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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Summer at Bishopthorpe Gardens

After another long cold winter and one of the driest springs on record, it’s nice to see the garden slowly recover with the help of a few showers and some essential watering with hosepipes.

FlowerBeds at Bishopthorpe The flowerbeds in front of the Palace are filled with begonias and geraniums, which are in full bloom. The herbaceous perennial borders surrounding the North Wing entrance are starting to produce a colourful display which will continue until the end of October.

Minster RoseThe new ‘Minster Rose’, launched at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, will replace the old tired roses on the river terrace in a few weeks time.

The tree planting this year will include a selection of fruit, apples and pears and a special tree to commemorate the 2011 Year of the Environment, although the species/variety has not been decided yet.

As Head Gardener you continue moving the garden on by looking ahead to the next month, season, year and even into the next decade. In a garden of this size and importance, not only historically but its value to conservation, this means that you have to sometimes try to look ahead as far as the next century!

 We are reaping the rewards because of the foresight of those gardeners/landscapers of 150-200 years ago. We are lucky to have specimen trees which would be the envy of many arboretums, including a stunning Scarlet Oak (Quercus Rubra), two Crimean Pines (Pinus Nigra Caramanica) which are at least 150 years old and two Wellingtonia Redwoods (Sequiadendron Giganteum) which we know were planted in 1866 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, later to become King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Six more Wellingtonia Redwoods will be planted this year in the woodland after a kind donation made by Mr John Alexander who grew them from seed and looked for a site where they could develop and mature over the next couple of thousand years. I never thought I would be looking that far ahead!

There is other work going on in the grounds of Bishopthorpe Palace for example a survey by York City Council’s Countryside Officer, Bob Missin and a study by York University Bat Group, which will also help with conservation.

The palace grounds have recently been designated as a SINC (Site of Interest for Nature Conservation) and we have already received some early feedback. The site contains valuable habitat such as Acid Grassland, the main Nuthatch population in York, and after one visit The Bat Group recorded a few ‘Nathusius’ Pipistrelle which are elusive and very rare this far north. When the report is completed, I will have more news to share including the future work planned for the Tansy Beetle.

All this information adds to the enjoyment of working at Bishopthorpe as our future plans can be sympathetic to the flora and fauna around us.

I am aware that I, and other staff, are custodians of a garden that has been created over hundreds of years and we hope to aid its growth and development for many generations to come.

 Garry  (Head Gardener)


The grounds of Bishopthorpe Palace are not open to the public except for open days, retreats, receptions, fetes or as part of pre-booked tours.  Enquiries as to hiring meeting rooms in the Palace or enquiries relating to functions should be directed to the Palace Manager 

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