Fota Frameyard Blog

Gardening, Nature and Heritage from Fota House


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From the Canaries to Fota

Gabriella’s choice….Aeonium arboreum

In the first week of February I was travelling in the hilly northern part of Gran Canaria. There I saw a huge number of big plants with yellow flowers growing in the wild. It dawned on me that this was a plant I’d seen previously in the glasshouses in Fota. It was the Aeonium Arboreum, which had been presented to Fota’s Frameyard by Mrs Reiker.

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A Murder of Crows

Crows get a bad rap. Is it deserved?  They can be noisy as they gather in large, sociable groups for the evening roost. Farmers justifiably hate them because Ravens can kill lambs or eat seeds and root vegetables. We often attribute human characteristics to birds and animals and in the case of crows we use words like – raucous, aggressive, cheeky, quarrelsome, devious or even call them vermin. To this list we can add more positive adjectives like – intelligent and playful, with the ability to learn how to use tools. Whatever we think of them, they feature large in our lives, whether we live in the city or the country. And Fota is no exception, where they live in the high trees and feed on the expansive lawns.

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Bath time at Fota!

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Birds need water. For both drinking and washing. It’s not uncommon to see larger birds dipping pieces of dry bread into water, to soften it and make it easier to eat. But even the small birds can only eat so many dry seeds and nuts without a welcome drink of water. Washing gives the birds a chance to get rid of the dust on their feathers, dispose of mites and parasites. Or maybe they just enjoy it!

Recently we observed a blackbird and a thrush sharing the bird-bath at Fota. Here’s what we saw…

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This gallery contains 16 photos


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W is for Wallflower

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.

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A Tale of 2 Trees or a Tree of 2 Halves?

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. 

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Our own BFGs in Fota!

Celebrating National Tree Week. March 5th – 12th. Part 3

“Deep Roots are not reached by the Frost”   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

We have our own Big Friendly Giants at Fota. They’re not the Roald Dahl kind, more of the Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, kind. Tall, weathered trees that rise high above Fota House and Gardens. If these trees could talk like Tolkien’s did, who knows what stories they would tell? Read on and meet some of them….

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Chocolate or Vanilla?

Celebrating National Tree Week , March 5th – 12th. Part 2 

This small tree in the grounds of Fota is called Azara integrifolia var. brownea  but don’t walk past it if you’re hungry, on a diet or have a large, sweet tooth! The smell will stop you dead in your tracks and you’ll find yourself sniffing the air like a dog! Some people say chocolate and some say vanilla. Smell is a personal thing but whatever flavour you chose, it’s hard to believe that such a strong, compelling scent comes from this seemingly uninteresting and rather scraggly little tree. 

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