As spring takes hold, thoughts turn to gardens; what to dig up, what to plant, and how to arrange it all. So a trip to the local nursery may well be in order. But not all nurseries are the same and some are worth travelling a long way to see. Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens has the endorsement of the Royal Horticultural Society that it is indeed one of those worth going the extra mile for.
It’s one of the best gardens and nurseries in North Yorkshire (and probably a lot further afield), which not only has a wide range of herbaceous plants for sale, but also has a number of different styles of gardens so that visitors can see plants in a range of settings. The flower beds are densely packed for a wealth of colour and ease of maintenance, and there’s a variety of texture and fragrance. So not only is it a pleasurable experience wandering through the gardens and enjoying their many delights, but it can also be regarded as practical help in deciding which plants go with what.
Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens is set in the grounds of a farmhouse which was built over 300 years ago, and it’s a haven of peace and tranquillity. It has a woodland walk which leads to a natural pond with reeds and lilies. If you’re lucky you may spot a dragonfly catching smaller insects or a frog hopping from lily pad to lily pad. A little further on there’s a wildflower meadow which attracts birds, butterflies, ladybirds and grasshoppers. And the circuit back to the house is completed with a walk through extensive and beautiful herbaceous borders.
The Lodge Gardens have a café which tries, as far as possible, to source local produce, so you can enjoy home-made cakes, jams, and chutneys and locally made ice creams. The café also sells greetings cards, locally-made baskets, paintings and Plant World seeds.
The Gardens have their own beehives (not open to the public), and a vegetable plot too, so there’s plenty to see and do.
And I haven’t mentioned the poultry! Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens has geese and several varieties of rare poultry – allowed to roam free, they serve the excellent purpose of devouring unwanted slugs.
The Gardens were started in 1975 when Vanessa Cook and her husband bought the farmhouse and its four acres of land. After much hard work, Vanessa opened the nursery in 1983 and it’s gone from strength to strength since then.
Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens run morning courses on a variety of subjects including: Keeping Poultry, Willow Weaving, Watercolour Painting, Patchwork, Beekeeping. But the main course topics are related to gardening and horticulture. Vanessa also personally offers guided tours around the gardens – each tour lasts around two hours.
The Lodge Gardens have featured in many publications including:
- The Daily Telegraph Gardeners’ Guide to Britain (by Patrick Taylor)
- Gardeners’ Favourite Nurseries (by Leslie Geddes-Brown)
- Gardens Illustrated 2009 (“one of the best cottage gardens”)
- The Good Gardens Guide (edited by Peter King)
As well as:
- The English Garden
- The Independent (one of the top ten June gardens)
- The Garden
- Yorkshire Life
Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens was also included in the BBC 2 TV programme Castle in the Country.
The gardens are open this year from 2 April until 28 September (open every Wednesday & Friday and the first and third Saturday & Sunday of each month from 1pm – 5pm).
Garden Entry fee: £4.00 or 50p for children aged 5-16. The garden is free to RHS members on Wednesdays.
Directions: 8 miles south of York, just off the B1222, almost at the midpoint between Selby and Tadcaster. The number 42 bus (which runs between York & Selby) stops at Stillingfleet village by St Helen’s parish church, 5 minutes’ walk from the Nursery.
Check the website for further details: Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens