Joanna Lumley has been announced as a new Patron of the Himalayan Gardens and Sculpture Park as it opens for its autumn season on October 5.

One of Yorkshire’s hidden gems, The Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park in Grewelthorpe near Ripon was donated in 2012 to a Charitable Trust, The Hutts Foundation, by Peter and Caroline Roberts. The charity aims to advance the arts, horticulture and the environment, including the cultivation of rare and endangered plants.

Joanna Lumley said: “I think that the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park sounds like a slice of paradise, and my Kashmiri-born heart jumps with joy to think of its existence. Gardens are the greatest healers on earth, and as our stressful anxious lives tie us up in knots we may turn to the sweet silence of the great green earth for solace. Paradise is the old word for a walled garden: safe from the burning sun and whipping winds, with water flowing, shady trees and the scent of flowers. The Hutts Foundation has generously given us the key to the door; just turn that key, and find happiness and peace.”

Joanna Lumley

An open-air gallery with over 80 striking contemporary sculptures in a tranquil valley, the gardens cover 45 acres of woodlands, gardens and an arboretum, with three lakes. It hosts the North’s largest collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, with nearly 20,000 plants.

The Himalayan Gardens was named as a 2019 Yorkshire in Bloom Champion winning the categories for Best Tourist Attractions and Best Yorkshire in Bloom Business. Judges described it as, “a truly beautiful and amazing place.”

This autumn, the Gardens put a spotlight on the age-old tradition of botanical illustration.

Botanical artist, Bridget Gillespie, will run a three-day workshop from 9-11 October. The art form dates back to 50 and 70 CE, with a Greek botanist identifying plants for medicinal use; by the 18th century it became a respected profession.

Bridget said: “There’s been a recent revival of interest in botanical illustration as I think people are starting to prioritise beauty over convenience. I think in our digital age where everything is throw-away, convenient and fast, it’s something of a slow revolution. It is transformative in that it shows people how to see things in a new way, to really look at the detail and complexity of plants as something seemingly simple, rather than take them for granted.”

A botanical illustrator for over 20 years, she was awarded Gold Medals by the RHS who purchased several of her pieces for their archive collection.

She said: “Autumn is a stunning time of year in the Himalayan Gardens because of the beautiful woodlands and strong colours.”

Before the era of photography, artists were depended on to share the beauty of botany, with in-depth horticultural knowledge. Illustrations were used by physicians, pharmacists, scientists and horticulturalists for identification, analysis and classification.

The drawings are still used today by major horticulturalists, including the RHS.

Bridget added: “One of the unique and very exciting things about the Himalayan Gardens is you’ll find very rare plants you won’t find elsewhere, thanks to the specialised conditions of sheltered woodlands on acid soil.”

Bridget believes botanical illustration fits with the meditative theme of the Himalayas, as the drawings are a slow process, demanding huge levels of concentration: “Once you’ve really learned to look at plants in detail with all their complexity the world is your oyster – everything can be of interest because you just start to look more closely than before.”

The Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park opens for autumn October 5 to November 3. Opening hours are 10am-4pm on Tuesdays to Sundays and Bank Holidays. https://www.himalayangarden.com/

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