Holbeck Botanic Gardens

holbeck botanics1

Guest blog post by Artist Gillian Holding

I’ve been walking the length of Water Lane in Holbeck several times a week for a while now: it’s the nearest place to my studio for a decent espresso. Every so often for a bit of variety and excitement, I liven up the route with a detour onto the small desolate side roads populated by a few solitary parking meters, and adorned with rampant weeds and an eclectic collection of rubble.

I don’t know what I’m looking for when I leave the main highway. I’m driven by natural curiosity, but also because I find this scarred light industrial landscape surprisingly compelling and aesthetically interesting. I’ve felt increasingly there’s art to be found amidst the desolation, and in recent weeks I’ve found it.

For the last four weeks have revealed at the intersection of Bath Lane with Holbeck Ginnel the triumphant glory that is Holbeck Botanic Gardens. This paradise of massed vibrant colour and floral abundance comprises two extraordinary ‘meadows’ and a variety of ‘borders’. The flowers have emerged from the rubble and concrete over the last month and with each passing day I’ve been in awe at the power of nature to impose such beauty in such unprepossessing circumstances.

Did somebody at some point sow some seeds? Is it all the remnant of some attempt by previous occupants of the sites to introduce herbaceous landscaping? One of the meadows has a predominantly yellow-blue theme. The other is a patriotic blaze of blue, red and white. A border tends to red and white. The sheer variety of colour is extraordinary, but on closer inspection you see that cornflowers are contributing many of the blue hues of delphinium, violet, indigo and sky-blue; poppies account for much of the crimson, scarlet, rose and magenta; and asters a lot of yellow.

Tucked inbetween the power flowers though are a mass of other smaller plants, all contributing to the textural tapestry which is best observed by walking right up and leaning down to it all. No photo can do justice to this magnificence, which I dare not admit to the dog who has patiently sat waiting for me to scamper round in my vain attempts to record it all for posterity.

On Monday this week it was still looking splendid, though I fear the pinnacle of perfection is no more. If you go, park the car and walk around. The closer in you get, the more impressive it is. Like any good artwork, Holbeck Botanic Gardens do not show all at first sight. But do go; and marvel.


  1. They were planted on purpose, something to do with the site that’s better than bare earth. Lovely arent they.

  2. I believe that this is part of the “green corridor” that is designed to link Holbeck with Holbeck Urban Village and on to the City Centre. There are similar meadows behind Gaitskell Grange and on the cleared sites of the Recreations in Holbeck.

  3. Thanks for this information; I now feel compelled to go and investigate all those other places in the corridor! There’s a similar sort of thing through Little Switzerland/Gipton Wood/ Wyke Beck I think but no plantings like this there.

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