Waxcaps (Hygrocybe species) are a variety of toadstool which are often brightly coloured with a distinctive waxy top. We have several different types here in the Formal Garden. They thrive in areas of grassland which have had very little cultivation and no added fertiliser. This may come as a suprise that we have them in our lawns as many people would assume that our lawns are lavishly tended – scarified, well fed, aerated and top-dressed. Apart from mowing our lawns regularly, very little is done to them.
But there is a reason for this. Our lawns are an old fine grass mix and slightly acidic in nature which leads to moss becoming a prominent feature. However we dont mind this moss as it encourages our fabulous range of Waxcap fungi during the autumn months. They are not always easily spotted but once you start looking closely what a treat you are in for!
Here are some of my favourites.
Above are a variety of the range of colours our waxcaps can be found. We have Crimson Waxcaps, Honey Waxcaps, Blackening Waxcaps, Golden Waxcaps, Parrot Waxcaps, Snowy Waxcaps and Cedarwood Waxcaps. We do also get the Ballerina Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis) which is pink and quite a rare variety only to be found in very localised areas of the UK where the conditions for growth are optimal. However I haven’t found one yet this season, but there’s still time!
Above are a type of coral fungi (left) and ‘smokey spindles’.
Our waxcaps mainly grow on the lawns in front of the Orchard House. So if you are visiting soon why not take a closer look at what is growing in our lawns.
As September draws to a close and autumn is starting to edge its way in, our visitors are amazed by how colourful Cragside Formal Gardens still are. A comment which we receive numerous times every day. It is lovely to hear any kind of positive comment, but when we seem to truly amaze our visitors, particularly so late into the year, it really does make all the hard work and effort worthwhile. And the biggest compliment of all? Visitors who stop and take a photo or two. If they think that a particular plant, flower, border or view is worthwhile capturing in a picture forever, then I think we have done our job well.
To keep our late summer displays going we are busy deadheading everyday and will continue to do so until the first frosts arrive (hopefully not too soon!) The dahlias in particular require a lot of attention, four trug loads of deadheads today, but will reward us with their fabulous array of colour for several weeks to come.
This year Karen decided to go back in time to recreate a design for the Carpet Beds from 1900. It is an abstract design which is taken from a postcard of the Carpet Beds and the glasshouse range which is the earliest picture we have in our archive.
As you can see from the picture below that with a little bit of artistic license Karen has marked out the beds by hand and followed the design as closely as possible. She has chosen plants with a variety of colour’s to enhance the overall finish.
So it may not be an exact replica but she has done a pretty good job which has been proving very popular with our visitors. It has the wow factor as it is one of the first things visitors see when they arrive in the Formal Garden. In fact it is probably one of the most photographed areas of the garden.
We have some new additions to the garden this year – baby robins. I had the pleasure of this little one keeping me company on Tuesday. It was busy eating any little grubs I unearthed whilst weeding. It’s favorite place to wait was to perch on my bucket. Do you think its trying to tell me to hurry up? They are certainly not shy and will usually appear around the lower parts of the Formal Garden, in particular the Herbaceous Border, the Italian Terrace and the Rose Garden. Keep a look out for them if you are visiting and they might even pose for you to take their photo.
I have been spending some time working on the Italian Terrace, catching up with some weeding, cutting back some perennials which are now past their best and adding in some new plants to fill up a couple of gaps. Its been lovely to spend the warm sunny days that we have had (before the rain arrived!) working in this area of the garden as the butterflies and insects have been busily gathering nectar and pollen. One plant in particular seems to be very popular with the insects and is commonly called the Yellow Pincushion Flower, or botanically it is known as Scabiosa columbaria var. ochroleuca. It is a perennial plant which grows to approximately 80cm in height with a spread up to 60cm. It has creamy yellow flowers on long branching stems and flowers continuously from early summer to mid autumn, but regular dead heading will increase the number of flowers. Generally this scabious is a good all round plant with many qualities. It thrives in a sunny position, as long as the soil is free draining and is drought tolerant. It is resisitant to deer and rabbits, can be used as a cut flower and, as mentioned earlier – the insects and butterflies love it. At Cragside we have it planted in our mixed borders as a block which is interspersed with Lilium ‘Black Beauty’. Although the Yellow Pincushion Flower is perennial, it is a short lived perennial, it will however happily self seed every year giving a constant yearly display. As with most perennials, cut back to 1-2″ during late autumn or early spring and it is hardy to -20 degrees Celcius. Native to central and southern Europe, western Russia, northern Africa, Lebanon to Turkey, Caucus and Siberia and grows in dry meadows and rocky slopes. The Scabious genus consists of approximately 80 individual species consisting of annual, biennial and perennial plants and belongs to the Caprifoliaceae family.
Phew!! What a month we’ve just had. June is undoubtedly our busiest month of our gardening year. During this time, as well as the everyday jobs which need to be done, we change our seasonal bedding displays. This involves potting up display pots, stripping out all the spring bedding plants and bulbs from the beds, preparing the ground, marking out and finally planting out our summer displays. This works out at around 25,000 summer bedding plants.
Orchard House borders stripped and ready to be planted
The Formal Garden was designed and created by the 1st Lord Armstrong, a Victorian inventor, and his wife Lady Armstrong C1870s. The garden is laid out over three terraces which include lawns, ponds and of course the flower beds.
One of the traditional Victorian highlights of a garden is its seasonal bedding displays. It was popular to have two displays a year – spring and summer, although sometimes gardeners were required to produce three schemes, which also incorporated a winter scheme too. Luckily we only do the two schemes – spring and summer.
Here at Cragside we traditionally bed out from the 1st June. This is due to being ‘so far up North’ and a reduction in the risk of frost damage but, yet again, we were kept on our toes when the temperature dipped to minus two degrees Celsius in the middle of the month. The majority of the plants we use are tender so planting them too early can lead to significant losses.
Tender perennials are used in our Wall Borders
Personally I don’t generally help with this work as I am banished to behind the scenes to prepare the plants for this years Carpet Bed design. (I do sometimes manage to escape for a day or two to cut the grass though). So after 10,000 plants or so (its far too many to count) and a dream or two about mountains of Echeveria, the month of June has been and gone in a flash. The Carpet Beds are finished, the borders are all planted up and in several weeks the Formal Gardens will be looking at their very best and that is reward enough for the effort it takes to complete.
It’s that time of year again when the Rhododendrons and Azaleas are in full bloom. It’s not just our visitors (and us!) who enjoy their show but our little bee friends enjoy them too.
Head to the Rock Garden to see a riot of colourful Azaleas which also have an amazing aroma, it’s quite heady, particularly on a warm day but definitely worth a wander along the many paths.
Or take the car around our 6 mile Estate Drive to see the vast amount of Rhododendrons we have at Cragside. There are plenty to see!
Stop off in the car parks along the way and enjoy a walk along one of the trails – My personal favourite is to walk around the Nellys Moss Lakes.
The display should last for the next couple of weeks, weather depending, so head along for look yourselves.
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Tagged Azaleas, colour, Cragside gardens, flowers, National Trust, Nellys Moss Lakes, northumberland, outdoors, Rhododendrons, Rock Garden, Walks