Archive | June, 2014

Island Life

29 Jun

This is my first week at Tresco Abbey done and I am really liking this island life (especially when it is sunny). Between working in the garden, I’ve been strolling along beaches and biking to the far corners of the island (it’s only 2.2 miles long so a perfect size for exploring and still making it back home in time for dinner).

When I biked down this path Sunday morning I had to stop and admire the large Brugmansia sanguinea freely blossoming overhead (upper left).

When I biked down this path Sunday morning I had to stop and admire the large Brugmansia sanguinea freely blossoming overhead (upper left).

The flowers maybe smaller than the more common hybrids, but the rich colors really pack a punch and it likes cooler conditions - perfect for temperate regions!

The flowers maybe smaller than the more common hybrids, but the rich colors really pack a punch and it likes cooler conditions – perfect for temperate regions!

The island vegetation ranges from woodland, to grassland, sand dunes, and heathland. Within minutes I can bike from one environment to the next peppered within these areas escapees from the garden, such as Agapanthus and Echium, have self sown themselves around.

Here's one of the grassy areas with the escaped Agapanthus beginning to bloom.

Here’s one of the grassy areas with the escaped Agapanthus beginning to bloom.

Isn't that amazing? That's all Bracken Fern as far as the eye can see!

Isn’t that amazing? That’s all Bracken Fern as far as the eye can see!

Here is a closeup of the heathland. Everything is low to the ground and full of heathers.

Here is a closeup of the heathland. Everything is low to the ground and full of heathers.

The island was leased to Augustus Smith from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1834. Augustus built his home along side the ruins of the old abbey (1200’s) and started building his ‘exotic’ garden. The waters around the island is warmed by the Gulf Stream and this is why many of the tender plants (USDA Zone 9 and even 10) thrive here. Successive generations have added many more plants from the far corners of the world, as specimens from expeditions and passing voyages, and as the spoils of war and imperialism. Today the Dorrien-Smith Family – decedents of Augustus – still own the island and live in the large estate by the ruins of the old Abbey.

Gosh, what a home and a view.

Gosh, what a home and a view.

Aside from the Dorrien-Smith Family, the majority of the inhabitants are temporary workers under contract and a few permanent staff that live on the island. Since the student housing was all booked up I live on the other side of the island with the seasonal staff. It’s not too far away and it’s lovely biking to work in the morning when few people are awake. Plus my neighbors are quite friendly and everyone is rich with life stories.

Two of the cleaners were so kind and shared their homemade pizza with me. The store on the island didn't have the right ingredients for dough so they improvised with slices of bread and a few beaten eggs. I'm calling it 'Romanian Pizza'. (And it was good!)

Two of the cleaners were so kind and shared their homemade pizza with me. The store on the island didn’t have the right ingredients for dough so they improvised with slices of bread and a few beaten eggs. I’m calling it ‘Romanian Pizza’. (And it was good!)

Back in the garden, the task of the moment is – surprise – weeding, weeding, weeding! We’ve been tackling the problem areas that have been left for a while and it’s need to ‘free’ the beds a little and let them breathe. Aside from weeding, it’s the usual of watering potted plants and clearing up the leaves on the garden paths. Usually it’s raking oak and beech leaves, but here on Tresco we are clearing up leaves of palm fronds, Metrosideros, and Cordyline. Every Monday morning and after a storm, we go along the paths collecting Cordyline leaves and tie them into bundles. Apparently, they are slow to decay and they clog up the mowers, so they are collected and burned.

To some this task maybe tedious, but I find quietly walking the garden picking up leaves is meditative and a gentle way to start the working week.

To some this task maybe tedious, but I find quietly walking the garden picking up leaves is meditative and a gentle way to start the working week.

The lovely red pompom flowers of Metrosideros excelsa was swarming with  bumblebees. You can hear their low 'Ooomm' down the garden path.

The lovely red pompom flowers of Metrosideros excelsa was swarming with bumblebees. You can hear their low ‘Ooomm’ down the garden path.

We finished the week working up in the Upper Terrace. The hot, dry, and poor soils are the ideal conditions for all sorts of plants in the Protaeceae family. Here Leucospermum and Protea cynaroides are blooming away.

We finished the week working up in the Upper Terrace. The hot, dry, and poor soils are the ideal conditions for all sorts of plants in the Protaeceae family. Here Leucospermum and Protea cynaroides are blooming away.

Here's a close up of <em>Protea cynaroides</em>. Isn't it mesmerizing?

Here’s a close up of Protea cynaroides. Isn’t it mesmerizing?

Today the Tresco hosted a triathlon to benefit Cancer Research UK. I wish I didn’t go to bed so late, because I missed actress Dame Judi Dench opening the event. (However she is still on the island, so maybe I can catch a glimpse of this rare bird?) Though I did manage to walk past, British comedian, James Corden while I was out today.

Yup, definitely woke up too late.

Yup, definitely woke up too late.

The triathlon started with swim in the sea, a bike ride through the hilly (and bumpy) grass and woodland, and – in good British fashion – the run around the island finished at the pub. There was music and a barbecue in honor of the athletes and it looked like everyone was having a good time.

Here's the finish line alive with cheering and clapping. (PS, the pub is behind me.)

Here’s the finish line alive with cheering and clapping. (PS, the pub is behind me.)

Even this old hen was enjoying herself!

Even this old hen was enjoying herself!

Anyway, I am going to run out and enjoy the sun before it slips away for the day. I can’t believe I have only two more weeks left, but I’ll be visiting the other islands in the next two weeks. Check back for those posts. Talk to you soon!

A mini-quiz bouquet from one of the days. From left to right: Digitalis canariensis, Anthropodium cirratum, Tagetes lemmonii, Hymenolepis parviflora, and Wingandia caracasana.

A mini-quiz bouquet from one of the days. From left to right: Digitalis canariensis, Anthropodium cirratum, Tagetes lemmonii, Hymenolepis parviflora, and Wingandia caracasana.

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Nothing Silly about Scilly

22 Jun

Once again I packed up my entire life again to move to  my next placement, but this time this will be the final garden I will get the opportunity to work in. Early Saturday morning I caught the train down to Penzance to catch the only ferry of the day. I made my way down the narrow street to the ferry station and boarded the Scillonian III. I’ve had many people tell me horror stories of choppy waves, spilt food, and vomit, but lucky that day the sea was quite calm and we had a beautiful passage to the Isles of Scilly. About two hours later we docked in the harbor of the Island of St. Mary and there I was to catch a smaller commuter ferry to the Island of Tresco.

The large ship on the right is the ferry: Scillonian III. Though I'm sure there was a good reason, but I do worry if the first two Scillonians had some issues...

The large ship on the right is the ferry: Scillonian III. Though I’m sure there was a good reason, but I do worry if the first two Scillonians had some issues…

Once I made it to Tresco I was picked up by the curator Mike Nelhams and off we went to my accommodations and to the garden. I could not believe my eyes. Plants such as Sparmannia africana, PuyaEchium, and Osteospermum freely seed around. For the past day and a half I’ve just been muttering ‘Wow’.

Through out the island the rock walls were smothered with plants like Aeoniums, Mesembryanthemums, Echiums, and Gazanias.

Through out the island the rock walls were smothered with plants like Aeoniums, Mesembryanthemums, Echiums, and Gazanias.

This is the back garden of the apartment I am staying in.

This is the back garden of the apartment I am staying in.

After lazy start to the morning I got on my bike and road over to the famous Abbey Garden. I could not believe my eyes. Walking through the garden was like making my way through a botanical wonderland. Most of the plants were ones that back on mainland UK (and in Seattle) would need to brought in or protected during winter.

The view on my way to the garden. The blue of the sea and sky are such a rich blue!

The view on my way to the garden. The blue of the sea and sky are such a rich blue!

Garden of Eden? More like Garden of Envy! I was writhing at every turn!

Garden of Eden? More like Garden of Envy! I was writhing at every turn!

The plants here are just ginormous! I'm (carefully) standing next to an Agave and a few in the garden were blooming with 40ft flower stalks!

The plants here are just ginormous! I’m (carefully) standing next to an Agave and a few in the garden were blooming with 40ft flower stalks!

I have three weeks here in paradise and tomorrow will be day one of working. I can’t believe I am almost to the end of my fellowship. I love where it has taken me and all the great people I have met – leaving will definitely be a little bittersweet. Since I don’t have internet in my apartment I’ve been borrowing internet from the pub for the past three hours, so I gotta run now. Have a nice day and I will post soon!

City Streets to Country Lanes

14 Jun

Oh gosh, has another month passed again?! I can’t believe it is already June! If there are any regular readers out there, I am sorry I haven’t been updating more regularly! I’ve had a bit of horticultural whiplash lately, and though I know I made it sound really unpleasant, in actuality I’ve been having a fun time zooming from one garden to the next.

The last time I updated I was in the Tropical Nursery at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Since then I’ve been in the Arboretum Nursery potting up nursery stock and all sorts of shenanigans in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Don't mind me, just admiring the world's smallest waterlily species (Nymphaea thermarum) that's also extinct in the wild...

Don’t mind me, just admiring the world’s smallest waterlily species (Nymphaea thermarum) that also happens to be extinct in the wild…

Since the Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys)  was in bloom, a soon-to-be diploma student and I pollinated every flower in hopes of getting some seed.

Since the Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) was in bloom, a soon-to-be diploma student and I pollinated every flower in hopes of getting some seed.

I was at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until the second week of May and the next week I scooted off to Winfield House, which is the US Ambassador’s home in Regents Park. (No, unfortunately I wasn’t staying there, just helping out in the garden.) Though I have a few photos of Winfield House, I’m not allowed to post any of them in a public space. However, during my week there the Head Gardener – Stephen Crisp – arranged some gardens for me to visit: Great Dixter, Sissinghurst Castle, The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, Lambeth Palace, The Royal College of Physicians, and Buckingham Palace. I know, isn’t that quite the line up?

This was my second time visiting Great Dixter, but it was great to see the garden in a different season and I got to meet head gardener (Fergus Garrett), some of the staff, and students. It is amazing how full and lush everything was, I did not find a single gap in any of the gardens there!

Great Dixter is much softer in the spring, but with the same free spirit!

Great Dixter is much softer in the spring, but with the same free spirit!

After visiting Great Dixter Sissinghurst Castle was a little bit of a let down. (Not that it wasn’t beautiful, it just wasn’t as full compared to Great Dixter.) Though in their defense, they just brought in a new head gardener in the autumn and it was a week or two before the garden was at its height. Still lovely nonetheless.

The hot colors in these beds at Sissinghurst Castle made it feel warmer that day.

The hot colors in these beds at Sissinghurst Castle made it feel warmer that day.

The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple is in the heart of London and you wouldn’t know it just by visiting it. Just walking through it there are many little passages, courtyards, and gardens, and with all the buildings arranged like a village they seem to cancel out the noise from the busy streets. (Oh by the way, The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple is where most of all the high-profile barristers work in London.)

A wonderful spring display in the herbaceous border. Does it remind you of Great Dixter? Well it turns out the head gardener used to be a student there.

A wonderful spring display in the herbaceous border. Does it remind you of Great Dixter? Well it turns out the head gardener used to be a student there.

Lambeth Palace is also in the heart of London with the Garden History Museum located off to its side. This is where the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lives in London. The gardens are English in style, but each one has it’s own signature and feel, ranging from formal to naturalistic. The idea is to create a tranquil space for everyone – from the visitors to the bishops – to unwind and reflect. (Just by change I met the Archbishop of Canterbury that day!)

This herb garden was one of my favorite sections and though the chefs may come out to pick some for cooking, but it's really there for people to enjoy the fragrance when wandering by or finding a sunny place to sit.

This herb garden was one of my favorite sections and though the chefs may come out to pick some for cooking, it’s really there for people to enjoy the fragrance when wandering by or finding a sunny place to sit.

Being on the outer edge of Regents Park, the Royal College of Physicians are tighter on space. Though the gardens are smaller they are quite wonderful and packed full of plants familiar and new. Generally, the plantings are inspired by plants that have or were once used for medicinal purposes by doctors and apothecaries. Though the plant palette it may suggest a very botanical garden style design, the plants are combined and used in a free manner. The gardens softened the buildings and created a fresh atmosphere.

This block of buildings has one long garden in the front where an 18th Century list of approved plants for apothecaries to sell/use are brought to life. I love it!

This block of buildings has one long garden in the front where an 18th Century list of approved plants for apothecaries to sell/use are brought to life. I love it!

My final visit was the gardens around Buckingham Palace and it was quite a treat! When I was there a small crew of people were setting up marques for her summer garden parties, but luckily the Queen was staying at another palace that day and I was able to see her massive long herbaceous border. (Her window overlooks that section of the grounds and if she were home we wouldn’t be allowed to be on that side.) Also like the Winfield House, I wasn’t allowed to take photos. Sorry to disappoint!

This was the final day of build-up in front of the to-be Best of Show garden. The garden designer/builders' stress levels were through the roof!

This was the final day of build-up in front of the to-be Best of Show garden. The garden designer/builders’ stress levels were through the roof!

Next phase of the horticultural whiplash: a week at the Chelsea Flower Show! It was truly astonishing, since I have never seen anything like it. It was like London through a giant garden party and everyone from the rich and famous to the average gardener could attend – that is if they can get their hands on a ticket fast enough. My position was the Volunteer Support support. All joking aside, I was there to help both the volunteer coordinators and the volunteers, so if they needed anything I was their go-for.

The Great Pavilion was filled with all sorts of flowers at peak perfection.

The Great Pavilion was filled with all sorts of flowers at peak perfection.

It was also amazing to witness the ‘Chelsea Sell Off’ at the end of the show. At 4:30pm on the final day of the show, a bell is rung then everyone – even the most genteel of people – get worked up into a frenzy and descend upon the gardens and flower stands and buys up anything with chlorophyll in sight. It was amazing what people were trying to take home on the Tube. Though I can’t lie it was wonderful to see giant plants and flowers bobbing up and down through the crowds, decorating the London streets for an evening.

The chaos!

The chaos!

And the brave! (Or crazed?)

And the brave! (Or crazed?)

Next a caught the train and made my way down to RHS Garden Rosemoor for a week. It is a beautiful garden, very peaceful and intimate.  I think it may be my favorite out of the RHS gardens. (Shh…don’t tell Wisley.)

The lake water was so sill that day it was like a giant mirror reflecting everything so beautifully.

The lake water was so sill that day it was like a giant mirror reflecting everything so beautifully.

After my short stint at RHS Garden Rosemoor I slipped down to the Eden Project and I’ve been here for two weeks now. So far I have worked in the Mediterranean Biome, the Tropical Biome, the Outdoor Biome, and the Nursery. Next week I will be with the ‘Narrators’ (kind of like docents), Pathology, and Plant Records. It’s an amazing place and a different take on botanic/ornamental garden. When I will write a more detailed post when I next have access to more reliable internet access. This is my last week at the Eden Project and on Saturday I am off to Tresco Abbey out in the Scilly Isles! Gosh time flies!

Here is one of the paths curving through the olive grove in the Mediterranean Biome.

Here is one of the paths curving through the olive grove in the Mediterranean Biome.

Though many would find it too hot, I actually enjoyed the heat and humidity in the Tropical Biome.

Though many would find it too hot, I actually enjoyed the heat and humidity in the Tropical Biome.

I’ve headed out for the day to enjoy the the glorious warm and sunny weather in St. Ives. Anyway, that’s just a quick update for now. (I’ve been sitting in the Tate Gallery Cafe using their wifi for the past two hours and I think they are ready for me to leave.) See you all soon!

I haven't seen the sea in months and I couldn't have asked for better weather!

I haven’t seen the sea in months and I couldn’t have asked for better weather!

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