A Collection a Day…..

Inevitably my good luck with the weather had to run out and my visit to Weardale was under pewter skies and fairly steady rain.   Rachel Etheridge’s collection of Geranium has been on my list of ‘must sees’ since I read the article about it in The Garden magazine back in May 2008.  Being in the North in June seemed an ideal opportunity to see it at its best and despite the weather, it looked magnificent, in fact the rain added sparkle to the flowers and foliage.

Geranium 'Elke'

The garden is broken up into several areas, with a stock area and a huge impressive ‘table’ of pots.  These are plants being bulked up before planting out, new arrivals or trials.  Rachel is able to compare plants to already named varieties to help establish if something really is new and, just as important, is it a good plant worth putting out into the market?

Stock prior to planting out in the garden

The Collection started as a species collection but soon grew to include cultivars and now contains more than 130 species and 900 taxa.  Some types are keen to set seed, so early spring is spent weeding out seedlings while the seed leaves are still obvious.  Some seedlings are allowed to flower and if they look interesting are given as presents to friends.  The plants are mulched with gravel over a membrane to keep down the weeds; a previous owner of the house had kept turkeys, so the soil is very rich.  I was disappointed to hear this and asked if this is a requirement.  My interest in the plant had been sparked by Rachel’s description of her sunny garden on a limestone soil, similar to my own garden, give or take 4 degrees latitude. However I was reassured that they do well on poor soils.  

Given the rain and the camera I was using belongs to my son, I didn’t take many photographs, but this Geranium ‘Alaska’ was crying out to be recorded.   

Geranium 'Alaska'

I need to go back and visit this fantastic collection when the sun is shining, next year maybe?  Open Days for 2011 are this weekend, 25/26 June and the forecast is more promising than today.  Plants are available for sale, minus the ones I bought, which travelled back to Guildford nestled in amongst the Sedum on loan for Hampton Court from Ray Stephenson.

The title of this piece?  I have visited 11 collections in the last 12 days since my visit to Sussex to see the Lathyrus on June 11th.  If I had been counting at the time I would have made sure that I saw the four collections at RHS Harlow Carr when I called in after I had been to Temple Newsam, but I had tea in Betty’s instead.  Yorkshire curd tart, mmmm.  Back to work next week, cycling there and back to counteract the cakes.