Saturday 27 April 2013

Weathervane House - one of Yorkshire’s finest gardens

Weathervane House is open
Sunday 5th May, noon until 5pm
The Open Garden scheme is a fine British institution. Run largely by volunteers for charity, it provides access to private gardens and for we garden-openers, the satisfaction of sharing our pride and joy. Known universally as the ‘yellow book’, an annual publication describes gardens open in England and Wales. The same information is provided in free booklets for each county. Click the Yellow Book link on the right to get even more detailed information on the net. The link leads you specifically to Peter and Julie Williams' garden, open next Sunday (May 5) in my own village of Seaton Ross.

Peter and Julie have developed their garden over forty years. Since Peter’s retirement, he has had the time to put ‘icing on the cake’ by extending his existing fine range of beautiful and rare plants. Most of his five acre garden can be inspected next Sunday. Much of the garden is in woodland, where well managed, lovely trees provide structure and protection for underplanted shrubs. These, in turn, give background and shade to an understory of naturalised herbaceous plants and bulbs. 

The garden is furnished with some spectacular garden features and adornments. Peter is a craftsman in wood and his summer-house is a sight to behold. Unusually for the York area where the soil is generally alkaline, at Seaton Ross it is acid and Peter’s garden is full of acid loving plants. Next Sunday is a particularly fine time to see his azaleas, rhododendrons and magnolias, This peculiar season has telescoped together a large range of normally seasonally divided plants. A delightful feature - especially if it rains - is a very large polythene tunnel, where not only is there an extremely fine display of plants, there is also a wide range of exciting plants for sale.

But let Peter’s own fine pictures now do the talking.

Magnolia stellata
General garden view late April/early May
Mixed rhododendron and azalea bed  in early May
Hepatica japonica
Trillium grandiflorum
General garden view early May
Mixed azalea bed
Tulipa clusiana
About Peter Williams, the man who greened Yorkshire’s slag heaps.
Thirty years ago, when you travelled north on the motorways, unsightly pit slag heaps painted a dreadful image of the North. Not any more!  A huge national effort was made to restore the colliery remains. Peter, as a post-doctoral research-fellow at the University of York, studied and researched the recycling of colliery spoil. The team in which he worked provided much of the information needed for the successful restoration project. Although a wide range of ecological and horticultural management principles were involved in the process, perhaps the most significant was adding huge quantities of lime to counter the extreme sulphur-derived acidity in the waste. Peter tells the story of how he recently took a post graduate student to study the ecology on a twenty year old reclaimed site. A measure of his success was that it had merged into the natural landscape so well that he failed to find it! 
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has recently adopted one of the reclaimed sites as a Nature Reserve at Water Haigh, near Wakefield!

Plant propagation is one of Peter’s passions. In particular he grafts rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, cut-leaf maples, fruit and much more. I once mumbled to him that I was not very good at grafting! He responded that it was as easy as sharpening a pencil!Brenda and I looked at each other and the unspoken thought was “have you ever seen Roger try to sharpen a pencil?”

Formerly principal lecturer at York St. John University, Peter is an ecologist, plant physiologist, soil scientist, statistician and gardener. When you see his garden, I suspect you will guess which he loves best. He is a friendly gregarious Welshman. Be sure to to talk to Peter and Julie if you can get to their Open Day!

You will certainly enjoy Julie’s fabulous cakes!

 Julie’s delicious homemade Open Day cakes


  1. I used to live in Woodlesford near that park.

    By the way 5 acres is an estate not a garden!

    1. I seem to be doing my best to promote your neck of the woods, Sue. My last post mentioned Wakefield rhubarb and now this!
      Peter's garden is more intimate than most estates and he does all the work himself.

  2. O what a beautiful garden! And the cakes, delicious! We have been to Great Britain many times and always visit some gardens, also of the NGS . For us your gardens are famous and beautiful but also the lovely teas with scones and cakes we cannot resist.

    1. Yes we are very lucky to have so many lovely gardens, Janneke and great to know it's appreciated. Mind you you have fantastic gardens in Holland. Last year we went to Appeltern - it's like going to more than a hundred Open gardens on the same day.
      And we have been to Amsterdam Open Garden weekend in June three times!

  3. We're going to be in England for a week in September. We're going to be in London and the area around Rye. If only we had more time, there are just too many great gardens to see in the UK.

    1. There are some great September gardens in the south east. I hope you have a great time . Should you get to York in the North to do some sight seeing my garden is open Sunday Sept 8

  4. How I wish I lived nearer - Peter and Julie's garden looks lovely. I don't often get time to visit gardens, something I really need to work on!
    That you for the preview Roger and good luck with your own open day. I know it's quite a while away but I'm sure the time will fly in!

  5. I will be certain to post about my own open day!
    Pete and Julie are all ready and all their family will be on duty!


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