RHS Harlow Carr plan a special welcome for the Tour de France Grande Depart

PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 March 2014 | UPDATED: 15:03 28 November 2017

New Curator Paul Cook with some of the spring bulbs being planted against the backdrop of Dogwood Midwinter Fire.

New Curator Paul Cook with some of the spring bulbs being planted against the backdrop of Dogwood Midwinter Fire.

Joan Russell Photography

The new curator at RHS Harlow Carr Paul Cook plans a special welcome for the Tour de France Grande Depart

Visitors walking past the Wildflower Meadow in summer at RHS Garden Harlow Carr.Visitors walking past the Wildflower Meadow in summer at RHS Garden Harlow Carr.

It is not as if Yorkshire has abandoned its traditional white rose for the summer this year although it might seem that to a few. Instead gardeners around the region are being encouraged to plant all things yellow to celebrate one of the world’s greatest sporting events which will set off in Yorkshire, the Tour de France. Among those leading the way is Paul Cook, the new curator at RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate.

‘In celebration of the Tour de France we will be sowing a specially prepared ‘yellow jersey mix’ of wildflowers at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, which will form drifts of colour around the garden and attract lots of wildlife,’ said Paul.

‘The pots and containers around the visitor centre will be full of scented yellow flowers and, for this year only, the yellow rose will be the centre of attraction. Our roses will symbolise the relationship between Yorkshire and France and we were keen to make sure the roses were the best for the site, so we called on the help of the experts at David Austin Roses, who personally selected a range of varieties for us to plant, including Charlotte, Golden Celebration, Teasing Georgia, The Pilgrim.

‘There will also be a flower bed showing a variety of yellow shades and textures to greet visitors as they enter the garden which is being designed by Alison Goding, one of our garden managers.’

Comma butterfly on Inula flower.Comma butterfly on Inula flower.

The yellow displays are timed to start flowering as the cycling teams arrive in Yorkshire at the start of July. These will then flower right through the summer to carry on the legacy and remind us that the Grand Depart really did happen.

‘We have lots of planting ideas and plant selections available through the Turning Yorkshire Yellow campaign which we’re running with Welcome to Yorkshire,’ added Paul. ‘Everyone can get involved at home no matter how much space you have. We have produced a special leaflet to get you started, but this forms only the basis of what you can do. I hope to see people have fun with yellow planting by having their own takes on the theme and come up with some original designs and ideas.’

Paul and his team are also planning to create a bicycle from bamboo. ‘I had the pleasure of riding a bike made from bamboo a few years ago, so to celebrate the Tour de France we are building one from scratch this year,’ said Paul. ‘Bamboo is one of the planet’s most versatile and useful plants, strong yet flexible, and we wanted to link the interest in cycling with the importance of plants in our lives.

‘To add a sculptural element we are also using our plant collection, willows and hazel to weave some tour themed creations that will start to appear around the garden.

Plant portrait of Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'.Plant portrait of Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'.

‘My family are keen cyclists and are planning to descend on Harrogate and take in the atmosphere of this very special event.

About Paul Cook

Paul is responsible for managing and developing RHS Harlow Carr’s plant collections and leading a team of 30 horticulturists, trainees and volunteers. ‘I wanted to be part of an organisation that had long term plans, not just for its gardens, but also for education and helping people get into horticulture as a career,’ says Paul. ‘Harlow Carr is a wonderful garden, with a lot of potential, especially in the woodland. I’m going to focus on shade planting to create even more year-round interest for visitors. Although I’m thinking about the bigger picture, with long-term plans looking as far ahead as half a century, there will be many new things for visitors to see within the next couple of years, ensuring Harlow Carr remains one of the top gardens in the country and is always special to Yorkshire.’

Paul began his career in horticulture as a trainee gardener at Arley Hall and Gardens in Northwich, Cheshire. He then enrolled on a three-year diploma course at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where he was awarded three prizes from the garden for his various projects, research and lectures. He graduated then lectured at Reaseheath College, Nantwich, before going on to run his own garden-design business. In 1993, Paul returned to Arley Hall and Gardens as head gardener where he worked closely with Lord and Lady Ashbrook, the estate owners, for the next nine years, creating a new kitchen garden and restoring a Victorian vinery, before leaving for the curatorial role at Ness Botanic Garden in 2002 where he remained until his move to Harlow Carr last year.

Turning Yorkshire yellow

An easy guide to yellow planting in time to greet the Tour de France

What plants to choose and when to plant

• You can raise plants from seed in February, March and April. Depending on which varieties are chosen the seedlings may need additional protection such as a frost-free greenhouse, heated greenhouse or cold frame. These plants should flower from the end of June or early July, as long as the growing conditions are favourable.

• Direct sow hardy garden annuals or annual wildflower mixture direct in April/May. This will create a stunning mass planting.

• Plants are best bought as plugs (small plantlets) in February and grown in a heated greenhouse but you can also buy larger plants in 7-9cm (2½-3¼in) pots in March and April to grow on in a frost-free greenhouse.

6 favourite yellow blooms and foliage

Snapdragon ‘Bells Yellow’ open-faced, bell-shaped, yellowish-green flowers that bloom from early summer to autumn

Chrysanthemum ‘Candlewick Limelight’ a half-hardy perennial with sprays of single, lemon yellow flowers 8.5cm across

Rose ‘Easlea’s Golden Rambler’ a vigorous rambling rose with dark foliage and loose clusters of fragrant, double, bright yellow flowers, ageing to creamy-yellow in summer

Pansy Sorbet Yellow Delight - a small-flowered pansy with sweetly scented rch yellow flowers, the lower petals with deep purple rays and an orange eye

Ivy ‘Midas Touch’ a small evergreen climber with reddish stems, with triangular to heart-shaped leaves boldly splashed with golden-yellow on a bright green background

Golden Large Thyme - a bushy evergreen shrub-let with small, bright yellow, lemon-scented leaves and erect, interrupted spikes of tiny pale lilac flowers

For more information and invaluable gardening advice go to rhs.org.uk/Harlow –Carr-Garden

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