ORCHIDS are blooming at an historic East Dorset estate once again after more than a century.
The newly-restored Victorian orchid house, which used to be an important part of the kitchen garden at Kingston Lacy, reopened on Friday.
It had fallen into ruin over time, but thanks to the efforts of National Trust staff, has finally been brought back into use.
The orchid house was part of a large complex of glass houses which had become disused.
However, thanks to a grant of £38,345 from Local Action Group Sowing Seeds, two of the buildings have now been repaired.
Visitors will be able to explore the site and view an exotic variety of orchids – replicating those cultivated by the original owners – which were funded by a donation from the East Dorset National Trust Association.
Steve Candy, head gardener at Kingston Lacy, said: “Our gardens team has looked through the extensive archives from the Bankes family to find out more about the orchid collection at Kingston Lacy and how the Victorian gardeners cared for these plants.
“It’s good to be able to allow people to experience Walter and Henrietta’s passion for orchids. Everyone will be able to enjoy the decorative and colourful, flower spiked displays in one of the few remaining examples of glasshouse in the UK.”
The Trust gardeners have also worked hard to save a 100-year-old wisteria which was growing on the Orchid House. The plant has been pruned back and supported on a specially made frame.
Steve said: “Saving the wisteria is quite a challenge but it is an original feature of the building and as important as preserving the glasshouse itself.”
Passion among Victorians
Fashionable Victorians coined the term ‘orchidelirium’ to describe their obsession with orchids.
The passion for the exotic and fragile flowers was particularly seen at Kingston Lacy, where Walter Ralph Bankes, and later Henrietta Bankes, developed their collection.
Modern-day researchers were able to draw on specific references to the orchids in the garden diary of Walter Bankes dating from 1896.
On the Kingston Lacy library shelves is a copy of the Amateur Orchid Cultivators' Guide Book, published in 1894, which is inscribed with handwritten notes by Henrietta Bankes.