Saturday, February 26, 2011

So how has Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens fared this winter?

Last weekend I made a visit to the subtropical gardens at Abbotsbury on the Dorset coast. These gardens must rank amongst my favourite gardens anywhere and I've been many times over the years. I was a little concerned about what state they would be in after the extreme cold in December, but I am pleased to report that considering how bad the cold was, things are still looking in incredibly good shape.

I don't have exact figures for just how cold the Abbotsbury gardens were in December, but I do know that they had snow lying for several days along with sub zero temperatures. Thanks to the remarkable microclimate that the gardens normally enjoy, whilst it must have been cold, they do seem to have escaped the type of devastation seen in other gardens around the country this year. I would be interested to see the temperatures that were recorded in the gardens.

Here are a few general observations:
  • All bananas have been cut to the ground, apart from 2 clumps that I saw which still had some remaining pseudostem.
  • The Dicksonia antarctica mostly still have green fronds. Some do look quite battered, and all appear flattened, presumably by the weight of the snow.
  • Several Cordyline australis have lost their growing points, but a good many look to be fine when viewed from ground level.
  • The worst impacted plants were the succulents. Numerous Agave species had died, and many others showed visible damage. Aloe striatula had suffered, but should be ok.
  • Most palms looked in better than expected condition, with the exception of Phoenix canariensis which had suffered burnt fronds. Spear pull had occurred on all the P. canariensis that I inspected.
Take a look at the following photos for a better idea or how the plants had fared:

Typical damage to an agave, most were damaged to some degree.

Brahea brandegeei looking healthy despite some burnt fronds. Some of this damage relates to last winters cold. Is this the largest Brahea brandegeei outside in the UK?

Brahea edulis growing on the Mediterranean bank looked badly scorched but should recover ok.

The various Butias had come through ok, apart from one Butia yatay that looked a bit sick. This one looked pristine.

Both of the large Butia capitata by the restaurant were in perfect shape. These are now growing into impressive palms.

This was labelled as Chamaedorea cataractarum. If true, it is amazing that it is still alive. I suspect it is actually Chamaedorea microspadix.

Cordyline indivisia

Cordyline 'kaspar' looked better than after last winter

Numerous Jubaea chilensis had sailed through the cold ok

Every Phoenix canariensis had severe damage. The spears of all that I was able to inspect had pulled, and all had bad damage to their fronds.

Schefflera macrophylla (I am not sure when this was planted as I don't remember seeing it last year. It's not a plant that is easily missed!)

Perhaps unsurprisingly Trachycarpus martianus had bad frond damage

Another Trachycarpus martianus, this one was more sheltered by taller planting and had not suffered so badly.

The many Dicksonia antarctica were mostly still green, although all looked flattened. Presumably due to the weight of the snow in December.

Every Chamaerops humilis looked ok, but several Washingtonia's were not in good condition. Hopefully these will recover during the summer

X Butiagras nabonnandii - I was very pleased to see that this had made it through with only some minor leaf burn
Lastly, this Beaucarnea had not made it. The Cycas revoluta and Echium wildpretii were looking well.


  1. That Agave looks to be a goner. I've lost a lot of them. Is Dorset really subtropical?

  2. Our winter wasn't too bad this year, but last year was exceptionally cold and killed off a lot of things. But a lot of pests too - it was a remarkably good summer.

    Found your blog listed on Blotanical and left you a message there too.

  3. I hope that most of the damaged plants could recover! I lost several agaves and one of my fatsias looks bad.
    Welcome to Blotanical!

  4. Very very nice plants. I love it. All those tropical plants and the way it's planted is very inspiring. Thank you.

  5. Hi Jordon,

    Thanks for your comment. The agave is probably a gonner, but may survive providing rot doesn't set in and the growing point as not been too badly damaged.

    Dorset is not sub-tropical, but Abbotsbury gardens are about as close as we get here in the UK. Most winters agave and similar plants survive in sheltered locations such as this. This winter has been somewhat colder than most!