yorkshire are a must-visit for bluebell afficionados. The woodlands at Hardcastle Crags and Brimham Rocks are beautiful spots, while at Nostell Priory, one of the best places to see them is around the Middle Lake. See page 36 for a stunning bluebell trail through one of the country's most famous woodlands at Middleton.

Blossom & wildflowers

Cast your eyes skywards and you might be lucky to see some of the county's bountiful spring blossom. No need for the cherry blossoms of Japan, for avenues of bubblegum-hued trees line The Stray in Harrogate - the perfect setting for a stroll into town on a weekend morning (and a quick Instagram picture or two). Underfoot, the county's increasing number of wildflower meadows are coming to life.

Head to Helmsley Walled Garden on March 28 and 29, for free entry before its official reopening for the season on Monday March 30. Tricia Harris, the garden's assistant garden manager and marketing manager, says: 'Meadow flowers are a brilliant habitat for beetles, butterflies and other insects. They provide food, shelter and a place to lay eggs. They are also beautiful to look at: the mix we use has bright red, blue, pink and yellow. Look out for magenta corncockle and yellow corn marigold. Bright blue of cornflower and the red of common poppy look stunning against scented mayweed.' Meanwhile on the Castle Howard estate, the Yorkshire Arboretum boasts six acres of wildflower meadows. Its director, Dr John Grimshaw, says: 'The number and variety of flowers improves every year as the meadows establish - and with them the insect life is returning.'


The billowing blooms of rhododendrons are one of many highlights in the spectacular gardens of Harewood House, Leeds, above, which reopens on Saturday March 21. There are dozens of varieties providing colour from April through to summertime, some of which date back to the original collection, started in the 1930s. Trevor Nicholson, head gardener at Harewood, has been cultivating the rhododendrons for more than 20 years. He says: 'The rhododendrons were extensively planted across the grounds, ranging from dwarf varieties to large trees up to 20 feet high. We continue to plant new varieties and in new areas, with a view to enriching and expanding the collection, looking into how we can save and conserve the older trees so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come.'

Recent planting in the Himalayan Garden has extended the colourful collection even further. Not had your fill of rhododendrons? Head to Castle Howard to see the award-winning rhododendrons in Ray Wood, or to the tranquil woodland at Newby Hall & Gardens in Ripon, which reopens for the season in April.

Open gardens in Crayke

See thousands of golden daffodils on Church Hill in the North Yorkshire village of Crayke as part of the Open Gardens & Village event between 11-5pm on April 18-19. There will be around a dozen entries showing a range of diverse gardens with different plants and planting styles to interest both amateur and skilled gardeners. These are scattered around the village, giving visitors an insight into Crayke's history. Inside the historic St Cuthbert's Church will be 'A Weddings through the Decades' display - including wedding attire, brides' dresses, hats, music (organ and church bells) personal memorabilia and recollections/memories, photographs and the changing fashions of wedding flowers.


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