In 2011, the temperate and Mediterranean zones were opened to visitors for the first time. The tropical zone is not open to visitors in order to prevent the loss of heat and humidity.
In the temperate zone, which is kept at a minimum of 4°C, we grow early blooming camellia, rhododendron, clianthus, acacia, and other plants from mild climates.
The Mediterranean zone, where the minimum temperature is 13-16°C, houses oranges, lemons, limes, and loquats, which thrive here. There is also a night flowering cactus, Epiphyllum species, which two or three times in summer produces masses of flowers, 30cm across, flowering for just a single night.
In the far left corner of the Mediterranean zone is a Citrus limon Imperial. This is a cross between lemon and grapefruit producing large yellow fruit. The Imperial lemon is used in the house to make marmalade. In 2012, it won first prize in the Miscellaneous Glasshouse Fruit category in the Royal Horticultural Society Autumn Fruit and Vegetable Competition.
In the far corners of the tropical zone [kept at 16°C and above] there are two banana plants, Musa acuminata Dwarf Cavendish. This was imported from Mauritius in 1829, and it did so well at Chatsworth that Joseph Paxton, the 6th Duke’s head gardener, sent one to a missionary in Samoa where it flourished. It is now grown commercially around the world and more than 7 billion bananas are eaten in the UK every year, the majority of which will be Musa acuminata Dwarf Cavendish.
In the central pond is the water-lily Victoria amazonica. Paxton brought this lily from Kew Gardens, where it had failed to flower. In 1849 he managed to get it to flower for the first time in this country in a specially constructed lily house (now destroyed or words to that effect). It is an annual and still grows at great speed in the pond in the Tropical zone of this greenhouse. Our glasshouse team propagate the lily from seed collected from the previous year’s plants.