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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Fantastic spring display at Rydal

WORDSWORTH will always be associated with daffodils because of his ode to the flower, but he had plenty more to offer horticulture besides his famous poem.

William Wordsworth was a keen landscape gardener and the four-acre garden at Rydal Mount, where he published The Daffodils in 1815, remains very much as he designed it.

Today, however, it’s not the daffodils, but the carpet of bluebells, that are providing a spectacular spring display.

Curator of Rydal Mount Gardens, Peter Elkington, explains how the native bluebells, one of Britain’s most iconic countryside flowers, came back from the past.

“We’ve got a beautiful bank of bluebells,” says Peter, who has been curator for the past 19 years.

“The bank was covered in rubbish stuff and when we came here we cleared it with Tony, the late gardener. And once we cleared it and let the light through, the daffodils and bluebells came up.

“They had been hidden for so many years and once they got a bit of light on them they came up.”

It falls to Peter and his team of gardeners to keep the four-acre garden looking as good as it did in Wordsworth’s day for the thousands of visitors who arrive every year. And although the gardens open daily at the start of the tourist season in March, maintaining the fell-side terraces are a year-round job.

However, it’s at this time of year that all the hard work over the winter pays dividends and the bluebells and rhododendrons start to produce a spectacular display of colour.

“The leaves are spreading out now on the acers and the sycamores (some of which are over 200 years old),” adds Peter.

“The Japanese maple has beautiful red leaves. It’s a very big tree, about 120 years old.

“Then we’ve got some azaleas coming out – white, purple and yellow ones.”

One of the azaleas, a 75-year-old tree, has been saved thanks to a sharp-eyed visitor.

Peter explains: “The azalea was being attacked some years ago by honey fungus. A horticulturist, who came here to visit, advised us to get rid of the fungus and get rid of the tree stump that was attracting the fungus.

“There used to be a chef in the Lakes some years ago who used to come here and collect the fungus. He used to cut it off the stump and I suppose since he stopped doing that it spread.

“Then the azalea was dying off, which is a shame because it was a very big, lovely purple one, and it compared very favourably with an old azalea at Hayes.

“So we cut it right back and it looked very miserable for a while. It’s not quite back to its former glory but it’s getting there.”

The winter clearance also uncovered a surprise find which has proved a big hit with visitors this spring.

Peter adds: “We’ve done a lot of clearing and tidying up and we’re still busy doing that now.

“The storm, about three weeks ago blew down a cheery tree, which was around 80 or 90 years old. It actually snapped because it was hollow in the middle and crashed onto the terrace. When cutting it up we found a woodpecker’s nest built inside it and now we’ve got it on display in the tearoom. We had a group of partially-sighted people visit and they could feel the nest. It’s a really beautiful thing, very cleverly done.”

The gardens are open daily until October 31, from 9.30am to 5pm.

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