Gardeners expect best year ever for shrub display

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GARDENERS at the National Trust’s Cragside are predicting the best rhododendron display in years thanks to the mild winter and April showers.

Huge numbers of flower buds are bursting into colour at the former home of Lord Armstrong, who created his 1,000-acre estate to replicate the rhododendron forests of the Himalayas.

Gardener Neil Cuthbertson said: “The rhododendron season is one of the best times of year to visit Cragside.

“The whole estate is awash with pink, purple, white and red rhododendrons, complimented by the scented yellow and orange azaleas.

“You can explore the estate on foot as we have over 40 miles of footpaths, or by car around our six-mile carriage drive.

“Either way, this is a great year to visit as we’re expecting the best display in five years.

“The number of flowers buds ready to bloom is phenomenal.”

Rhododendron flower buds form in autumn and weather conditions over the winter and spring affect their survival.

During harsh winters, stems will snap under the weight of heavy snow and a hot, dry spring will reduce the longevity of the blooms.

This year the National Trust is continuing its Whit week late-night openings for visitors to experience the rhododendron blooms in the evening light.

The estate will be open until 9pm on June 6, 7, and 8.