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Heaps of hyacinth at Ripley Castle

PUBLISHED: 10:34 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:50 20 February 2013

Parterre in the kitchen garden

Parterre in the kitchen garden

Linda Viney admires the different varieties of hyacinths cultivated in the grounds of a North Yorkshire stately home

The walled garden at Ripley Castle, near Ripon, is home to one of the National Collections of Hyacinths. The collection was brought to Ripley by Philip Swindells, a former curator of RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate, 15 years ago. There are over 50 varieties on display and their heady perfume wafts through the air as you enter the gate. The variety of colours range from soft whites and yellows to vibrant pinks and blues. It is a sight not to be missed.

If you are lucky you may catch them all in bloom but it may take a couple of visits to see them at their best. In the UK hyacinths are traditionally produced to be grown indoors. But they are at their best when planted in the garden in blocks of mixed colours as the Victorians used to do. They make a wonderfully bright addition to any spring garden.

New varieties added to the collection come mainly from Alan Shipp, a Cambridgeshire farmer with a passion for flowers and who also holds a National Collection.

Head gardener, Paul Bramley, says hyacinth bulbs should be planted twice their depth, four inches apart in well drained soil. If you are going to leave them in situ then mark where they are planted so as not to disturb them when digging later in the season.

The hyacinths at Ripley are complemented by a wide range of spring bulbs from early snowdrops and aconite to drifts of daffodils and bluebells in the woods which form part of the estate. There is a delightful walk through the woods with views to the Capability Brown-style landscape beyond. It also leads alongside a lake with an iron bridge and waterfall and there is every chance you will spot deer grazing.

This formal garden at Ripley has colourful overflowing herbaceous borders and, at one end, a tranquil water feature where you can rest and take in the view. The tropical plant collection is housed in the restored listed glasshouse and orangery. They also hold temperate plants; walk through and you will be impressed with the cacti, abutilons, passion flowers, fruit as well as ferns. The kitchen garden has both old and new fruit trees and a huge mix of vegetables and herbs which are gathered daily for the house and restaurant with any left over for the shop.

'Our plans this year are to create a black and white border, a children's play area as well as a circular walk through the woods,' says Paul. 'We will be holding a plant fair on Monday, August 31st, as well as special concerts and exhibitions.'

The gardens are open daily throughout the year apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day, 9 am to 5 pm (4.30pm in winter). www.ripleycastle.co.uk

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