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 Victorian Working Garden. 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.
An arboretum is a collection of different trees that can be cultivated for pleasure and beauty – such as in a very large garden or plantation. Or it may be used for the botanical study of the tree specimens contained in it.The name comes from arbor, the Latin word for tree.
In the second half of the 19th century there was a craze for ferns.This obsession came to be known as ‘fern fever’ or pteridomania – named after the Latin name for ferns which is pteridophytes. Ferns were collected, studied and admired on a very, very wide scale.As well as becoming a feature in gardens and as houseplants the fern was ubiquitous as a decorative motif.Fern patterns could be found on glassware, china, fabric, pottery, stucco and much more.In fact if you look carefully at the corbels in the billiard room in Fota – now the café- you can see ferns in the plasterwork.