Cornwall Collection Part 2
The second and concluding part of the EPS trip
to Cornwall in the south west of England. More than just palms.
Boy Clarke, 'Ganneymede', 4 Daw Wood, Bentley, Doncaster, DN5
Chamaerops No.28 Autumn 1997
Butia capitata in Penzance, south west England
Across the road we were welcomed into the garden of
a residential nursing home! Not a place for exotics? Wrong. Amongst
the desirables were hardy Opuntias padding out along the base of
one of the house walls. For some inexplicable reason I forgot to
record the wealth of planting present for which I profusely apologise.
Sadly the only other plant I can remember at the nursing home was
a deceased Washingtonia.
The afternoon visit was to Trebab Gardens where we
had been assured of bountiful exotics in a most tranquil setting.
We were not to be disappointed.
My first and indeed lasting impression was of a Xanthorrea
australis 'the black boy of the outback' or Grass Tree, ridiculously
rare and prohibitively expensive when found. Trebah's specimen even
sported the fire blackened trunk whence its name, and seemed in
fine fettle. The view down the ravine was breathtaking being littered
with palms, bamboos, tree ferns and some such. This area sports
arguably the largest i.e. tallest three specimens of T.fortunei
on the mainland. They do indeed rise Everest-like from the accompanying
planting. Before starting the descent you are aware that this is
a garden that refuses to slip into horticultural senility as everywhere
there are signs of new additions. Around the top pool for instance
were fresh plantings of Butia capitata.
As you wend your way downwards you are enveloped in
a symphony of well-disciplined but lush planting that covers the
ground, at once exuberant but nonetheless still secondary to the
main players. A good pointer here that the 'Exotic' garden can include
relatively mundane flowering herbaceous plants. Hostas, Primulas
and the like are valid components, I know 'cos I've seen them at
Trebab! Incidently Trebah has a very well stocked nursery and if
you're lucky an Alladin's cave of Agaves and suchlike, all the more
reason for going!
A lazy and relatively late start to the proceedings
as we were all making our own way to the cometary at St.Mawes. Talk
was of the few dozen mature Trachies present. For few dozen read
70+ (yes, seventy plus) - from new plantings 2ft tall to specimens
well up into the tree canopies. They are spread far and wide and
in good sized groups. A sight not to be missed.
From the palm bedecked churchyard we beaded to lunch
and then to Lammorran House. Two (?) acres of garden in the Italian
style. Two acres of unadulterated exotica.
The St. Mawes peninsula is reputedly the mildest part
of mainland Britain. Frost rarely shows its ugly tendencies and
yet last winter saw temperatures drop as low as -16C. Despite these
ravages the garden was in good heart. We were told that there were
something in the region of 20 palm species. The few that follow
should whet your appetite - Butia capitata, B.yatay, Sabal bermudiana,
Trachycarpus fortunei, T.'Temple', Washingtonia filifera Arecastrum
(now Syagrus) and Jubaea chilensis Other plants of interest at Lammorran
include large specimens of Agave americana, smaller ones (naturally)
of agave parryi parryi, A.a.'variegata'. Aloe arborescens, A.saponaria,
A.ferox and A.glauca all seemingly untouched by the winter. Yucca
aloifolia, Y.whipplei, Puya sp: Fascicularia, Beschorneria (in flower)
and Proteas. Here I have to admit to disappointment as the plants
were miserable. But they were relatively new and had had to endure
the extremes of the previous winter. With a little luck they should
get away and then they'll be worth writing about. Cycas revoluta
permanently planted outside! It was here, and enjoying life. There
were more; many more, indeed Lammorran House gardens would justify
an article in its own right.
One of the noticeable things about this garden aside
of the planting and architecture was the intimacy. You were never
aware that this garden was 2 acres in extent, such was its layout.
Paths were just wide enough for you to pass, borders were accessible,
and the planting had a comfortable 'touchy-feely' presence about
them. Aspects that are sometimes sadly lacking in the majority of
gardens open to the public. Here was a garden that had undoubtedly
been designed; but with the guiding hand of a gardener who understands
the needs of a plant collector.
First visit of the day was to Trevanna Cross nurseries.
A 'sweet shop' bursting at the scenes with the 'right stuff'. What
to choose? We left with amongst others a Dicksonia squarrosa, Lomatia
myricioides and a Mellaleuca squarrosa All destined to be tested
in our garden in Yorkshire. As I write the Dicksonia is sporting
about a dozen new fronds and is looking simply divine. Other members
emptied their wallets and stuffed their cars with assorted goodies.
The scenes were something akin to a shark's feeding frenzy. Incidently
I would at this juncture like to thank the staff for their time,
patience, knowledge etc.
We left Trevannah in a happy but much poorer state
(money wise) and headed for St. Michaels Mount. Here indeed is a
conundrum. On the landward side you would be excused for thinking
that this is just another National Trust garden with relatively
common plants unimaginatively dotted about with little or no coherence
but venture behind the scenes and WOW! What a difference a little
bit of sun makes. Succulents of all shapes and sizes pressed their
claim. Agaves seemingly growing out of bare rock were immense, Aloe
sp: showed to good effect their diverse foliage and forms.
Capacious clumps of Puya alpestris threw up their
other-worldly candelabras of aquamarine flowers. It was hard at
times to comprehend that this was indeed the British mainland. Beschorneria
threw its Medusan flower spikes every which way and aloes, more
than you could ever wave a palm frond at, decorated the cliff sides
closely associated with a dolly mixture of exotic mesems: with flowers
of magenta, cerise, gold.
Vast clumps of fascicularia adorned the rocks. Because
of the tempering effect of the sea here plants grow at ridiculous
rates and nothing shows this phenomenon more than the fact that
a few of us departed from the Mount with pieces of Fascicularia
pitcairnifolia that were otherwise destined for the compost heap.
If you enjoy succulents in whatever guise then this is the garden
Lunch beckoned on the mainland and afterwards a visit
to another 'exotic' nursery to unload some more of our 'folding
There had to be one disappointment to help keep our
feet on the ground and this was it. Hardy Exotics. It would be better
named Mildly Neurotic. If plants were for sale they were not named
or priced, if they weren't for sale then the reverse was true. Some
plants that were named but then you were informed that the name
was wrong. Question: if you have 24 members of the European Palm
Society visiting your nursery (prearranged) why would you put up
so many barriers making sure that their wallets stay closed and
their memories are negative?
Thankfully we had another visit to round off the evening
thus ensuring we ended on a high. This was to E.P.S member Dr Rob
Senior's garden. As ever, individual members' gardens more than
hold their own. Atop the garage of all places is a greenhouse stuffed
to bursting with cacti and succulents. Outside of this, descending
the steps into the garden proper is a fine clump of the Chatham
Island forget-me-not Myosotidium hortensia. Some of the desirables
that I can remember are Jubaea chilensis, Yucca thompsoniana, Banksia
marginata, Pseudopanax 'Trident' and 'Sabre', there were others.
Pittosporum dallii or was it ralphii or were there both? Undoubtedly
there were more palms and more yuccas and more half hardies. A good
couple of hours passed too quickly helped along by our two good
hosts, copious pourings of tea, and delicious home-made cake. We
slept well that night.
The highlight of the week. This was the day we went
to Tresco. Up and away early to make sure we got the longest amount
of time on this blessed isle. My memory has erased all knowledge
of the helicopter trip though the word nauseous does spring to mind.
Twenty minutes from Penzance lies Heaven. We were greeted off the
Helicopter by our guide who was to all intents and purposes one
of the gardeners, that is one of the idiosyncrasies of Tresco; not
only are the gardeners gardeners but also guides and aircraft controllers.
Must look good on the C.V!
First sightings of the gardens are impressive to say
the least. Relatively common plants grow just like topsy; to such
proportions. Everywhere you look are plants gorged on the excesses
of the gulf stream. Such is the healing powers of this ridicolously
equitable climate that the ravages of past winters are only apparent
if you know where to look or have visited before in lusher times.
For a first time visitor, all is paradise found. But what of the
First the palms, Phoenix canariensis lording it over
the lower plantings, Butia capitata, Brahea armata, Jubaea chilensis
Washingtonia sp: and Rhopalostylis sapida are the ones I remember.
Then high up on the top terraces the Proteas including longifolia,
repens, lanceolata and nenifolia. Some were still hanging on with
their last flowers, others were turning their attention to seed
production. Other notable members of the proteacea were Dryandra
formosa, Hakea squarrosa, Banksia integrifolia and Leuacadendron
argenteum, the fabled Silver Tree and silver it undeniably is. Other
shrubs of note include Calothamnus pinifolius (a member of the myrtacea
family) and some South African heaths such as Erica hebecalyx and
E. discolor. All around was plant after plant that previously had
just been a name in book. Kungea banksii, a callistemon look-alike
in leaf and flower, Agathis australis and Greyia radlkolferi. In
the lawns at the base of the terraces was a Metrosodiros kermadecencis
'variegata', I would doubt if there are any other specimens of this
Recently installed is a Mediterranean garden planted
along relatively formal lines it is in direct contrast to the other
parts of Tresco. The centre piece is a raised stone pool with the
most exquisite fountain imaginable - a sculpted three dimensional
model of Agave ferox Leading off from this garden you then wander
through what could be called light woodland. Here tree ferns resided
including Cyathea medullaris, its immensely fibrous black trunks
and stems adorned by leathery dark green fronds. I wonder how it
would respond to a Yorkshire garden? Here is where the greatest
number of Rhopalostylis sapida specimens are found. Seedlings perhaps!
Pittosporum tobira wafted its honey scent through here suggesting
that it could take a bit of shade, another plant of interest that
was threading its way up one of the dividing walls through other
climbers was a Bomarea sp: with trusses of bell flowers; pink on
the outside, orange within, heavily spotted in red. Sumptuous.
On Tresco even the weeds were desirable. The Scilly
Island Cabbage is an Aeonium sp. and is rampant. Some weed. Likewise
the dandelions. Here they come from the Canary Isles in the form
of Sonchus congestus. There were many many more plants of worth,
you could write reams and still not get it all in. A visit is what's
needed, a vacation would be better, a job would be to die for. Sadly
visits come to an end, and whether high on the garden's influence
or the cider I even semienjoyed the flight back to Penzance.
Heligan. An all day one this. You will have seen it
on TV no doubt. As garden restorations go this one takes the biscuit.
The Italian garden is a model of restraint planting-wise though
if they listen to the E.P.S. members the colossal Phoenix they have
recently acquired from Italy would find a home here. There was talk
of removing an imposing Euphorbia mellifera because of its size.
In one word; don't . Out into the garden proper is that queen of
Cordylines - Cordyline indivisa Oh how we marvelled at the seeming
ease with which they grow in South West Cornwall. Incidently exotic
plant buffs, if you think the indivisas are stunning in England's
last county then you should travel to Logan in South West Scotland.
There they are simply to die for.
The Cordyline indivisas got everyone excited so much
so there are now at least a dozen planted out in The North. Five
in my garden for starters. I am working on the premise that the
more you plant the greater the chances of success. Well you have
to be optimistic. Thanks Steve and Helen.
Down in the 'Jungle' tree ferns; Dicksonia antarctica
have naturalised to a ridiculous extent. They are everywhere in
numbers unimaginable. So at home are they that there are even specimens
with epithetic rhododendrons on their trunks.The Bamboos also. Phyllostachys
'Castillonensis' springs to mind. Golden canes with emerald stripes
in clumps, no, swathes, of immense proportions. Although this could
not realistically be described as an exotic garden it is one to
see if only for the Dicksonias. The future may see more exotic planting
introduced, let 's hope so.
And so it was sadly the end of a fabulous 5 days where
we were privy to the great and the good the large and the small
and apart from the hiccup on Wednesday afternoon a week of nothing
but good memories. Our thanks go out to all the garden owners and
guides who gave of their time and knowledge so unselfishly.
I know I speak for everyone when I say a heartfelt
'thank you' to Richard for his time and undoubted effort in making
the week such a success.