Thursday, May 26, 2011

Garden Visit: Tresco Abbey Gardens, Scilly Isles

We had a fantastic day spent at Tresco Abbey Gardens located in the Scilly Isles just off the coast of West Cornwall. Despite its northerly latitude, Tresco, and indeed Cornwall benefits greatly from the warming sea currents of the gulf stream. There are a number of ways to get to Tresco, but once again we opted for the quickest way, a twenty minute helicopter ride from Penzance.

This was our third visit to the garden, sort of a tradition that we do every other year since we started our annual holidays to Cornwall. And I'm glad the weather has been cooperative every time, with the sun shining brightly and the air feeling warm.

Twenty minute helicopter ride from Penzance to Tresco via St. Mary's

View from the helicopter

The garden is open from 10am till 4pm, only six hours, which in theory seems sufficient enough time to see all of its parts. We took the first flight to Tresco and arrived there just before it opened, and took the last one out which was half an hour after it closed, and still found that the time we spent there wasn't enough. Every time we go there we leave still wanting more.

Tresco's signature blue bridge leading into the garden

There is so much to take in, from the sheer grandeur and size of the garden; the fantastic design and layout of the place; the glorious vista on top of the gardens overlooking the sea and bay; and of course the wonderful and exotic plants growing so well like nowhere else in the UK (courtesy of its mild microclimate). Depending on which section you are you can easily feel like you're either in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, or the Canary Islands.

You leave the garden feeling exhilarated and inspired by it's beauty. Despite having been several times we never get tired of visiting the place. For anyone into exotic gardening in the UK, it is an absolute 'must' to visit this garden even if just once. But even if you're not, anyone visiting will enjoy this garden. A truly stunning garden, it is probably the most beautiful and spectacular exotic garden in the UK, and up there as one of the best in the world.

Tresco Abbey Gardens homepage

Monday, May 23, 2011

Garden Visit: Bosahan

We have recently visited Bosahan Garden in Cornwall. This garden was recommended to us by friends who had visited several years ago. When we were in Cornwall last September we tried to visit only to discover the gardens were only open until early September, so sadly it had been a wasted trip.

This time, however we made sure the gardens were going to be open, and made the journey along some of the narrowest (and in places steepest) roads Cornwall has to offer. Fortunately we were not to be disappointed a second time.

Bosahan is a typical Cornish Valley Garden and like Penjerrick (See our blog from last year) it is not heavily commercialised. There are no plant sales nor tea rooms and payment for entry to the gardens is via an honesty box.

On first entering the garden we could tell this was going to be an enjoyable visit, towering Trachycarpus fortunei that must have been getting on for 100 years old lined the pathway into the garden, with a tempting view to the estuary beyond the main house. Like many Cornish gardens the house is not open to visitors.

The stream and valley is packed with more ancient Trachycarpus, Rhododendrons, enormous Dicksonia antartica tree ferns, bamboos, as well as a selection of native and exotic trees. The pathway and valley changes from a more tended garden into a very naturalistic landscape. This really did feel like we were trekking in some Asian temperate valley.

The valley eventually leads down to a secluded cove, which was completely deserted.

The more tended part of the garden has a wonderful pool complete with an island and yet more huge palms.

Bosahan really is a wonderfully escapist garden, and being off the beaten track does not have the large numbers of visitors that some of the more famous Cornish Gardens attracts, well worth the £4 entrance fee.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random Musings whilst Collecting a Greenhouse

Sunday was largely spent dismantling and collecting a greenhouse. We’ve been after a decent sized second hand greenhouse for quite some time now. This one in particular is 8x10 foot, a bit larger than our existing ones. Not that we need it now, it’s for a future use when we’re ready to develop the utility area which is right at the back of our new bit.

Greenhouses have been selling for a lot of money recently, gone are the days that you can get them for nearly next to nothing from gardeners retiring from the hobby or new home owners who inherit them from the previous owners of their property. Blame the recent trend of ‘growing your own’ of course ;-) It’s currently ‘fashionable’ at the moment to grow your own produce so now lots more people are after greenhouses the same way that allotment waiting lists seems to get longer. We’ve been keeping an eye for bigger greenhouses since late last year and they’ve been selling a lot more for what they're really worth. So when one came up on Ebay we made a sensible bid and by luck we won it, excellent result!

Now here’s the (not so) fun bit: dismantling and collection. I wasn’t in the mood for such a monotonous and time consuming task but what has to be done has to be done. Bargains don’t always come up with the most perfect timing and I’m grateful enough that such a good deal came up, even if it means sorting it out at a time that you’re not in the mood for it.

And yes it’s a long, monotonous task; painstakingly unscrewing bolts and removing glass one by one, and packing them one by one too. And it is in doing monotonous tasks that your mind starts to wander whilst doing such repetitive acts.

One of the thoughts that came to my mind was how much I dislike handling notoriously thin horticultural glass. Thoughts of breaking whilst holding them keeps playing in my mind, as well as the scenario of injuring myself in the process and squirting blood all over the place. I think it’s mainly because I watch too many horror films and coupled with penchant for caffeinated drinks, makes for a nervous disposition every so often. Times like this I’ll do is breathe deeply and be very, very careful so as not to let my imagination become real.

The chap that sold us the greenhouse turned out to be really nice and was a great help in dismantling it. I was half expecting him to be indifferent at least and would leave us to our own devices. But he was very nice and chatty and helped us right to the end. He even served tea and biscuits, which was a massive help especially I foolishly ate only one donut that morning before we set off to do our deeds!

Anyway, while having our tea brake he asked if we grew any plant in particular to warrant a need for a greenhouse. Choosing not to elaborate too much, I just replied that I grow several types of exotic plants that would need protecting during winter. As it turned out, this chap is into collecting species orchids and has proceeded to show some of his prized collection, which were all in a new, much bigger greenhouse which is an upgrade from the one he just sold (and we’ve bought). It’s always nice whenever you meet people who are enthusiastic about plants, it’s almost like you have an instant affinity with them. We may not be into exactly the same sort of plants (and I’m certainly not an orchid collector) but the understanding is there and conversation can flow much more fluidly when talking with someone who knows the language of horticulture.

Looking at his impeccable collection in the greenhouse, then comparing it with his outside space, I sort of wondered and asked if he had any plans of re-developing his garden. He said he’ll do some basic work and maintenance once the old greenhouse has been removed but basically keep it as it is. Don’t get me wrong, apart from a bit of weeding here and there it’s actually a lovely garden with a lawn in the middle and hardy, flowering shrubs on the side borders. It even has a quaint pond at the bottom with iris and lilies already in bloom, with lots of goldfish too (a plus point for me!). Despite that he said he’s actually not that bothered by his outside space, he’s too focused on his collection in the greenhouse to bother too much with a more complicated garden, fair enough.

Afterwards as we carried on with our task and pondered a bit more with our previous conversation I was once again led to another string of thoughts, of the myriad of people I have encountered along the way in this journey of plants, gardens, and gardening. Taking a string from our chat I am reminded of gardeners who are so focused on individual plants to the point of total disregard to their immediate surroundings. The sort that are so concentrated in maintaining individual plant specimens or collections but neglecting the very place their plant and the gardener lives: the garden.

I once had a humorous personal conversation, many months ago, with a gardening TV presenter wherein I likened this sort of gardener to someone who wears the most expensive shirts, or a luxurious tailor made suit but not bothering to shower, shave, or at least put on some deodorant first. "Pretty people with smelly pits"; he said then. Then I retorted back, "Too posh to wash perhaps?", then we both had a good giggle afterwards.
Mind you, nothing wrong with that in essence. Everyone has their own way of enjoying this collective gardening hobby, to each their own and 'C'est la vie' as they say. At least you own pristine and rare plants, and for some that's all that matters irregardless of the state of the rest of the garden. Not for me though, I equally care for the overall health and appearance of the garden as much as individual plants. So pass me the secateurs and broom!
And then there's the plant collector. Again, mind you nothing wrong in being one and I regard myself as a plant collector too. I think it's fun and anyone who loves plants seems inherent in them to be a collector. But you occasionally encounter a few odd ones who are only after the thrill of the chase and numbers, and once they've acquired what's on their wanted list they almost immediately lose interest in them and you can see their 'rarieties' languishing in neglect at the back of their garden/greenhouses.

You can't overcrowd them!
I remember one time a particular person of this sort telling me that I've inspired them to start collecting Koi. Alarm bells started to ring in my mind. I replied back that it's not just about pretty fishes swimming in a pond, to get into this seriously at any point you may have to handle, anaesthetise, inject, and treat their wounds. Not for the squeamish, that's the 'unglamorous' side of these 'glamorous' fishes. Perhaps he needs to have a rethink about it? Based on his plant collecting tendencies I'm glad he reconsidered. Collecting plants is one thing but collecting animals is a different matter. You may get away with a multitude of sins with overstocking the former but it's downright cruel with the latter. It entails a heck of alot more responsibility collecting animals, much more so than plants.

Sometimes it's best to recognise that there are things in life that you can only have one or two of (and depending on your time and resource, maybe more) and not hundreds.

Snap! Before I knew it the greenhouse has been fully disassembled and packed away ready to be taken home. And no glass was broken (and no bloodshed) all through out the process and on our journey home. Getting yourself lost in your thoughts sometimes has it’s uses, and this time it has managed to keep myself entertained and breezed through task rather effortlessly.

No after shots of the greenhouse rebuilt I’m afraid. It’s still dismantled and safely packed away for future use. At least we have it now and can reassemble it once we’re ready. I’m glad in the end it didn’t take as much time as I thought and still managed to get home early enough to do some more gardening. Now that’s better, and no more idle thoughts this time.

Until next time…. :-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Hosta 'Sum and Substance'

Monday, May 16, 2011

Azaleas at Kew Gardens

Better late than never! I thought this would make a nice follow up post on our earlier thread Magnolias at Kew Gardens.

While the colour palette of Magnolias tend to be soft, elegant, and understated without compromising it’s ability to make spectacular displays of blooms; the colour palette of Azaleas and Rhododendron blooms are usually loud, bright, and vibrant.  

R. 'Arpege'

R. 'Coccineum Speciosum'

R. 'Exquisitum'

R. 'Golden Eagle'

R. 'Golden Eagle'

R. 'Delicatissimum'

R. 'Homebush'

R. 'Hotspur Red'

R. 'Reve D'Amour'

R. 'Sun Chariot'

R. 'Sun Chariot'

R. 'Rosata'

R. 'Silver Slipper'

R. 'Wallowa Red'

R. 'Windsor Peach Glo'

R. 'Wryneck'

Admittedly Kew Gardens isn’t the best place when it comes to displays of Azaleas and Rhododendrons in bloom, there are better stands on other big, public gardens. But it’s certainly good enough! I’m glad the Palm Centre and Kew Gardens are very near to each other (and relatively near us). Whenever we need to buy something or check out the new stocks of the former we can pop round for a quick visit to the latter and get to check out what’s currently looking good and in season and be home early enough to carry on gardening in the afternoon.

And a few more general shots of the area:

I do love these bright colours, they remind me of sweets like gumballs and dolly mixture and certainly adds vibrancy into the air, perfect in the spring and adds to the promise of a good summer to come :-)