Blossom watch at Rowallane Garden

Rowallane Garden bursting with colour

Blossom is not only beautiful to look at, it also supports a variety of wildlife. Take a moment on your daily walk or run to look out for birds, butterflies or bees that might be attracted to blossom trees down your street or on your local walk at Rowallane Garden.

Himalayan Blue Poppies - Meconopsis 'Slieve Donard'

Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia) growing in the walled garden at Rowallane
Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia) growing in the walled garden at Rowallane
Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia) growing in the walled garden at Rowallane

Our Meconopsis ‘Slieve Donard’ which grow happily in Rowallane’s Walled Garden is a hybrid dating from about 1935 from Meconopsis grandis and Meconopsis betonicifolia. One seedling was named, raised, and sold from the long gone Slieve Donard Nursery, Newcastle, Co. Down.

Where is it easiest to grow them?

Meconopsis come from the Sino-Himalaya, and in their natural environment they grow at high altitudes, where they are covered by snow in the winter and are exposed to monsoon rains in the summer. These conditions make it easier to grow them in the western and northern parts of Britain.


As with all plants, we grow Meconopsis most successfully when the soil is well dug, loose, friable, nutrient rich, moisture retentive, but not prone to waterlogging. If your soil is heavy and likely to become water-logged in the winter, add plenty of coarse sand or grit, allowing it to drain freely. Conversely, if your soil is on the dry side, it is important that lots of moisture-retentive material, such as garden compost or leaf mould is added. This will help to stop the plants from drying out in the summer, and to keep humidity high.


Meconopsis thrive in dappled shade; The shade can be created by deciduous trees, but it is important that they are not too vigorous or shallow rooted as this can create too much competition for the available water in the soil. Meconopsis also dislike being in very exposed areas, where the wind can damage their brittle stems and leaves.


Meconopsis ‘Slieve Donard’ is an infertile blue poppy and can only be propagated vegetatively, i.e., by division. Once our plants are 3-4 years old, we dig up our congested clumps; this results in many young plants and more flowers than if the old clump was left untouched.

We carry out propagation by division: early spring (March), It is important that it is carried out a time when the soil is warm, and the plants are just emerging from dormancy and beginning active growth. The leaf buds will be visibly expanding, but the leaves will not be extended when they could easily be damaged.

First the clumps are lifted with a fork. Once the clump is lifted, it should be then divided by hand as the shoots are very delicate and could easily be killed by being sliced in half by a spade! These clumps can be broken down into lots of pieces with one or two rooted shoots on each piece to produce the maximum number of plants. Even tiny pieces grow, but they may take a couple of years to flower. So, we pot these up. Large pieces are returned to the compost rich soil and will flower in their first season. These offshoots will be lifted again after a few years and the process repeated.

Dividing clumps of Blue Poppy at Rowallane Garden
Propagation by division in the Walled Garden
Dividing clumps of Blue Poppy at Rowallane Garden

March, the divided blue poppy clumps placed ready for planting in soil enriched with leaf mould rich garden compost.

Himalayan blue poppies at Rowallane Garden
Himalayan blue poppies showing good growth
Himalayan blue poppies at Rowallane Garden

The blue poppies in the walled garden in April putting on sturdy growth.

Look out for blue poppies
Detail of meconopsis, blue poppies in the walled garden at Rowallane, Co Down, Northern Ireland
Look out for blue poppies

The blue poppies flowering in the walled garden in May.

Magnolia Blossom in Rowallane

Magnolias put on a spectacular show and draw you in from far away. These magnificent flowering trees and shrubs that are native to South East Asia, Himalaya and from North America to Brazil. They really stand out at a time of year when they have little competition.

Many of the wonderfully showy magnolias are in full flower in April and May. Colours range from pure white through to deep pinks with some flowers reaching over 20 cm across.

Rowallane has 15 different species of magnolias across the Garden. Many large trees dating back to the early 1900s. They can be found close to the walled garden and outer walled garden and the spring ground. 

Magnolias are easy to grow and tolerant of most soil types. Although they prefer good drainage, they will also do well in clay soils. Magnolias grow to all sizes. They can even be grown in the smallest garden or patio. Magnolia stellata is a good choice for a smaller garden.

On Trio Hill, you will find Magnolia campbellii. Campbell's Magnolia can typically be found growing in sheltered valleys in the Himalayas. The flowers are very large with 12 to 16 tepals, which vary from white to dark pink. They appear very early, before the leaves, opening from late winter to early spring. After opening, the innermost tepals remain erect while the others spread widely. This arrangement may shelter the stamens and stigmas from rain, snow, and other harsh environmental conditions common during their very early flowering time period.

Campbell's Magnolia at Rowallane Garden
Magnolia campbellii onTrio Hill at Rowallane Garden
Campbell's Magnolia at Rowallane Garden

In the outer walled garden is Magnolia dawsoniana. Introduced in 1908 from east Sikang, China by Ernest H Wilson. This rare and magnificent species has pale pink, suffused purple flowers. Received by Hugh Armytage Moore in January 1921 the Rowallane Garden specimen cost 8 shillings, the equivalent of 40p today.

In the walled garden is Magnolia stellata, the star magnolia, is a slow-growing shrub or small tree native to Japan. The tree blooms at a young age, with the slightly fragrant flowers.

Find Star Magnolia at Rowallane Garden
Magnolia stellata in Rowallane's walled garden
Find Star Magnolia at Rowallane Garden

You may also discover Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter veitch’ which is a hybrid created in 1907. This exquisite pink-white flowered tree growing in the walled garden was purchased on the 16th December in 1926 for £2.10p, in today’s money. It is over 95 years old.

Magnolia 'Peter Veitch' found in Rowallane Garden
Magnolia x veitchii  in the walled garden at Rowallane
Magnolia 'Peter Veitch' found in Rowallane Garden

We're asking you to share the beauty of blossom on social media. Upload pictures of your local blossom, tag the location of where it is and use #BlossomWatch to spread the joy of spring with others. Helping nature and spring blossom flourish is simple when you donate to our everyone needs nature appeal or help to plant a tree.

We’d love to see your photos. Share them with us on social media @nationaltrustbelfast

Blossom tree in the garden at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent

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