When it comes to design and designers, Cork has plenty to offer. In Fota itself, we have a Richard Morrison designed house. The neo-Gothic Cathedral in nearby Cobh was designed by Pugin and Ashlin. More modern, award-winning designs like the UCC Glucksman Gallery came from O’Donnell + Tuomey. But everyday in Fota House and Gardens, in the Frameyard and the Orchard, we see that Nature is the best designer of all.
In fact, it was more than a fair day. It was a beautiful, pet September day for the 2017 Irish Specialist Nursery Association Plant Fair at Fota House and Gardens.
Even on a misty, early-Autumn day, the Orangery is a bright, light-filled space. Growing happily in one corner is a species of Brugmansia, its orange “Angel’s Trumpets” and large foliage bright against the whitewashed walls. And then there’s the fragrance – released at night to attract moths and lingering throughout the day…
While walking around the garden today in the warm sunshine, I was totally taken aback with the incredible amount of insect life that has flocked to the profusion of garden flowers that are out at present. What really caught my eye was the beautiful Peacock Butterfly on one of the Verbena bonariensis. Her vibrant colours glistening in the sunshine and she did not even mind if I got up close to take a photo as she was too busy sucking the sweet nectar.
Many of us have childhood memories of sucking the nectar from fuchsia flowers or using them to create figures. Some people considered it unlucky to take it into the house. Even the Irish name for the plant -“Deora Dé”, God’s tears – was fascinating. These memories come back to us as we work this summer in the “buzzing” glasshouses of Fota Frameyard. Great, lumbering bumblebees are busy visiting the many varieties of Fuchsia. Magellanica (alba), Riccartonii, Pink Goon, Tom Thumb, Thalia, Mrs Popple, Nellie Nuttall, Sleepy and the wonderfully named, voluptuous Voodoo. Fuchsia was introduced to Ireland for hedging and a walk at this time of year on a country road in West Cork or Kerry bears this out. A constant stream of bees crossing the road from one fuchsia hedge to another is common. It’s like being on a bee highway.
“Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests / I’ll dig with it.” Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist, 1966
The next best thing to gardening is reading about it. And some gardeners write very eloquently about their craft. This blog is a tiny sample from a few of those who sometimes exchanged the spade for the pen, planting seeds for thought.
Unassuming, low-growing and evergreen but I can only describe this plant as enchanting. Cocooned in its spiders’ webs, it looks like a magic carpet of ancient, neglected rosettes. The plant that time forgot in Ms Havisham’s glasshouse. Now it has produced a delicate pink flower, bringing a dash of colour that seems to say “Don’t be fooled, I’m still growing” and living up to its name which means “always alive”.