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Things to see in the garden at Treasurer’s House

Daffodils in the foreground before a lawn and stone house with curved roofline behind
See the daffodils bobbing their heads in spring | © National Trust / Joanne Parker

Escape the city and relax in the award-winning garden next door to York Minster – free to enjoy on open days. Winner of the gold award for Yorkshire in Bloom for six consecutive years.

Planting fit for a gentleman

The design of the garden is intended to reflect what Frank Green might have planted. The colours are muted and predominantly pastel tones of whites and blues with statements of grandeur and decadence, a reflection of the decoration and collection inside.

The borders were added in the 1930s when the National Trust first opened the house to visitors. There's a great variety of plants for a relatively small patch and pastel colours last from spring well into October, depending on the first frosts.

Highlights in early spring include iris, crocus and tulips. As the season moves on, look out for peonies, wisteria along the walls and delphiniums. In the height of summer agapanthus and fuchsias punctuate the green and asters and anemones provide colour late into the season.

The garden through time

When former owner, Frank Green bought the three houses that he used to create Treasurer's House, he also changed their gardens to the basic layout you can still see today in the early 1900s. The founding principle of his style was the contrast of grass, tree and old stone.

When excavating for the sunken lawn, so much old masonry was found, Mr. Green thought it must have been used as a stonemason’s yard for the neighbouring York Minster.

Historic black and white photo of a large house with garden and statues
Not much has changed when comparing the garden structure | © National Trust Archives / HPPA

Figures and statues

Frank Green added the wrought-iron gates at the same time that he laid out the garden and the statues, This was by 1906, as documented in this archive photograph. Look carefully to spot the pink sandstone figures of Ceres and Vulcan in the background, as they still are today, and Neptune and Leda closer to the gate. Here they remained until at least 1952. Evidence shows that Leda had disappeared by 1969, whether intentionally or through theft is unkown. Neptune is still in the garden but now resides closer to the house steps.

There was a lead statue of Mercury, sadly also no longer in the garden. However a replica has been created and adapted to use as a fountain for a small pond at the far end of the patch, helping to bring wildlife to this city centre space. Tucked by the side of the path, York Minster side, is Fidelity with her dog.

In winter, the more fragile sandstone pieces are wrapped to protect from the worst of the weather.

A Royal avenue

Alongside a great deal of house restoration, the avenue of London plane trees leading to the garden door was planted some time before June 1900. This was in time for the Royal visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales at the time.

The garden team pollard the plane trees every winter and this leads to their distinctive shape. For a small garden, the avenue adds a focal point ane directs visitors, Royal or otherwise, to the door of the house. The new growth of the branches offers shade in the summer months and interesting structure when bare. Regular pollarding keeps the size of the trees in check making them look younger than they are.

Close up of two sandstone statues of Roman Gods
Sometimes an alternative perspective offers an altogether different view | © National Trust Images / Nick Meers

Escape the city

The garden is a tranquil oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Sit a while and listen to the sounds and songs of the Minster bells. Wonderful whatver season, it's spring and summer when the muted colours and associated scents fill the air that the space is at its best.

To keep noise to a minimum, the garden team only use electric or hand tools. Much of the plant material is composted and used as a mulch to keep waste to a minimum. Although opening times match the house now, it's easy to imagine entertaining guests with early evening drinks, ahead of entering directly to the Great Hall for a lavish dinner with some of Yorkshire's most affluent people, and a few celebrities to boot.

You’re welcome to bring your dog with you to enjoy the garden. Please keep them on a short lead and take any waste with you. You’ll need to use the gate opposite Dean's Park to avoid entering the house.

Look out for falcons

One of the more interesting spots in among the bees and butterflies in the garden are the peregrine falcons who use York Minster as their nesting spot. You can often see them flying around and after the chicks have fledged in summer, they are quite noisy calling to be fed.

Other garden wildlife you might expect to see at different times of year are bees, butterflies, numerous birds and the occasional dragonfly darting around the water.

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