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Winter at Bishopthorpe Gardens

Christmas Trees Arrive at The PalaceCeanothusNorth Wing Building in Winter Norweigan SpruceLawns in Winter  

At this time of year, I’m always asked the same question, “What do you do in the Winter?” It’s a question I’ve been asked every year for the last 30 years!

The image of us disappearing into our garden shed and playing cards till Spring couldn’t be further from the truth. Winter is just as important as any other season. It’s a time to design next year’s annual bedding schemes, to place orders for seeds and fertilisers, to service lawnmowers and of course there is still all the outdoor work.

This is the time of year we complete our hard landscaping, paving, fencing, tree felling and pruning – these are all physical jobs which keep us busy and warm.

Part of the planned landscaping over this period is to install steps and a pathway along the riverbank so staff and visitors will be able to enjoy another aspect of the garden which will be as diverse as all the others.

The steps and path edges will be rustic and constructed from timber that has come from trees that have either been felled or pruned.  Usually this is due to the removal of lower limbs from medium-sized trees to lift the crowns.

Along the top of the riverbank we have large areas of Symphoricarpos (Snowberry) which has created scrubby areas providing ideal cover for all sorts of birds such as Woodcock and Pheasants, and mammals including the Otter. We know that Otters are in the River Ouse and have seen signs that they visit the grounds from time to time, so the inclusion of a Holt built from timber will be an interesting addition.

Whilst this time last year we were all struggling with the snow, the mild weather has allowed us to continue working on our borders, lifting shrubs that have become too large and moving them to a more suitable position and pruning back perennials, although some are still in flower!

It has been a strange year in the garden with breaking records for the coldest winter, wettest spring and one of the mildest autumns which has shown with plants such as the Magnolia-Soulangiana already in bud, Ceanothus and Hebe in flower and in some places our established Daffodil bulbs are 3-4 inches through the ground!

Our Crocus bulbs which were planted at the end of October are also coming through which sadly is a ‘dinner bell’ to my nemesis the Grey Squirrel, who have already helped themselves to many of our Tulip bulbs planted in tubs!

We have recently put up extra feeding stations for the birds with cages for fat and mealworm balls and extra seed and peanut feeders all of which are being ignored at the moment due to the amount of insects and worms around as unusually we are still able to fork over our borders.

Holly berries are still prolific but I doubt it will be for long as I have already seen small groups of Redwing starting to arrive and I am sure that when the first real cold snap arrives they and others will feast on them quite quickly.

Garry O ReaganWe are nearly at the end of our ‘2011 Year of the Environment’ and I hope that you have enjoyed this small insight of the work we do in the wonderful surroundings at Bishopthorpe Palace. The conservation work continues and reports regarding the Bats, Tansy Beetle, and all the flora and fauna will arrive during next year.

Although there will be no seasonal reports next year, I will ensure the website is updated with relevant information about the gardens and the grounds. 

May I take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

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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