Tag Archives: Tresco Abbey Garden

The Scent of Grasse

24 Aug

Oh gosh, has it almost been two months since I last wrote?! In my defense, I haven’t had a moment of down time until today. (But you may have noticed a pattern of forgetfulness emerging…) During my last post I was on Tresco Island on my last leg of my fellowship working in Tresco Abbey Garden. On July 11th, I finished my final day of the fellowship and savoured my last weekend in the Isles of Scilly before packing up and heading back up to Wisley. Since then I traveled back up to Edinburgh and made my way back down to London while stopping by York, Sheffield, and Wyken Hall.

On my final day on Tresco I went on a long walk around the island with a friend that lived in the same accommodation block.

On my final day on Tresco I went on a long walk around the island with a friend that lived in the same accommodation block.

I can’t find the right words to describe how amazing my year in the UK has been. I learned so much and still can’t believe all the places I’ve been. I have to thank the Garden Club of America for selecting me as the 2013-14 Royal Horticultural Society/Garden Club of America Interchange Fellow, who sent me on the most wonderful adventure in the UK, and the the RHS for arranging such a spectacular program and for supporting me during my travels from garden to garden. But of course my time in the UK would not have been the same if it wasn’t for all the new friends and great people that I met – thanks for such an amazing year! You’ve made many dreams come true and opened doors to places were beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a bit bittersweet now that it is all over, but there is a part of me that feels this isn’t goodbye for good.

This is around the same time when I first saw the Herbaceous Boarder at Wisley.

This is around the same time when I first saw the Herbaceous Boarder at Wisley last year.

So what am I doing now? Well…through the fellowship I met a lady who turned me onto this garden internship in Grasse – a small town the south of France. The garden is called La Mouissone – which is the name of a fig variety – and I’ve arrived a little over two weeks ago right upon the heels of my UK Visa expiring. The six month internship provides hands on experience gardening in a Mediterranean climate and with it the joys and challenges. Along with the usual upkeep and maintenance, the internship also involves collaborative development of new areas in garden.

This is looking down the main lawn with the beautiful olive trees at La Mouissone.

This is looking down the main lawn with the beautiful olive trees at La Mouissone.

Grasse is perched on the side of a large hill near Cannes and Nice. Though considered to be the perfume capital of the world, Grasse is the center of the French perfume industry. Due to it’s sheltered location many flowers – such as jasmine, roses, lavender, and violets – were grown and harvested here for their essences, but due to chemical synthesis advancements and outsourcing abroad, it’s a fraction of what it used to be. Though I haven’t been to the flower plantains, wonderful scents abound. Fig trees and cypresses loom over the road into town, so lately I’ve been greeted  by the mingled perfumes of ripening figs and piney cypresses on my way to the grocery store. In the garden wild rosemary lives up in the semi-wooded cliffs, but the wild thyme has seeded itself down in the garden, so I get kissed by its scent whenever I am weeding in the Garrigue garden.

I love the surprise fragrance when I accidentally brush past a wild thyme plant in the garden.

I love the surprise fragrance when I accidentally brush past a wild thyme plant in the garden.

I know that was a short post, but I’ll be back with more soon. Also, when I get the chance on down days I’ll revisit the UK and write a few posts. Anyway, have a great day and I will see you soon!

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.

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!

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