Competition Time

The gardeners are feeling competitive this week and we are already thinking about Halloween. I know, it’s quite a while away yet and you might say I shouldn’t be wishing the months away, but as many of you know one of the key priorities to achieve the best from your garden is preparation.

So even though we are stripping out the spring bedding, preparing the beds and planting out our summer bedding schemes over the next few weeks we are still planning ahead, not just for Halloween but next year too!

Think you can beat the gardeners at growing the biggest pumpkin for Halloween? Then pop along and see Assistant Head Gardener Dale at the Visitor Centre tomorrow where you can plant a pumpkin seed (all materials provided) to take home and grow!

This event is free and runs from 11am to 3pm on Thursday 28th May. Then, come back at Halloween and see if you have beaten us!

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Gardeners Get Together

Nunnington Gardeners meeting 2015

Every six months all of the gardeners from all the National Trust properties across the North East and Yorkshire region get together. This is an opportunity to meet up and discuss whats going on at the gardens we work in, whether its good or bad. Hints and tips are shared, as well as collectively trying to solve any problems which may arise.

The spring meeting was hosted by Nick and his team at Nunnington Hall. What a lovely place to visit! The garden was stunning, and Nick gave us a guided tour. The volunteers we met were lovely and obviously very proud of the work they do.

I also have to highly recommend the mushroom and wild garlic soup – delicious!

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Can you Spot My Little Helper?



This little chap was more than happy to keep me company whilst I was weeding through one of our borders last week. Waiting to see what tasty treats I unearthed for him.


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This Weeks Highlights

One of the main reasons I love my job as a gardener is that the garden is constantly changing. Flowers and plants take their turn to be the centre of attention and week by week, if not day by day, there is something new to see.

One of my favourite things this week is the fern below. It’s an Osmunda regalis purpurea and I love to see the fronds slowly uncurling themselves and standing up straight ready for the leaves to finally open wide.


This next picture is what I think spring in the Formal Garden is all about.

The red and white carpet of Bellis perennis in front of the Orchard House, with the tulips and daffodils gently swaying in the wram spring breeze in the Carpet Beds and the very fragrant Falconet daffodils peeping over the top of the wall in the background.


The swallows returned last week and all the birds are singing, and of course, the sun is shining which always makes everything better. What more could you ask for?

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It’s National Gardening Week

The Royal Horticultural Society launched National Gardening Week four years ago as a celebration of everything to do with gardens and gardening. So this week, starting from the 13th to the 19th of April we are encouraged to get out and enjoy the gardens we own or enjoy visiting – it’s also a good excuse to visit a garden you’ve never been to before!

There’s lots going on nation wide, so why not take a look to find something near you?

At Cragside we are celebrating this week with several events.

Why not come and plant up a pot for the Ivy Bridge on Thursday 16th. The bridge, which is located in the Pinetum, was originally designed to allow a horse and trap to travel over to allow the Armstrong family access from the house to the Formal Gardens and also to their church in Rothbury. Originally, it held 30 pots which were planted up to enhance the route, perhaps planted using a selection of seasonal plants. We have decided to put this feature back as a celebration for National Gardening Week. So come and meet our Assistant Head Gardener Dale who will be on hand to explain and assist in this exciting opportunity!

Ivy Bridge

Ivy Bridge

Andrew Sawyer, our Conservation Officer, is hosting a talk on Friday 17th which is a personal journey into the wonderful magic and joy of wildflowers of Northumberland and County Durham from childhood to present day.

Or, why not join one of our Rangers who are giving a guided walk? You will be lead through the amazing landscape of rocks, caves and secret pathways that can only be discovered on foot.

For more information about times, prices etc please check the website

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Making Space

This week Dale decided it was time to remove one of our two Fascicularia bicolour plants which we have growing in the Tropical Fernery. As part of the ongoing improvements we make to the gardens every year, Dale has bought several new ferns to enhance the existing collection. However to make space for these new additions for Jen, our dedicated fern-loving volunteer, we have had to remove one of the Fascicularia bicolour so she can add them in.


As you can see from the before and after photos above quite a lot of space has been made. The Fascicularia bicolour is a clump forming plant and we filled four wheel barrows with what came out.

We then split some of it up into individual plants and have potted these up into an extra sandy, free draining John Innes compost and will grow these on inside until they start to establish.


We also used a couple of smaller clumps to fill up some space on the rockery at the top of the garden which sits above but adjacent to the Temperate Fernery. This is another area we will be improving over the next few months.


It may not look exciting at the moment but the Fascicularia bicolour starts to shine in autumn when the normally olive-green, spiky leaves of the mature plants (generally from about two year old) turn a vibrant red and an amazing pale blue flower emerges from the centre. With age, the leaves will start to take on a silvery sheen.

Belonging to the Bromeliaceae family it originates from the coastal forests of Chile. It needs to be kept in well drained soil and in a sunny or part shaded position. It is hardy to around -15C as long as the soil is not too wet. Plant in a border or in a pot and enjoy.

fascicularia bicolour





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Snow Days

I popped into the gardens today to say hello to the garden team. I’m glad I took my camera – what a gorgeous snowy day. Here’s a few snaps.

Holiday cottage with the Simonside Hills behind.


Clock Tower


Loggia and Italian Terrace


Bellis Perennis peeping out through the snow


Assistant Head Gardener Dale ventured across to the Rock Garden earlier in the morning, here’s several pictures he took.

Cragside House and Rock Garden


Across the Iron Bridge


Cragside House and Iron Bridge


Path from the Iron Bridge to the Formal Garden


I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek around the garden as Cragside is closed to the public until the February half term holiday. Why not come and enjoy a free visit between February 14th and 22nd 2015? There will be lots of things to do but I’m afraid I can’t guarantee any snow.

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