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.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back from Scotland!

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last few weeks - I have recently returned from a refreshing break in a remote corner of North West Scotland. Not the first place that springs to mind for those of us interested in gardens or plants!

The truth is, the Scottish highlands contain many beautiful plants. Ferns can be found growing all over the place, thriving in the damp climate, and mosses and lichens clothe trees and rocks in a thick carpet.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to take in the remarkable Inverewe Gardens, located in a sheltered coastal area not far North of our location. It was several years ago since I last visited.

I couldn't help but notice that Cordyline australis and Phormium tenax were all looking much better than down here in Devon. Testament to the warm waters of the gulf stream that filter through to the West coast. I even spotted a good looking Chamaerops humilis growing in a pot at Portree harbour on Skye.

For me, without doubt the plant related highlights were the fantastic stands of Scots Pine. The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve and surrounding Torridon area contain some of the most extensive and unspoilt native Scots Pine in Scotland. The structure and colours of the trees really are quite special when seen in their natural setting.


Top of the tree line in Torridon



Scots Pine reflections