Great Expectations

Last week a call came over the radio to let us know that a delivery of plants had arrived and much to my great excitement I realised it was our tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica).

We used to have some tree ferns in our ferneries a few years ago but they were lost during a really bad winter so, although I have seen photos, they were gone before I started working here. So as you might imagine I was excited for their arrival. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t this…

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Four logs? How could this be right? Where are the roots and the pot?

But Senior Gardener Dale assured me that this was normal – once planted into the ground we would have to ensure that they are watered regularly, but into their crown and top half. What was he on about? This isn’t how to water plants surely?

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All four now stand proud in our tropical fernery and do you know what? Dale was right. They are starting to unfurl and the fronds are emerging more and more each day.

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I expect they will become a talking point amongst ourselves, our volunteers and our visitors alike.

I can’t wait!

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Plant of the Moment

Every day we get asked ‘Can you tell me the name of this plant please?’ Of course we are more than happy to help, but there are certain plants in the garden which really seem to stand out. Im hoping to post more often about which plants are the centre of attention as the season continues. So here is the first.

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This is Primula vialii – a summer flowering deciduous perennial member of the primula family. It gows to 40 cm high with lanceolate leaves and spikes of light purple flowers opening from red buds. Commonly called the ‘Red Hot Poker’ primula.

You can find it in the Herbaceous Border in the Formal Garden.

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Still Stunning

 

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It never fails to amaze me quite how spectacular and far reaching the Azaleas and Rhododendrons are at Cragside. With so many varieties, colours and scents there’s something to see around almost every corner. Even on a damp Monday morning they cant fail to impress.

 

 

 

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Its Nearly Time

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Its just about that time of year when our azaleas and rhododendron wow us with their spectacular display of blooms and amazing scent. Our Rock Gardener, Neil took this picture earlier in the week showing the azaleas in front of the house just starting to open up.

Our Ranger team have assured me that the azaleas in particular are looking fabulous around the drive and that the rhododendrons are starting to bloom but there are still plenty more to come.

So if you are looking for something to do over the bank holiday weekend or the Northumberland schools half term next week come and have a look. They will of course last for several weeks subject to the local weather conditions but dont miss the opportunity to see Lord Armstrongs vision brought to life with these spectacular shrubs.

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On The Move

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As a continuation from my last post with regard to my warm and cosy nerve centre in the propagation house, I have now moved onto our larger, milder glasshouse. We keep this glasshouse at a minimum overnight temperature of 8 degrees Celsius.

We move up our fully rooted cuttings to this glasshouse as there is always the need for the space in our smaller prophouse. Depending on the overnight weather forcast we will cover these with a horticultural fleece, just to give them an extra layer of protection, for several nights as they adjust to the slight decline in temperature.

Once the roots can be seen emerging from the bottom of their 3.5inch pots its time to pot them on. This time into a good peat-free multipurpose compost and into 5 inch pots. As we do this we will pinch the top of the plants out which helps to encourage a bushier growth habit.

As you will see form the above picture we have tender perennials on the right. At the far left corner there are 5000 purple sedum for the Carpet Beds. We also have pelargoniums to the left of the top fan heater. On the shelving we have some seedlings, some tender trailing plants which we will use for pots, and we have several new citrus trees ready to be grown on and then added to the Orchard House in time. Below the shelving are several thousand of our summer bedding plants.

Its always a surprise at how quickly we can fill our glasshouses but it wont be long until they are standing empty once again. At the start of June we will be planting out our summer bedding schemes. This will take two to three weeks to complete – one of our busiest months in our year. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us but one thing I can guarantee is that June is a good excuse to eat plenty of cake (whatever the weather!).

Well we have to keep our energy up….

 

 

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Keeping Busy (And Warm)

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I wanted to share with you a snapshot of my current role helping with the propagation for the Formal Garden. As you can see from above this is our nerve centre for the whole operation – our Propagation House.

The photo was taken this week and shows a selection of what is going on right now. On the bottom left we have started sowing some of our seeds, in this case Pelargonium ‘Inspire White’. In the centre of the bench at the back you will see a cluster of pots – these are our cuttings. And on the right side of the bench is the start of our potted on cuttings which will be used in this years summer displays. The larger pots around the edges are our stock plants which we keep warm over the winter to encourage new growth which we then take as cuttings.

So its starting to get a lot busier in the Prop House. I’ll continue to take cuttings to ensure there are enough for the borders and pots but it will really get going in April when we sow the rest of our seeds. Apparently there are 10,000 to be grown this year.

And as an extra bonus its always warm in the Prop House on these cold wintry days.

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Snowdrops not Snowflakes

I’m sitting in the garden office on a blustery morning and the weather can only be described as miserable, at best. We’ve had a right mix of weather so far this year. Storm Gertrude has just blustered its way across much of the UK and left a trail of destruction behind and guess what? More howling winds and heavy rain have arrived overnight. Hello Storm Henry  – Oh! The joys!

Our forestry team are being kept on their toes as yet more trees have succombed to the gale force winds. They are only just catching up from the damage which Storm Desmond created in early December. But don’t worry, they’re busy making the estate safe again for our visitors when we re-open on the 13th February.

So to cheer ourselves up here is a picture of the first Snowdrops I have seen at Cragside this year. Always a promise that Spring shouldn’t be too long in arriving. Heres hoping anyway.

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