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 are developing a collection of plants which have been grown at Chatsworth over the past 400 years. Each bed will represent a different era; one bed will represent the period between Bess of Hardwick and the 1st Duke, the second will represent the 6th Duke and Joseph Paxton, the third a small collection of the things the 11th Duke and Duchess built the Display Greenhouse to house, and the fourth will showcase some of the 12th Duke and Duchess’s favourite plants.
The Mediterranean zone, where the minimum temperature is 13-16°C, houses oranges, lemons, limes, and loquats, which thrive here and are used in some of the products found in the kitchens and estate farm shop. 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, thought to be stock from the original plants Paxton managed to fruit. 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. Learn more.
In the central pond is a giant water-lily. Paxton brought one 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). 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.