Hard work begins to blossom

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

MONTHS of hard work are coming into bloom at a Northumberland visitor attraction as a garden restoration project has been completed.

With three acres full of all varieties of rhododendrons to preserve in this heritage garden, the dedicated team of gardeners at Belsay Hall were coming up against increasing problems – with rabbits targeting the plants which have graced the historic home for generations.

As a result, new fencing has been installed and a greenhouse has been added, with the paths around the garden also cleared and ready to re-use.

Head gardener Jo Harrigan will be taking visitors on special behind-the-scenes tours of the improved Grade One listed Rhododendron Garden, normally off-limits to members of the public, on Monday from 10am.

The massed planting of colourful hybrids can also be viewed daily in all its glory at a distance from the Terrace at Belsay and on the woodland walks.

“The Rhododendron Garden at Belsay has been around since the early 1900s, when Sir Arthur Middleton first planted the unusual varieties still nurtured today,” she said.

“It is vital that we maintain and protect this stunning garden for future generations 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.”

Ms Harrigan is also on the hunt for budding gardeners and horticulture enthusiasts to add to her team of volunteers already helping out at the English Heritage property, which includes the Quarry Garden and Winter Garden as well as the Rhododendron Garden.

Since joining Belsay, she has passionately backed the volunteer scheme that gives people the chance to help maintain the gardens, design plots and care for the plants and flowers.

She said: “We’re looking for volunteers of all ages who are enthusiastic, have a love of gardening and the desire to work in amongst the historic Grade One listed gardens at Belsay.

“We also offer hands-on, practical experience, so any new volunteers hoping to pursue a career in horticulture would be able to learn on the job and develop their skills further.”

To book your place on Rhododendron Garden tour, telephone the site team at Belsay on 01661 881636. To register your interest in the voluntary gardening scheme, call Ms Harrigan on 01661 881636.