This rather unwieldy title – “The rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya : being an account, botanical and geographical, of the rhododendrons recently discovered in the mountains of eastern Himalaya, from drawings and descriptions made on the spot, during a government botanical mission to that country” – relates to a book of coloured lithograph drawings based on sketches made by Joseph Dalton Hooker on his expedition to the Himalayas (1847 to 1851). No catchy titles in those days. The book, with illustrations by Victorian botanical artist, Walter Fitch, did exactly what it said “on the tin”. The rhododendrons are blooming in Fota now. Walking around the gardens it’s hard not to think of the plantsmen who travelled the world seeking different species of plants and trees, many of which are grown in Fota. This brings to mind Joseph Hooker, who introduced the wonderful Sikkim rhododendrons to the British Isles..
“In golden April weather/In sun and wind and rain/Let us fare forth and follow/Beneath the Spring’s first swallow/By budding break and heather/To the good brown soil again.”
Frederick Frye Rockwell (1884 – 1976)
With thanks to our volunteers Vivienne and Linda for the Frameyard board and quotations. And Edwina for the botanical expertise!
Leytown by the sea. And nearby, Sonairte, an organic garden which is like a glimpse of another world. A world of ancient apple trees, vibrant rows of organic vegetables, birdsong and the river Nanny flowing slowly by. Sonairte is an “interactive visitor centre promoting ecological awareness and sustainable living”. This 10 acre project was set up in 1986 by members of the local community. The walled garden has rows of organic (certified) fruit trees and vegetables beds. The woodland walk follows the river along a Salt Marsh and leads to a bird hide with a view of local wildlife and Ballygarth Castle. Volunteering at Fota makes us curious about other gardens and this curiosity led us to Sonairte in “The Ninch”.
We’re open again! The weather was very kind to us and our visitors on the first day of our new season in the Frameyard. Our visitors today included people from Pittsburg, USA, Wexford, Tipperary, West Cork and some locals too. Sunshine. Bird-song. Flowers. Trees. What more could you want on a Monday in March?
It’s old-fashioned, a bit quaint but the wallflower produces a wonderful scent at this time of year. The Elizabethans loved this plant and regularly used them in posies to mask the smells of daily, urban life when they ventured outside. The name cheiranthus is thought to come from the Greek for hand (cheir) and flower (anthos), suggesting their use as a fragrant bouquet. They were also a favourite in Victorian borders. In the Frameyard, where they’re now blooming plentifully, their bright colours signal the arrival of Spring.
Celebrating National Tree Week, March 5th – 12th. Part 5
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Spiralis’, Japan. 1852
If there’s one tree you must see at FOTA it’s rhe Cryptomeria japonica ‘Spiralis’. This striking evergreen rises in clumps of bright green cloud-like clusters, building on top of each other. Not surprisingly it’s the national tree of Japan, where it is regularly planted at temples and shrines. Here in Fota, there’s a well-worn path to a low gap at the base of the tree. If you crouch down and enter you can look up at a cathedral-like canopy and admire the rich, red, fragrant bark. Due to its tight, spiraling needles, it has the rather irreverent nickname of ‘granny’s ringlets’.
Celebrating National Tree Week, March 5th – 12th. Part 4
단풍나무 Danpung na mu Acer palmatum
This Acer palmatum “Koreanum”, from Korea (planted 1937), seems to be at odds with itself, each half of the tree growing in the opposite direction. The smooth bare trunks look like limbs reaching away from each other. In one way it looks like a giant bonsai tree and one can see why Acer is a popular choice for these Japanese miniatures.