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The Yorkshire Arboretum (also known as Castle Howard Arboretum)


The Arboretum planting began in 1975. It was the vision of James Russell and George Howard 1920-84,(created Lord Howard of Henderskelfe in 1983). It represents an amazing development in both botany and horticulture for future generations. It comprises one of the most extensive collections of hardy woody plants in Europe.

The Arboretum continues to grow, with the different genus in different parts of the Arboretum. One particularly exciting tree is the Acer rubrum "October Glory" which in October is the most vibrant red. Four species of the Wollemi Pine were acquired in September 2006. This had previously only been known by fossil records, but were discovered in Australia in 1994. There are fewer than 100 known mature trees. The site is approximatley 127 hectares, with improvements to the site gradually taking place over the years.

The following material was contributed by The Yorkshire Arboretum, August 2014:

The Yorkshire Arboretum was created through the enthusiasm and partnership of George Howard (Lord Howard of Henderskelfe) and James Russell between 1975 and 1992. Formerly parkland around Castle Howard, the arboretum covers 120 acres and its unique collection of trees and shrubs is set in a landscape of sweeping vistas, lakes, wildflower meadows and ponds.

The arboretum's southern side is mostly quite heavy clay, while the north side is sandy. The different growing conditions offered by the two soil types were exploited by Jim Russell as he planted a growing collection of trees from the late 1970s onwards.

A large number of interesting specimens came from Hillier Nurseries in 1979 and form the backbone of the collection, but since then the majority of trees planted have been of wild-origin, grown from seed collected by expeditions to many parts of the world, but especially China. Seed or young plants have come especially from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, but also from many other arboreta in the United Kingdom.

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The Castle Howard Arboretum Trust


The Arboretum was created on the site of the "Deer Park associated with Henderskelfe Castle, which was integrated into the designed landscape of Castle Howard at the beginning or the 18th century and is now slightly separated through a different management structure from the main grounds at Castle Howard" (Dr Jonathan Finch, University of York).

These collections were formed primarily from the invaluable collections of the Sunningdale Nursery, Surrey, when in 1968 James Russell's personal connection with the nursery came to an end and the business was sold to Waterers. Of particular interest are the amazing collection of rhododendrons used in Ray Wood, which were brought by James Russell to Castle Howard in 1968. Some of these were descendants of plants, vegetatively propagated, from original seed originally introduced by Joseph Hooker and other plants from collectors eg Ernest Wilson, Reginald Farrer, William Purdom and Frank Kingdom-Ward.

The creation of the arboretum at Castle Howard was the vision of James Russell, plantsman and garden designer, and George Howard, owner. James Russell began planting in 1975. It was a tremendous achievement to create this arboretum. "Lending credence to the maxim, we plant not for ourselves but for the next generation, they embarked on an ambtious project they knew they would never see come to fruition" (Arboretum website.) In 1999 the Arboretum opened as part of the Castle Howard tercentenary celebrations. The Arboretum Trust was formed, as a charitable trust, to protect the important collections of both the Arboretum and Ray Wood.

Mavis Jarvis was James Russell's secretary when he began planting the arboretum. After his retirement she continued to log all his notes on the plants which he had collected over his lifetime into a database. These notes were on the collecting, recording and cultivation of these plants. It is these records of over 7000 taxa which makes the arboretum such an invaluable source of information for research and study, and is so important to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, a partner in this Trust.

It was James Russell's triumph in his planting of Ray Wood that encouraged George Howard to let James Russell create the vision they had had for the design and planting of the Arboretum. It was in 1980 that James Russell discussed the future of the Arboretum with John Simmons (then curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), and with John Sales (National Trust). James Russell also exchanged seed with other arboreta and, in 1985 he was a member of the plant hunting expedition to Guizhou, which had previously been part of the closed province of Western China. John Simmons was also a member of this expedition.

John Simmons worked to secure the plant collections of the Arboretum, especially after James Russell's retirement in 1992. The result was that in 1997 the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust (an independent charitable trust) was set up jointly between Castle Howard and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. As John Simmons had retired from Kew, he was then asked to take on the curatorship of the Arboretum, which he did for about 10 years until 2006. The Aboretum opened to the public in 1999. In 2002 the Rootery, which had originally been a hollow with abandoned root stumps, was planted with 600 meconopsis and ostrich ferns. It opened in June 2003.

In 2002 the Lower Lake was reclaimed from Atkinson's Bog with sponsorhip from Yorkshire Water.

The Bird Observatory and Feeding Station was completed in early 2003. This had been financed by a generous donation from a local member. Also in 2003 the Magnolia Grove was planted, including the Magnolia dawsoniana which was dedicated to the memory of Pamela Burton. She and her husband, Raymond, had been generous supporters for many years.

In May 2006 the Study and Visitor Centre was opened and named 'The John Simmons Centre' in his honour.

The Cruck House is built of oak and chestnut from Castle Howard. It was built by traditional methods to commerate the late Peter Garthwaite OBE (1909-2001). It provides shelter from the sun or rain or a quiet place to sit and enjoy the surroundings.

In February 2009 the Arboretum won one of the first Quality Badge awards for Learning Outside the Classroom. It will capture the imagination of the future generations, whilst they are young, to learn about the natural world and these invaluable collections of trees and plants.

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Plant Environment

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  • Planting
  • Building
  • Building
  • Study And Visitor Centre (featured building)
  • Description: A purpose built wooden structure, on one story, built of English Oak. Also known as 'The John Simmons Centre'. It contains the visitor centre, an educational centre and now also a cafe.
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Plant Environment

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Principal Building






Open to the public


Civil Parish





  • Helen Lazenby

  • Anna Porter