Scampston’s Perennial Appeal
Of all Ryedale’s many charms, one of the most cherished is to be found in the pretty village of Scampston, just off the A64, near Malton. The Hall, restored to its pristine glory in the 1990s, is one of the finest regency country houses in North Yorkshire and boasts some magnificent paintings, notably by Gainsborough, porcelain and furniture. Set in glorious parkland, landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, it provides an ideal day out for the whole family.
Scampston Hall’s unique feature is the award-winning Walled Garden, strikingly beautiful, utterly contemporary and the conception of the acclaimed Dutch landscape designer, Piet Oudolf, Haarlem-born and now in his late seventies. One of the pioneers of the relatively modern New Perennial Movement of garden design, which chooses plants for their suitability within the environment rather than for anything as showily superficial as their colour, Outdolf completely re-designed the garden at the beginning of the Millenium. After years of neglect it had almost become a wilderness.
Admirers of Outdolf’s naturalistic approach to gardening, his designs and plant compositions featuring bold sweeps of herbaceous perennials and grasses, come from all over the world to look at one of his early creations, which remains his largest private commission in the U.K. The plants are chosen for their suitability to local weather conditions and the local light sandy soil. The garden is self-seeding and does not require much in the way of irrigation, staking or feeding, as would a traditional garden. It is fundamentally, then, a self-regulating, self-sustaining eco-system in itself - and does not need pesticides.
In its Victorian heyday, the kitchen garden employed some thirty men, most of them living on the estate.
This was obviously unsustainable in modern times and one of the aims of the owners, Sir Charles and Lady Caroline Legard, when bringing in Outdolf’s expertise, was to make the garden more or less self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Broadly speaking, it now is, under the guidance of Sir Charles’s son, Christopher, and his wife, Miranda, managed by a small team of professionals with the help of select volunteers.
Gardens at Scamspton Hall
The new methods provide a very different kind of a garden, one based on hardy perennials, which in their stability provide something to delight the eye the whole year round as well as being of great ecological benefit to insects. Outdolf’s grand design can, perhaps, best be seen by climbing the steps up The Mount, a pyramid-like structure, from where, above cherry trees and a wild flower meadow, the best view is obtained of the serpentine sculptures of yew, cubes of box, pleached limes, and an array of topiary and formal hedges.
Each garden room has its distinctive character, from the tall yews in the Silent Garden, to the rippling drifts of molinia grasses, amber-tipped for much of the year. In early Spring delicate pinkish blossoms are in gorgeous profusion, whilst in summer the meadow is carpeted with violets and purples before the autumnal colours burn brightly. At this time, there is a natural winter palette, subdued but not devoid of life or colour.
In the Perennial Meadow, in front of the newly-restored conservatory, naturalised planting can be seen to best effect, each plant, leaf, flower head and stem having been specially chosen because of their natural affinities with each other, in these conditions. The triumph of the system is that though they have not been selected only for their decorative qualities, they look wonderful anyway because they prosper so well all the year round. Though quiet now, in summer it comes alive with butterflies and bees.
There is much to admire about the planting in this area, not least the lovely Amsonia tabernaemontana, sometimes known as ‘eastern bluestar’, with its early near black stems followed by pale blue star-shaped flowers. The tall stems of Phlomis russeliana, ‘Turkish sage’, will in warmer times be a wonder of whorls of hooded, soft yellow flowers. A good architectural grass Festuca marei, one of Outdolf’s staples, is impressive all year round, particularly in midsummer with its delicate green foliage topped by slender pale flower panicles. Later Panicum virgiatum, ‘Shenandoah’, with its strong vertical stems and flowing coloured seed heads and leaves, will come into its own, turning a burning yellow in Autumn.
Those who prefer the familiar vividity and variety of more traditionally grown perennials will not be short measured, however, because these will be found in the traditional gardens bordering onto the great Hall and around the grounds. Trails through the park allow visitors to take in natural vegetation and the mile-long Cascade Circuit leads past ‘Capability’ Brown’s exquisite Palladian Bridge, to a rock garden and beautiful lakes.
Gardens at Scamspton Hall Gardens at Scamspton Hall
Piet Oudolf’s innovative work can be found in famous gardens in Canada, the USA, Ireland, Germany, Sweden. His own gardens, at Hummelo, near Arnhem in the Netherlands, established in 1982, will repay any number of visits, given the way he is constantly reshaping it as his designs develop.
Of course, one of his finest conceptions is right here on our doorstep. Unlike many gardens, its appeal is not confined to the months where the sun shines, the mercury rises and the birds sing.
Summary of 2023 opening dates and times:
Walled Garden, Hall Gardens, Parkland & Plant Centre
Gardens at Scamspton Hall
Opening DateWednesday 29th March 2023
Closing DateSunday 5th November 2023
Wednesday to Sunday, plus BH Mondays
Opening Times10am to 5pm (last entry 4:30pm)
Opening DateSunday 14th May 2023
Closing DateSunday 30th July 2023
Days OpenWednesday to Friday, plus Sundays and BHs (closed Saturdays)
Opening TimesGuided tours only: 12pm, 1pm & 2pm
Parkland Closures & Limited Access
Thursday 4th May - Sunday 7th May 2023 (no access to outer parkland trail*)
Thursday 18th May - Sunday 21st May 2023 (no access to outer parkland trail*)
Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st May 2023 (FULL SITE CLOSURE OF SCAMPSTON WALLED GARDEN, CAFE AND PARKLAND)
Sunday 18th June 2023 (no access to outer parkland trail*)
Friday 23rd & Sunday 25th June 2023 (no access to outer parkland trail*)
Saturday 5th August 2023 (no access to hall gardens and woodland area)
Friday 1st - Sunday 3rd September (no access to outer parkland trail*)
* closure of the parkland from the cattle grid to the cascade bridge gate. Other parts of the parkland are accessible (i.e. woodland, chain avenue, inner parkland, route up to ice-house).
To find out more information about closures, please call 01944 759 111.