I spent a long weekend in Yorkshire in May, and as part of the trip I visited Beningbrough Hall, now run by the National Trust. Beningbrough Hall was built in the 18th Century, and the inside is fascinating – the National Trust have a portrait theme here, and display portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. However as the weather was gloriously sunny, we spent most of our time enjoying the gardens. I’m particularly fascinated by the kitchen gardens of old houses like this.
The walled garden at Beningbrough is described as a ‘working kitchen garden’, but it isn’t really. The centre is grassed over for children to play or families to picnic, but around the edges fruit is grown in traditional ways, with lots of old varieties of apples and pears. The trees above have been trained as cordons, allowing easy access for harvesting and pruning, while taking up very little ground space. Here, they are acting as a kind of fence to other beds that can be used for growing vegetables.
The high walls of the kitchen gardens of stately homes help to shelter the crops from wind, and the south facing walls offer opportunities to grow tender plants that need warmth. Fruit trees are trained as espaliers on such walls, where branches are trained along horizontal wires.
Fruit trees can also trained on curved hoops or frames, providing a shady and attractive path as well as another way of allowing easy access for harvesting.
There is a glasshouse built against the wall at Beningbrough, currently being used to grow grapes. The vines are planted outside, the stems enter near the bottom and are then trained to grow beneath the glass on the inside. Yet another ingenious way of using the space efficiently, as the vines allow enough light through for other plants to grow beneath them.