Force of nature – Discover a peaceful sanctuary at the Treasure's House, York

PUBLISHED: 08:33 20 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:35 20 February 2013

Jules Fern at work in the formal gardens of The Treasurer’s House, York

Jules Fern at work in the formal gardens of The Treasurer’s House, York

Amid the hustle and bustle in York there is a small garden that provides a sanctuary of peace and a haven for wildlife. <br/><br/>Stella Matthew reports

Force of nature

Amid the hustle and bustle in York there is a small garden
that provides a sanctuary of peace and a haven for wildlife.
Stella Matthew reports

The formal garden of the Treasurers House stands in the shadow of York Minster with its thousands of visitors but the first thing that strikes you is how peaceful it is, says Jules Fern who has been the gardener for just over two years. And what enhances that peace is the philosophy behind the gardens management which, along with the house was given to the National Trust by its owner, Frank Green, 80 years ago. His family motto waste not lives on as part of the gardens eco-system.
I am passionate about preserving this so there is no power, no pesticides, no invasive plants they are all indigenous, says Jules. We felt that the garden was small enough to manage without power tools, so I use a push mower and hedges are trimmed with hand shears. The National Trust has a peat-free policy and we make as much use as possible of our garden waste. Any waste which cannot be recycled is taken to the local recycling centre by bicycle, adds Jules who came from Seattle to study archeology nearly nine years ago, changed course to gardening, and stayed. She and a team of eight volunteers use only a push mower and hand tools so the peace which visitors value, is never disturbed.
In Frank Greens days the formal garden with its sunken lawn used to be just that, with no sigh of flowers. Over the years it became dated, the soil was tired and when flowers were planted they were just a splodge of colour and out of keeping with the original. But in spring 2009 it was replanted with blue and white flowers delphiniums, white lavender and white foxglove which are very subtle and more masculine.
All the plants chosen are non-invasive and nectar rich, and they were available in 1930, says Jules, adding that they wanted to honour the spirit of Greens original vision.
Running along the top of the formal garden are two terraces surrounded by box which until this summer had not been open to the public in living memory. Later this year, they will be open on certain occasions, giving a different perspective of the north side of the house. On the other side of the house is the herb garden and there are plans to transform it into a produce garden which will supply the tea room. It is also home to the houses newest arrivals a hive of honey bees. They too are an important part of the eco-system as the National Trusts contribution to help boost the countrys declining bee population, as well as being educational for visitors and providing honey. A small team from the York Beekeeping Association has joined the volunteers to care for the hives.
Honey bees forage for food up to about a mile and a half from their hives so they do well in cities because there is a range of plants, says Jules.
Around the wall of the herb garden will be espaliers of fruit trees such as apples, pears and damsons, which go some way towards returning that area to its original orchard state. Natural resources are also used here. To continue the waste not theme, three compost bins have been constructed by volunteers, following Juless design of hinged sloping roofs, from which rainwater is harvested into an old whisky barrel. It is then hand pumped by an old fashioned village pump.

Treasurers House, Minster Yard,
York, YO1 7JL
01904 624247

Jules Ferns gardening tips
To attract bees, plant nectar rich flowers such as lavender.
Create a wood pile of twigs or logs in a corner of the garden as these are beneficial for friendly bugs such as ladybirds.
Make a leaf mould cage in a dark spot using four posts and chicken wire to create compost with good nutrients for the garden.
Put out a tub with water to attract wildlife, with access for frogs as frogspawn combats garden-eating pests.
Prevent slug damage by using coffee granules and crushed egg shells around your plants.

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