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?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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





Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planting Bulbs

It’s been a busy few weeks here in the garden. We have been busy planting thousands of tulip and daffodil bulbs which will make a fabulous colourful display when the spring comes.

My tip for planting large quantities of bulbs in a border is to lay them all out to make sure you have enough. It would be a nightmare to plant as you go then get near the end and realise you have ran out! I err on the side of caution so haven’t had this happen – yet!


So here are the tulip bulbs ready to be planted at the end of October to create a spring display.

Before the end of November our volunteers and myself have been busy trying to ‘put the garden to bed’ by cutting back the herbaceous plants, weeding, bringing tender plants indoors and finishing off planting the borders with the rest of the garden team.

It is now the time of year when our volunteers get a well deserved rest over the winter and my seasonal contract has come to an end which just leaves the four permanent gardeners to look after the garden during this time. Hopefully the volunteers and myself will be back in the garden by March.

So during this time there may not be many posts from me but I do hope to pop in for a cuppa and a catch-up with the garden team to see what is happening whilst the garden is closed for a short period of time between Christmas and the February half-term holidays.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Glorious Gardens From Above

Apologies for the dates about the TV series Glorious Gardens From Above in my last blog however at the time of it going to press those were the dates we were told the series would air.

The series will actually start tomorrow – Monday 10th November and runs each week day for three weeks. Each episode lasts 45mins starting at 3.45 on BBC 1. Tomorrow sees horticulturist Christine Walkden visiting gardens in Cornwall.

However most importantly, in my opinion, the episode which is a must to watch is on the 18th November where Cragside features as one of the gardens in the episode about Northumberland. Look out for our Assistant Head Gardener Dale and one of our volunteers Jen. You might also catch a glimpse of some of our other volunteers and staff but that might depend on the way the episode has been edited! Happy viewing.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christine Came To Visit

We recently had a visit from Christine Walkden who was filming in and around the Formal Garden, Rock Garden and Pinetum for her upcoming TV program ‘Glorious Gardens From Above’.

20140904_135530[1]Christine was shown around the gardens by Dale, our Assistant Head Gardener, and helped him to plant a tree which had to be replanted several times until the director got the footage he wanted – in Dales own words “tree goes in tree comes out”. She also met one of our volunteers, Jen, and helped her carry out some work in the fernery, which is one of Jen’s favourite parts of the gardens.


It was nice to have a film crew in the garden and its interesting to see the ‘behind the scenes’ aspect of making a program . The amount of hours spent filming and the numerous retakes to get the footage they wanted.


Glorious Gardens From Above is a 15-part series which horticulturist Christine Walkden embarks on a journey to explore the UK’s most glorious gardens and countryside.  It will air on BBC One from October 6th at 3.15pm.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment