Plants to admire

Tresco Abbey Gardens is great for enjoying good specimens of plants in a 'naturalistic' setting. The plant list here is extensive and I won't even attempt to list them all, but here is a highlight of some of them. As I mentioned before trees like the Cupressus macrocarpa and Pinus radiata helps make up an important shelterbelt, that protects the garden and allows for such an array of plants to be grown, from an otherwise very exposed island to prevailing briny winds. To start them off the original proprietor of Tresco and creator of the garden, Augustus Smith in the 1800s trial planted different trees and found that these two species were the most tolerant and grew fast. Cleverly he used the gorse Ulex europaeus already growing on the island to nurse young seedlings. Around the shelter belt are distinctive layers of Ulex Europaeus, Rhododendron ponticum and then these shelter trees.

Cupressus macrocarpa standing gloriously tall and gnarly in the distance.

This shelter belt has to be maintained very carefully, because if all these trees reaches the peak of maturity at the same time, they risk falling down all at the same time in a particularly bad storm, as has been painfully experienced firsthand before. So plantings of young trees has to be done periodically to ensure that there are ready replacements. This has to be balanced as well, so that the trees don't shade out the garden too much. Since the 1970s under the ownership of Robert Dorrien-Smith 60,000 young trees have been replanted.

Another tree used as a windbreaker - Pinus pinea with a round mound of Fascicularia bicolor below it.

Wood from Cupressus macrocarpa that had fallen during one of the storms have been used to build the Garden Visitor Centre. The wood starts off a warm brown and turns a silvery grey when exposed to the sun.

Lichen can be found everywhere hanging off everywhere, which indicates the air is good & clean here. Usually it is deemed as harmless, but head gardener Andy Lawson is convinced that they are affecting the plants.

One of the many lichen clad wooden benches.

Sparmannia africana in the Malvaceae family from South Africa - usually a evergreen 'house plant' on the mainland - here it is a wondrous tree about 3m tall in full flower

Sparmannia africana flowers close up.

The almost comical looking tree dandelion Sonchus arboreus.

South African Polygala myrtifolia forms a thread of perpetual flowers throughout the garden. They look like they would be from the Fabaceae family, but are from the Polyganaceae family.

I accepted from the start that the weeds here are not the average ones found in the UK, the most 'normal' weeds I have come across are bramble (Rubus fruticosa) and ivy (Hedera helix). As someone who has trained at Dixter I get very excited about self-sowers, as I have witness how they have helped make up the seamless plant tapestries & magic of that garden. I nod as I am told to pull out Aristea, Chrysocoma and Erica arborea as the staple weeds. But it is seeing a Gazania in flower of all things and realising that they are one of the most vigorous weeds here, that takes me aside. This is probably because of my personal experience of these back on the mainland, a flower I so enjoy, but know that I can only really grow as a half hardy annual or have to store in a heated greenhouse over winter.

Gazania sp. in flower.

I am sure these have been photographed in this way many times - but its just too tempting - Araucaria heterophylla looking like they're just the most perfect self-formed Christmas Tree. These are specifically from Norfolk Island, a small island between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

They are not usually found in the Northern Hemisphere, becoming extinct there when the dinosaurs did, so it is exceptional that Tresco can grow it here and quite a few of them. It is great to be exposed more to this intriguing, generally coniferous and ancient family of plants called Araucariaceae, which the well known Monkey Puzzle tree Araucaria araucana is part of.

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