Our own BFGs in Fota!

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?

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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From China to Fota – The Handkerchief Tree

From China to Fota – The Handkerchief Tree

Celebrating National Tree Week, March 5th – 12th. Part 1 

“A forest is the finest thing in the world: it is the expression of nature in the highest form”  Augustine Henry

It’s a long way from China to Fota but the story of how these two seed pods came to drop on the Fota lawn brings us from one continent to another. These pods may look like large acorns or small apples but they contain the seeds for Davidia involucrata, otherwise known as the Handkerchief Tree. At the moment they hang from Fota’s impressive old specimen, delicately suspended and ready to fall. On the ground, small creatures have been feeding on these soft fruits, leaving behind a scattering of oval seeds like the ones collected by Ernest Wilson in China in 1901. Wilson, who was only 22 and didn’t speak Chinese, had to contend with local bandits, a near drowning and severe illness before he fulfilled his task of sending the seeds back to the UK. But the story doesn’t just begin there and along the way we meet an Irishman.

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A Woman’s Place is in the Garden – Meet Gertrude Jekyll

A Woman’s Place is in the Garden – Meet Gertrude Jekyll

“And a garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift;  above all, it teaches entire trust.” Gertrude Jekyll, 1899 (Wood and Garden)

In the Fota Frameyard, among the many women volunteers, there are some excellent gardeners. These women gardeners can relate easily to one Victorian woman whose vision, creativity and experience shaped much of how we garden today.  Gertrude Jekyll was an extraordinary woman. (And if you’re wondering about the name, yes, there might be a connection with the famous book by Robert Louis Stephenson.)* Born in 1843, in the 6th year of Queen Victoria’s reign, she defied convention and achieved things most of the women of her generation could only dream of. She was an artist, horticulturist, garden designer and a wonderful writer.

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Building the walls

Building the walls

Walls are in the news at the moment. Walls to keep people out or to keep people in. In the Fota Frameyard and Throughout the gardens, our benign stone walls give shelter and support to many of the beautiful and sometimes delicate plants and shrubs growing there.

The Frameyard itself is surrounded by walls, old walls in red brick and grey limestone. Recently one of our volunteers, Anna, went to a workshop on the conservation of historic masonry walls, run by Cork County Council. She learned some interesting things there. 

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The art of the garden

The art of the garden

This delicate watercolour of the geranium Henry Joignot was painted by one of our Frameyard volunteers, Vivienne Johansson. Vivienne is a talented botanical artist and a Friend of the Society of Botanical Artists, London. She is also a keen gardener and her art work has allowed her to combine both passions with beautiful results. She “looks at flowers with a view to painting them”.

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From Free Soil to Warm Earth – New York to Cork

From Free Soil to Warm Earth – New York to Cork

It’s election time in the USA and while a  battle rages between the Democratic and Republican Parties our thoughts turn to things American. Perhaps this is a good time to look at the connection between a big house in County Cork and a big house in Geneseo, New York.

We can begin this story in another big house in London, where James Samuel Wadsworth and Mary Craig Wharton went on honeymoon in May, 1834.

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“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

What joy to find myself in the beautiful FOTA Frameyard on Saturday 3rd October. I was attracted to attend this programme for educators on planting native Irish Tree seed boxes because of my general interest in the environment. However nothing prepared me for Ecologist Tom O’Byrne’s inspirational talk on the native Irish Oak.

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Clint Eastwood and the Talking Trees

Clint Eastwood and the Talking Trees

“I talk to the trees, but they don’t listen to me”, Clint Eastwood sang in the 1969 film Paint Your Wagon”. Maybe now we know why! It’s because they were too busy talking to one another.  According to German forester, Peter Wohlleben, trees communicate with one another. He describes the “woodwide web” of underground arboreal communications in his book “The Hidden Life of Trees”.

Trees are able to decide, have memories and even different characters. There are perhaps nicer guys and bad guys”.

Mr Wohlleben believes that trees have distinct characteristics. For example, Willows and Poplars are loners, while Beech trees can be aggressive towards other species.

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