A trip down to the U.K's south-west corner, to
Cornwall, for a tour of some of England's most famous and palmy
gardens. Richard Darlow organizes, Roy Clarke records. Part two
follows in the next edition.
Roy Clarke, S.Yorks, UK
Chamaerops No.27 Summer 1997
Left: Dasylirion sp., Fox Rose Hill Gardens
Right: Agave americana, St. Michales Mount
Over the last two or three years I have (through the
articles in 'Chamaerops') travelled the world. Enjoying free access
to gardens, (private and public) whilst benefiting from the wealth
of knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm of other E.P.S members.
Of course after reading the diverse and always interesting
articles you then want to meet some of the people involved in this
mad world. After all anyone who bankers after growing Grevillea
in Godalming or Musa in Manchester is not going to be dull are they?
So when E.P.S member Richard Darlow had the grand
idea of a Cornish get together in May that would include visits
to gardens great and small, public and private, I, like many others,
had no hesitation in signing on the dotted line.
That done, then comes the daunting bit meeting 30
palm nuts in one go. No worries as other signatories to the 'tour'
will undoubtedly attest. After all you have one thing in common
from the off - the love of exotica. It really is a great way of
forging new friendships and renewing old ones.
As a footnote to this long winded (for which I apologise)
intro: you might be interested in the fact that attendees of the
tour had an age range from 4 years old (birthday enjoyed at Ileligan)
to I would suppose 50+. And at the end of the week all agreed on
one thing.. .We must do it again! for which I do believe Richard
has again volunteered his services!
Anyhow you want to read about the tour, the gardens,
the plants, the people.. .the weather!
For Christine, myself and our children it kicked off
on the Saturday with a visit to E.P.S member Phillipe Byrne's abode
in Exeter. Phillipe had kindly extended an open invitation to all
members should they wish to 'pop in'. We did and kicked off the
Phillipe bas travelled widely and this shows in his
garden as apart from the exuberance of the front garden where everything
is shoe horned in to what amounts to a relatively small space he
has imaginatively planted other parts in a more cosmopolitan, nay
foreign, way. The front garden sports a dozen or more Trachies,
large and small. The tallest I would hazard a guess is at least
12ft. Many of them were flowering heavily at the time of our visit.
Keeping the palms company was an assortment of rarely encountered
shrubs. Two that spring to mind are Olearia paniculata and punica
granatum, (the hardy pomegranite).The Olearia is a good one on which
to test your friends as it closely resembles Pittosporum tenuifolium,
a bit greyer and not as glossy in leaf perhaps with a distinct absence
of the Pittosporum's black stems but at first glance you could be
Leaving the front garden you enter the next through
a 'Roman arch' that Phillipe has constructed. Indeed the architecture
is as riveting as the planting. In this middle garden Phillipe has
delightfully planted Washingtonias outside. Suggesting that with
careful thought as to size, siting and protection, more palm species
could be grown al fresco! You then enter the palm house and I mean
palm house. This is a garden building of Herculean proportions -
60ft x 20ft. within which are housed a good selection of palms.
chief amongst which being Trithrinax acanthocoma, Brahea armata
and relatives, a glorious Waggie, a 'silver' Chamaerops and a Rhapis
excelsa Dominating a large proportion of the planting area is a
large, variegated Agave americana. My memory recalls it being as
tall as I. A small area of the palm house has been sectioned to
house a collection of ferns: Blechnum, Woodwardia, Davalia etc.
After refreshments and party games with the children
we headed out to the back garden which seems destined to becoming
a bamboo grove as there were new plantings of some rather tremendous
specimens. None of the rather weak Arundinarias here thank you very
much. Sadly I cannot enlighten you on the species/varieties present
as I omitted to record them, being somewhat struck dumb by THE garden
statue. Framed on one one side by an Arbutus unedo 'Rubra'. This
is a statue of immensity and would not be to everyone's liking,
however it feels so at home here divorced by centuries and thousands
of miles from its 'Easter island' home! There were many other plants
of note that I have undoubtedly missed but what I have hopefully
given you is a flavour of Phillipe's garden and, more importantly,
a desire to go see for yourselves.
After Phillipe's, we then travelled down to Falmouth,
(where the tour was to be centred) to unpack, hit the local beach
and later on that evening to recce the residential areas for any
plants of an architectural or exotic bent. Never having been to
this part of Cornwall before I was unsure of what, if anything was
about. On the coastal walk from our chalet to Falmouth itself Carprobrotus
edulis and C rosea hung in sheets down the cliffs, whilst Scilla
peruviana enticed and Gladiolus byzantinus shone in all its magenta
glory. But what I really wanted was big, bold, brash, exciting,
challenging, stop you in your tracks, assuage the senses type planting
and I found it. Musas (variety unknown) five foot tall (in May)
seemingly unprotected. Cunninghamia, Catalpas b. 'Aurea', Eucalyptus,
Bamboos in variety and the occasional Eryobotria japonica, the Japanese
Loquat. The list was endless though it has to be said that the majority
of suburban gardens sported planting little more imaginative than
what can be found the length and breadth of the country. Reassuring
in some ways!
Sunday was a free day as the tour started officially
on the Monday morning. So we did touristy type things before hitting
the bar of the local hotel in the evening where the majority of
the members were staying. The air was a real pea -souper of expectation.
liberally doused with juice of grape, hop and apple, the hours passed
The week's first visit beckoned: Fox-Rosehill gardens,
The entrance to this important garden is in the process
of being upgraded, consequently it does not wear its clothes too
well at present, save for the imposing presence of an Agave americana,
a statuesque 6ft+ Yucca (treculeana?) (I would be pleased to hear
from anyone if this is not the case) and a clump of not insubstantial
Nolina This trio hinting at something special. Inside you are transported
into the realms of make believe.
Azara m. 'variegata' shone jewel-like. Embothrium
stunned with its flamboyant scarlet blooms. Not far away was Crinodendron
hookeri from South America and Cercis siliquastron, the Judas Tree
What now follows is a list of the more important plantings
in Fox-Rosehill be they trees, shrubs or herbaceous. Space does
not permit the inclusion of all, my memory will omit many more but
you are still left with a mouthwatering array of delectables. Palms
included Phoenix canariensis, the indomitable Trachies. Chamaerops
Jubaea chilensis, Arecastrum (now Syagrus) romanzoffiana, (damaged
but should recover) and a fine fine fine Butia capitata. Apparently
the trick is to buy, beg or borrow BIG plants failing this feed
well throughout the growing season. Looking at the palms here it
certainly seems to work.
Other notable trees were: Acacia dealbata, Lyonothamnus,
Laurelia serrata, Gingko biloba and Sophora tetraptera whilst at
a lower level Were puya sp: Doryanthes palmeri (though it has to
be said that this was a most pitiful specimen), Tussillago farfugineum
'aureo-maculata', Correa backhouseana and Dasylirion sp.
At the rear of the garden is a smallish green house
which has on its front aspect a rockery, not it has to be said of
anything approaching a grand design but it give home to some less
conventional 'rock plants'. The cornerstone was an immense clump
of a South American Eryngium (poss: decaisneanum), a few feet away
is a substantial Agave americana 'Striata' that has overwintered
outside for 4 years with no protection. In a sheltered enclave to
the right of the glasshouse were 3 Dicksonia fibrosa and inevitably,
Further into the garden the Grevillea robusta's had
seemingly given up the ghost but considering the despicably poor
winter Cornwall has just come through plant losses and damage to
the garden seemed minimal and our guide was certainly not a man
to be put off by the occasional dispatching of a plant to that great
compost heap in the sky. The future bodes well indeed for Fox-Rosehill.
Next stop was to the Queen Mary gardens, Falmouth
seafront. A public garden which in the hands of most councils would
have been savaged with beds of wallflowers and tulips. Here the
planting was of Agave celsii, Yucca aloifolia, Kniphophia, Gunnera
manicata, Puya sp: and stately Phormiums. A lesson to all local
To Be Continued. Next issue: Trebah, St. Mawes, and
Tresco, by helicopter!