After the storm

This winter has seen a few storms battering the shores of Britain. The railway journey to Cornwall along the coast takes in some of the prettiest views in the country. I remember how on my way to Penzance en route to Tresco on the train, I was admiring being so close to the sea on one side and red cliffs on the other. That track is now submerged in water. It is odd to think that I might be one of the last people who traveled on that line only days before it collapsed. Now they are seriously considering re-routing it onto an old line further inland.

An uprooted Eucalyptus macarthurii

In the last two weeks Tresco has been blasted by winds from 70 to 90mph. I'm always surprised at how well the garden holds up, and is reminded again how effective the shelter-belt trees are. But considerable damage has still been made and we won't see the consequences of sea scorch until two weeks after, when leaves affected will start to go brown. We have been scurrying around whenever there has been respite to the weather, to cut up and clear fallen trees & branches and what seems like the never ending raking up of leaves and debris.

A snapped small Ulmus sp.

Although it was not as bad as the Great Storm of 1987 and the hurricane of 1990 for Tresco, it is one of the longest sustained bad weather that they have experienced. The violent cyclones of October 1987 didn't actually affect Tresco Abbey Gardens, it was the event of an unusual and heavy snow fall earlier on that year that led to a severe drop in temperature (-8°C dropping to -25°C from wind chill) that devastated the garden. 80% of the garden was wiped out, with plants reduced to mush and resulting in a slow and painful death, which was to pursue even months afterwards.

Mike Nelhams then head gardener and now curator and Andrew Lawson then propagator and now head gardener, traveled all over the country to botanic gardens like Kew and Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh to replace the plants lost. Just as they were getting the garden back together again, tragedy hit the garden again in 1990, when 120mph wind took out 90% of the crucial shelter belt, and laid the rest of the more tender plants bare to the elements and to a sudden onslaught of attack by rabbits now being able to access the garden. So it is amazing how much this garden has had to endure and has managed to bounce back from.

Marie, Megan and me cutting up a fallen Hakea oleifolia.

The wood of the Hakea sp. was soft and pink and it was almost like cutting through butter.

The Olearia traversii of all the Olearia traversii, looking worse for wear but still standing - all O. traversii plants in Cornwall and the islands originally came from this tree.

The gulf stream that helps keep the temperature warm here is changing and with more signs of climate change, one wonders what the future holds for Tresco. I have heard talk of how as the planet warms up Britain could grow more Mediterranean plants, but it is the flooding and rain that we are not coping well with. Here such plants are grown and they still struggle to cope with the unpredictability of the weather, this proves that there isn't such a straightforward solution.

The building in the distance is 15m tall Cromwell's castle, with large waves in the background coming over the island of Bryher opposite.

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