Gabriella’s Choice -The Sweet Pea

Gabriella’s Choice -The Sweet Pea

Lots of Sweet Pea are grown in Fota every year. When the Frameyard is open to the public, some volunteers collect their flowers and make beautiful bunches of them. They don’t last long, as they are among the first items to be bought by our visitors. The scent reminds me of my Granny’s garden. It has the power to bring me right back to my early childhood.

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Behind the scenes at Fota – the Volunteers

Behind the scenes at Fota – the Volunteers

According to the 1911 census, 73 people, excluding Lord and Lady Barrymore, are listed as residents at Fota House. This number of servants gives some idea of how many people it took to keep the house, garden and farm running. Nowadays, a team of volunteers, working with the Irish Heritage Trust Staff at Fota maintain the house and the frameyard.

The term “volunteer” comes from the French noun voluntaire, which means “one who offers himself for military service”. But while there isn’t an army of servants any more, our dedicated platoon of  volunteers work as house-guides, on the cleaning and care of the house and contents, in the Frameyard and generally answering the call to duty to help when various events take place. All seems quiet now that the house is closed for winter, but behind the scenes…

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October Glory – Acer rubrum

October Glory – Acer rubrum

The common name for this beautiful maple is apt. Acer rubrum is one of the most widespread trees in eastern North America but this particular young specimen, planted in 2011, is growing at the entrance to FOTA House. It’s living up to its name “October Glory” and stands out among the other trees there, showing off at this time of year.

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Getting your birds on the property ladder!

How can we attract more birds into our gardens? One way to do this is to put up bird boxes. The kinds of birds you attract will depend on the size of the box and the aperture in the front of it. Smaller birds, such as blue tits, coal tits and great tits are frequent tenants. For them the entrance hole at the front should be small.  But larger boxes can attract sparrows or starlings. Boxes with open fronts will attract robins, wrens, wagtails and even spotted flycatchers.

October is national Reuse Month. The Southern Waste Region, through Cork County Council, along with Fota House, sponsored  a bird-box making workshop in the Frameyard on Saturday, 22nd.  In the spirit of recycling, we used  wood from the old library at Fota House and gathered in the sun-filled greenhouse, under the guidance of Gerry Kelly, to put the boxes together.

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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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Anything Kew can do…..Ginkgo Biloba – yin xing 銀杏

Anything Kew can do…..Ginkgo Biloba – yin xing 銀杏

Our beautiful Ginkgo Biloba trees grow side by side in the centre of the Frameyard  like a pair of Chinese vases.

At this time of year the fan-shaped leaves are turning a mellow shade of yellow. How can we not admire these trees?  They survived the dropping of an atomic bomb in Hiroshima where almost all other plants were destroyed, they’ve outlived dinosaurs, they produce nutrients which are used in health supplements and they link us philosophically and botanically to both the past and the future.

We have many reasons to love our Ginkgo trees in the Frameyard. They stand elegantly tall in our walled space, provide us with beautiful colour and just last week our gardener Bernard remarked how they provide much-needed shade for our seedlings in Glasshouse No. 4.

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Edwina’s choice – Morina Longifolia – Himalayan whorlflower

Edwina’s choice – Morina Longifolia – Himalayan whorlflower

On first glance you might be forgiven for thinking this plant is a weed, especially without its flower, as it does resemble a thistle.  But this plant has so much more to offer and has an intriguing story.

Morina longifolia (Himalayan whorlflower) is quite the elegant plant and comes from the Himalayas.  It originates from an altitude of about 3000m in an area from Kashmir to Bhutan.  The genus Morina is named in honour of a French nurseryman, René Morin who issued the first printed French plant catalogue in 1621.

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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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