A year in the gardens

Hayley Anderson, garden guide, looks back at developments in the Museum Gardens over the last year and forwards to the year ahead.

After all the snow at the beginning of 2011 eventually cleared, work began in the gardens with the creation of a new Oriental Border along the driveway up to the Hospitium, and which has been an ongoing project over the last year.

It now includes plants such as Bamboo, Acers and Azaleas. Rhododendrons were planted under the Beech tree, creating an abundance of colour at the end of summer. This will soon include labels and more information on the oriental theme, and more colour is expected this summer.


Prunis armeniaca or Apricot tree in our Oriental Border

Prunis armeniaca or Apricot tree, which originates from Armenia, in our Oriental Border. Its flowers are said to be the first signs of spring and the Chinese associate them with beauty and good fortune!


The rockery was refreshed with new limestone gravel in the spring, before more alpines were added.

Throughout the spring and summer we enjoyed plenty of colours from the perennial borders, especially the large prairie border and the butterfly border which were newly planted the year before.

These borders were given new information signs, which were popular with the public. Also more popular over the last year have been the guided tours.  These have created a lot of interest from the public and have been successful. They are helping to promote the site as a Botanical Garden, rather than a park.

Part of the Butterfly Border in full bloom

Part of the Butterfly Border in full bloom

After the extremely cold and frosty weather over the long winter the plants suffered. Frost caused a lot of damage to even the hardier plants. Particularly disappointing were the tree ferns by Manor Cottage, which had to be replaced.

This winter we have kept them under cover so hopefully they should survive. Eventually we noticed that the large Eucalyptus had died off, meaning that it had to be felled.

The weather last year was quite unpredictable bringing strong winds in late summer. Unfortunately, our oldest tree in the garden also paid the price.

The old Pear Tree near the riverside blew over completely. Also lots of other large limbs were broken from other trees after heavy rain and tree surgeons were brought in to remove any other unsteady branches, and an unsteady Hawthorn was felled.

The old Pear Tree after it fell down in strong winds

The old Pear Tree after it fell down in strong winds

This year we will be supporting local conservation projects, such as the Tansy planting along the riverside path, to create a habitat for the rare Tansy Beetle, which only survives in the York area, along the river Ouse. Also the planting of wild flowers is being encouraged along the Bar Walls.

Another ongoing task which is coming along well is the lighting up of the tunnel by the front gate. In the near future there are going to be signs hanging on the walls informing the public more about the site’s history etc. The lighting has recently been put in and it has made a huge difference already.

The more recent projects which are still being built are the “storytelling” area which is on the bottom lawn, and of course, the Observatory border.

Intstalling sandstone rocks around the Observatory

Intstalling sandstone rocks around the Observatory

I’m sure everyone who passes through will have noticed the work going on around the Observatory! Permission was granted for some trees to be removed to make room for a new exciting project that will be themed as “Space”.

The idea is to incorporate the Observatory more into the gardens and give a better view of the hidden building. Good use was made of two of the Yew trees which were taken out of the border. They were used to make a doorway into the storytelling area which has been made for children to play in, under the shelter of the Holly trees. There is wood chip on the ground and a few rocks to sit on. Hopefully the kids will climb on those instead of in the trees!

Currently, the gardeners are hard at work placing the sandstone rocks to make terraces around the existing trees around the Observatory. These will create levels which will be planted up into a space theme, but to see what happens next you’ll have to watch this SPACE!!

Posted in Museum Gardens
1 Comment

The tree canopy over the Fern Garden needs looked again. Last summer the ferns were getting very dry. This may have contributed to the recent loss of the tree ferns – they like a wet environment.

Peter Freshwater February 15th, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Your comment


(Not required)