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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Our View from the Office Window

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Winter has finally arrived at Cragside. This is the view out of our office window looking out over the pond towards the woodland beyond. Its stunning on a day like today. As you may have guessed we are a little hampered for getting outdoor jobs done today but that doesnt mean we can sit with our feet up in the office – oh no! Today is a day for sanding down the benches, ready for their fresh coats of paint, so they are ready to welcome our visitors back when we reopen in Februaury. We are giving the machines a service to ensure they are running smoothly and ready to use. And of course its a perfect excuse to stay in the warmth a little longer to write this little update.

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Seasons Greetings

You may have seen over the past few days on various weather programs that we are looking at possibly having one of the warmest Christmas periods since the 1920s.

As I write this it is 13 degrees C. Higher than the average December temperature for our area. I have seen reports of daffodils already in full flower in parts of the UK.

Normally our roses would have been frosted several times and cut back for the winter, however here in the Formal Garden they are still happily flowering. The image below was taken today. (17/12/15)

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Five years ago Cragside, like much of the UK, was buried under a thick layer of snow with temperatures as low as -18 degrees C. The image below is taken in roughly the same spot as the one above. What a difference.

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The Garden Team would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

All the best

Holly

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Wonderful Waxcaps

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Colourful Cragside

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.

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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.

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Going Back In Time

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.

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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.

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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.

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New Additions

DSC_0364[1]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.

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