Donald Hare takes us on a guided tour round some
of Ireland's wonderful gardens.
Donald R. Hare, Glendower, Dalkey, N. Ireland
Chamaerops No. 7, published online 23-10-2002
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
Left: Phoenix canariensis. Perhaps the northernmost.
Right: Dicksonia antarctica - hardy to -10°C?.
Here's a short tour of Irish Gardens where palms
other than our good friend Trachycarpus fortunei can be found growing.
Starting in Northern Ireland at Mount Stewart Gardens, which is
situated on the shores of Strangford Lough, just a short drive from
Belfast. Here, Chamaerops humilis can be seen as a single trunk
form, about five metres or so high and there are a number of them
in a sheltered part of the garden. Also in this area, a number of
very fine Cordyline indivisa can be seen along with the tree fern
Dicksonia antarctica from Tasmania, which with its New Zealand cousin
Dicksonia fibrosa are probably the hardiest tree ferns presently
grown out of doors in these islands. I have found both to be fairly
cold tolerant on the east coast if given adequate shelter from north
and east winds which will always burn their fronds.
There is a fine collection of trees and shrubs including
a number of Eucalyptus species, Metrosideros from New Zealand, Acacia,
and the rare Gevuina avellana from Chile, plus many more very interesting
About -8°c has been recorded here.
We move south to the Cork harbour area and we find
Fota Island. The Arboretum covers some twelve acres. Along with
many rare temperate trees and shrubs, is a pair of Phoenix canariensis.
These are between six and seven metres high and were planted around
the turn of the century and have withstood many cold winters, the
worst of which being in January 1987. Accompanied by southeasterly
winds, temperatures fell to -7°C and all but the centre fronds
were burned brown. However, they are almost back to their pre January
1987 state now. I wonder if they are the most northerly growing
in Europe? Phoenix reclinata is said to have grown here, but in
all my visits I have never found any trace of it. A number of Chamaerops
humilis, in its dwarf form, can be seen throughout the garden, as
well as many fine specimens of Trachycarpus fortunei.
Some of the shrubs worth a mention are Banksia grandis,
Telopea truncata, Melaleuca squarrosa, Kunzea baxteri, and Isopogon.
Sadly Fota Gardens are now looking rather neglected
and with the destruction of some its great trees, somewhat vandalised.
Its future remains uncertain after the island was recently taken
over by developers.
The last garden that I will mention is Rossdohan
Island on the Kenmare Estuary in the far south west of Ireland.
The garden covers about eighty acres. Like Flota it is connected
to the mainland by a causeway. Here can be seen one of the largest
collections of Southern Hemisphere plants growing outside, in Ireland.
They are only to be surpassed by Tresco. Acacia, Banksia, Stenocarpus,
Schefflera and Metrosideros can all be found, and also one of the
most extensive collections of tree ferns growing outdoors, in the
whole of Europe.
The palms found here are mainly Trachycarpus fortunei
and some young Phoenix canariensis. They also had a young Juania
australis, when I was last there some years ago. It was about seven
years old and had come from a German source. I have not been able
to find out if it survived the winter of 1987 because the owner
has since died. I understand that the Phoenix canariensis only had
the tips of their fronds burned, so maybe, it also managed to survive.
Rhopalostylis sapida at one time grew on a nearby island but has
long since disappeared.
Other plants worth a mention at Rossdohan, are the
tallest Acacia melanoxylon (Black Wattle), Clethra arborea (Lily
of the Valley Tree) and Cyathea dealbata (Silver Tree Fern) in the
British Isles. In addition, there are Ficus religiosa (Peepul Tree)
from India, and from Australasia, Araucaria bidwillii, Cordyline
indivisa, Cordyline stricta and Cordyline australis in a variety
Unfortunately, I can't report ever having seen a
mature Butia or Jubaea in Ireland, however, I think that both might
do well in very mild costal areas and should certainly be tried.
* * *
For those of you who would like to try growing a
Tree Fern outdoors but who do not live in mild areas, may I offer
some advice? Plant your fern in a shady sheltered site. Before heavy
frosts arrive, say late October or early November, place straw bales
around the plant and build them up above the fronds. Cover the structure
with clear plastic or polythene and secure this to stout wooden
pegs driven into the ground, or simply weigh the plastic down with
heavy blocks. On very cold nights pop an old blanket over the top.
On mild nights remove the plastic cover. It is not pretty but it
works. For those who live in milder areas where frost is not severe,
wrapping the trunk with sacking or an old rug and folding the fern
fronds over the crown is normally good enough protection against
the winter's icy grip. Again, remove on mild days.
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