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Belsay Hall’s Rhododendron Garden – experience a behind-the-scenes tour

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  June 26, 2012 | 0 Comments
In full bloom - Belsay's 'secret' Rhododendron Garden

In full bloom – Belsay’s ‘secret’ Rhododendron Garden

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens in Northumberland is a vivid and beautiful place with plants of all kinds coming into bloom as summer begins.

The unleasing colours reflect months of hard work, undertaken to restore and conserve the Rhododendron Garden and take care of the many plant species and wildlife at Belsay, some of which are rare.

Rabbits have been targeting the rhododendrons at Belsay, and with more than three acres of all varieties of rhododendrons, preserve a bit heritage garden has been quite a challenge. The solution has been to install new fencing, greenhouse, and the clearing footpaths around the garden.

Belsay’s head gardener, Jo Harrigan said: “Belsay Hall boasts some of the finest gardens in North East England and is famed for its magical quarry and formal terraces, featuring many protected and beautiful plant species. This month is the perfect time to visit as the stunning Rhododendrons and other summer blooms are really coming into their own.”

On Thursday June 28 and Monday July 9 at 10am  Jo will take visitors on a unique tour that will show the behind-the-scenes aspects of the Grade One listed Rhododendron Garden. This area is usually off-limits to visitors. The massed planting of colourful hybrids, now in full bloom, can also be viewed from the Terrace at Belsay and on the woodland walks.

Belsay's head gardener, Jo Harrigan, in the Rhododendron Garden

Belsay’s head gardener, Jo Harrigan, in the Rhododendron Garden

Jo is the dedicated head gardener at Belsay Hall and has been a key part in moving the Rhododendron Garden restoration project forward. She said: “The Rhododendron Garden at Belsay has been around since the early 1900’s, when Sir Arthur Middleton, first planted the unusual varieties still nurtured today. It is vital that we maintain and protect this stunning garden for future generations visiting Belsay and this was one of the main reasons we carried out the extensive restoration work. Visitors today can literally step back into history and see the garden as it has been now for over a century.

“The Rhododendrons are at their finest at this time of year and we have many more rare species running throughout the grounds at Belsay, we would encourage people to come and take a look whilst they are in full bloom. The gardens have something for everyone and offer a treat for all the senses, whether it is the summer scents of the Terraces, watching croquet on the sunken lawn or taking a stroll through the enchanting Quarry Gardens.”

Belsay Hall Castle and Gardens is in the heart of the Northumberland countryside and has more than 30 acres of magnificent formal and informal gardens, including the exotic Quarry Gardens, home to its own magical microclimate and a collection of Species Rhododendrons. In addition, visitors to Belsay can look forward to seeing the unusual Pocket-Handkerchief Tree. The original tree, thought to be over 80 years old, was lost in 1990, yet since then an extensive planting programme has seen one of the new Handkerchief Trees blossom into a stunning sight at the west quarry entrance. As the name would suggest, the glorious crop of white flowers look a lot like fluttering white tissues!

Jo continued: “There are surprises around every corner in the gardens at Belsay and this is the perfect time of year to come and discover them for yourself. We will be offering visitors the unique opportunity to come and enjoy a sneak peak at the recently restored Rhododendron Garden on 28 June and 9 July – places are limited on these exclusive tours, so call the site to book your slot now.”

For more information about the gardens at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/belsay

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