The Rhododendrons of May and more, at RHS Harlow Carr.

The day started as I wish it always would; an English Breakfast, delivered to our room, with this view.

The trip to Harlow Carr was a spontaneous decision; after struggling to decide which National Trust property to visit ( a bit like arguing over what to watch on Netflix) we turned to the local attraction recommendations listed in the guest book in the hotel room. Rhs Harlow Carr was first on the list.  The decision was made. And the weather, as indicated in my tweet, was perfect for it.

So less than a year since our first visit in high summer, we returned. Paying for our ticket (rather begrudgingly on my behalf, having gotten used to flashing my National Trust card at their properties like a Police Detective would show his ID badge before swanning into a crime scene.) We were told for another 20 quid we could have annual RHS membership, I politely declined. We entered and like the  last time we visited we instinctively headed left out of the doors towards the Western side of the garden. Although there’s no official route, this is the direction we headed. Why do we always go the same way? Routine?

Anyway, My first thought upon entering:

‘Can I change my mind? Yes I do want RHS membership for an extra £20.00?’

No, I was told.

Going this way, past the Stream-side, and faux potting sheds ( I’m not sure I see the point in these. I want to see the real thing.) 

…You’ll reach the lakeside garden, arguably my favourite part of the gardens. In fact, I think I’d like this to be my back garden. It wouldn’t be that hard to replicate neither. Inspirational.

This is the lake, ’tis lovely. Lovelier without that building perhaps? Carrying on through the woodland, you’ll be greeted by scent it self. If ever I wasn’t convinced by the small, shrubby, Rhododendrons I knew before, I’m now a complete convert. Oh, and if scent doesn’t float your boat (Voldermort?)

What about sheer beauty?

This one was my favourite, a den and a Rhododendron in one. A RhodoDENdron. It was Rhododendron ‘Moonlight.’

By this stage, I had been utterly convinced.

Gone to seed. Maybe not one for people who suffer Arachnophobia.

Carrying on, you will pass the wild flower meadow, with beauty only the eyes can appreciate. 

Further into the meadow, past randomly placed (but irresistible) musical instruments, you’ll  find this. The Pollinators lawn. A simple concept capable of being very effective. I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I like it. Anyway, it’s not there to be liked.

And now, when walking past apparently scruffy unkempt front lawns on the estate, full o’ Daisies and Dandelions, like the bees, I shall see a meadow.

Moving on through the woodland.

This is the first glimpse you’ll get of the main borders. But we’ll come back to them later.

IMG_1798.jpg…Past now invasive Skunk cabbage, you’ll reach the Cafe and a drink was definitely needed.

And if the words ‘Skunk Cabbage’ weren’t enough to get your appetite going, I don’t know what is.

Studying the various varieties of Tea they had on offer, In the end I opted for, erm, well, just Tea.

After tea, the sky started to spit and hoods went up everywhere. I could sense a level of panic.

Just as we reached the main borders, the heavens opened and people began to disappear. Of all the grey days in May, it was one of the sunniest and most promising on which it pissed down. Typical. I of course blame my self, for the Sod’s law that tweets like mine above always provide. ‘ You hope it’s not gunna rain eh? I’ll teach you for hoping !’

And so From the Main border, we headed for this pond.

Here, whilst sat huddled under a brolly, suitably sheltered and wondering where everyone else had gone for shelter, the work went on for one poor gardener.

I think it would be fair to say he got rained on. And I feel guilty to admit that it added a certain amount of comfort to watch him work, us glad not to be in his shoes at that particular moment in time.


We watched as the rain drops made contact with the pool of water. I tried and failed to photograph the circular patterns it made. It was peaceful, and right then I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

And after being held in peaceful trance by water, we headed back through the main border, and admired the Alliums, which, 1 week later to the day, in my back garden anyway, are making way for Verbena Bonariensis.


with one last look back,


We headed, through the vegetable garden ( I insisted, ‘Just to see what’s going on.’) and into the ‘Alpine House.’ Finally winning the game of ‘us VS everyone else in the gardens hide and seek.

By the time we were due to leave I  was utterly convinced that I had to claim that membership we were offered at the ticket desk. So I did, and I got a free shopping bag.

If that’s not winning, what is?

2 thoughts on “The Rhododendrons of May and more, at RHS Harlow Carr.

  1. I don’t think you’ll regret the membership – the member’s magazine is fabulous, plus all the gardens and partner gardens! Enjoying the focus on tea in your blog. Just as it should be for a gardener!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, for the price of this first year I was thinking the members magazine subscription was worth that alone! Soon to be a second northern RHS garden as well which is very exciting. A good few locals partners as well which I can’t wait to take advantage of. Haha, if you took a cross section I’d be 5% gardener, 95% tea.


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