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”.
Fota isn’t just about the flora and fauna, though these are spectacular throughout the seasons. It’s also about nature, birds, bees, butterflies and some elusive animals. Here are some of the creatures we happily share Fota with.
Not all our visitors arrive on foot. On Monday last, just as we were finishing up for the day, an unusual visitor arrived. Our volunteers, Mary and Harriet and Bernard the gardener, watched in amazement as it darted about and hovered, its wings flapping rapidly. Then it latched onto a Dianthus plant and fed on the pollen. We were puzzled, having never seen anything like it before. Was it a bird, a butterfly, a bee or a moth? In fact, it was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Macroglossum stellatarum (Linnaeus, 1758)
Cork is known as a city of “Steps and Steeples”. Some were designed by famous architects like William Burgess and George Pain. Nearby at Cobh Cathedral, the work of Edward Pugin and George Ashlin towers over the sea. Summer brings a different kind of steeple to the Frameyard and gardens of Fota House, this time designed by Nature. It’s called Echium pininana or Giant Viper’s Bugloss. This beautifully structured plant even has its own bell-like flowers. They don’t ring out like carillon bells but on a sunny day they sing with the sound of bees.