Its Nearly Time


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


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)


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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Our View from the Office Window


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)


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.


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

All the best


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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.


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!


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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