Eryngium - (Miss Wilmott's Ghost)

The churchyard of All Saints, Bolton Percy, is somewhere I've been meaning to visit for years. Created by Roger Brook, it is well-known for its planting.

Most burial grounds are kept tidy, and can be rather depressing places. But in old churchyards and Victorian cemeteries it's often a different story, and in this one in particular, tidy grass has given way to jubilant and joyful planting.

Bee on eryngium

We visited in the middle of July - a month of record-breaking heat. Though many plants were struggling in the dry weather, these eryngiums were splendid.

I've not had much success with eryngiums myself - in my garden they seem to die off. But here there were masses of them. I think this one is maybe Eryngium giganteum - commonly known as "Miss Wilmott's ghost". Some might say this is appropriate for a graveyard. But it doesn't feel haunted by ghosts - it feels like it's very much alive with plants and wildlife.

View of headstones and planting in Bolton Percy churchyard

The churchyard is across the road from the church, and you pass through an iron gate into a wild and lively place full of plants flopping over the headstones. Here, the seedheads of honesty are turning brown in the summer's heat.

Once you've seen gravestones surrounded by plants, you wonder why all cemeteries and churchyards aren't like this. The old stone headstones in particular, as lichen grows on them, look like they should have some plants for company.

View of Bolton Percy churchyard

Now, in the height of summer, the many mature trees were in full leaf and casting shade, late in the afternoon.

Planting churchyards and cemeteries this way is perhaps more common now - I know that York Cemetery is similarly managed and that areas of planting have been created around the burial plots.

I like the way the headstones nestle among the plants. Like these memorials to our loved ones are taken back into the living landscape.

Unidentified but splendid yellow flower, Bolton Percy churchyard

The place was alive with buzzing, with bees covering the eryngiums. And also all over these splendid yellow flowers - big tall things that I vaguely recognise but I'm afraid I don't know the name of. Indeed there were plants all over the place that I recognised but couldn't name. It didn't seem important. Likewise I saw a whole multitude of insects on the plants and I couldn't name them either.

The names that matter here are the ones on the headstones and memorial plaques. I hope that those who are visiting the graves here find comfort in the growth and greenness of this place. I know I did.

Photos: 19 July 2006.

Bolton Percy churchyard garden

Bolton Percy - churchyard view