In a week in which the Chelsea Flower Show would normally have been wowing gardeners, we are putting on our own virtual ‘Cumbrian Flower Show’, to lift the spirits of garden lovers who cannot currently enter our gardens or visit Chelsea Flower Show.
We are posting pictures and a daily digital bouquet on Facebook and Twitter @CLivingHeritage
May is the month in which many of the heritage gardens are a riot of colour, thanks to azaleas, rhododendrons, roses and glorious poppies.
And what a show it is, from the Grasmere garden that poet William Wordsworth created with the help of his sister Dorothy, full of ferns and wild strawberries growing on the steps at this time of year, to statuesque alliums at Askham Hall near Penrith – the symbol of the Grade II-listed gardens.
Alliums are also blooming at National Trust Sizergh, where the majesty of a mirror lake and a rock garden add interesting dimensions. At Brockhole it’s magnolias at this time of year and at Levens it’s the timeless topiary.
Various Cumbrian gardens are known for their stunning azaleas and rhododendrons, not least Holker Hall and Gardens, where these plants frame the BBC Countryfile Garden of the Year 2016, and not forgetting Muncaster Gardens.
At Muncaster, the planting scheme is similar to that used in the Himalayas, where many of the rhododendrons and camellias originate. Luckily, standing at sea level at Muncaster is similar to being at 3350m in the Himalayan foothills and, as social media users will see, the plants benefit from the climate enormously. Should they wish to see more of the gardens than is available in an image, a video voiced by Iona Frost-Pennington, owner of Muncaster, is available for viewing at
Mirehouse offer to the ‘show’ includes beautiful trees in blossom and striking primroses, whilst the wisteria around the door of Rydal Mount, another former home of Wordsworth, provides an uplifting May image that projects a rural idyll. With no visitors in the gardens at present, perhaps Wordsworth’s elusive cuckoo is easier to hear?
But maybe the flower that is the symbol of late May in the Cumbrian heritage gardens is the Meconopsis, from the family Papaveraceae – a one-metre tall, attention-seeking deep blue poppy with contrasting yellow stamens. Cumbria’s Living Heritage is rich in this rarer beauty, with these poppies being found in the Low Garden at Dalemain and all due to a wonderful story revolving around seedlings being found in Bhutan in 1934 by one George Sheriff, who gifted them to the home’s owner of the time, Sylvia McCosh.
But it is not just Dalemain that can display this gorgeous flower in normal times. Had it been open, Holehird Gardens is another home to this flower, being the guardian of the national collection of Meconopsis.
Other gardens along what Cumbria’s Living Heritage calls its ‘Garden Line’ – one of the themed lines on its virtual ‘Heritage Cumberground’ – also have plants, flowers and garden walks normally thrilling visitors at this time of year. For now, however, garden lovers will have to be content with the images they can see, admire and like on the group’s social media channels.
Chair of the group, Peter Frost-Pennington says: “Restrictions may have been lifted on gardening centres but not on our heritage gardens, I’m afraid. For now, all we can do is continue to keep in touch with garden lovers and lift their spirits with images of what is growing and blooming right now, in the moment. We hope our ‘Cumbrian Flower Show’ will be a source of delight and enable people to bookmark certain gardens that they can visit, at some time in the future, when life returns to something approaching normality.”
Please remember that all our gardens remain closed, but garden lovers can wonder the websites of all of the heritage gardens here.