The idea behind this page is to give an account of some of our plants, the continent/country in which they were originally found and are native, their journey to the UK and Ireland and why they grow so well in our climate.
Crinodendron hookerianum ( Chilean Lantern Tree)
C. hookerianum is an evergreen tree which produces a distinctive red lantern-shaped flower in early Summer each year, contrasting effectively against the dark green leaves.
Here, it has been planted in a semi-shaded location in acidic and well-drained soil. It is hardy down to -5°C.
C. hookerianum is native to Chile between latitudes 38° to 43° S and grows near streams and in humid and shady locations.
It was introduced into cultivation in England by Cornish plant collector William Lobb for Veitch Nurseries of Exeter in 1848. The name “hookerianum” honours William Jackson Hooker an English botanist who studied many Chilean plants.
It became popular in Ireland in the 1970s and 80s and has been widely planted successfully in the South West and in other mild coastal locations.
Dicksonia antarctica ( Soft Tree Fern)
D.antarctica is a terrestrial fern having an erect rhizome forming a trunk and long light green fronds which are very hairy at the base of the stripe. The fronds go brown and die back each November. Small green curls start growing again every May. They grow well in the South West of Ireland and England being hardy down to -10° C.
Here, D.antarctica has been planted is a moist but well-drained mix of soil and leaf mould in a sheltered and semi-shaded woodland position. The rhizome is very slow growing achieving about one inch each year. For winter protection, the rhizome is wrapped in fleece and the centre crown is covered to prevent lodging water freezing and causing damage to the plant.
D.antarctica is native to the higher altitude cloud forests of South-East Australia and Tasmania having cool and wet conditions like our own. They first came to England in the late 19th Century used as packing in ships to prevent the movement of cargo and were found to grow even when discarded on port quaysides. The genus “Dicksonia” honours James Dickson (1738-1822) who was a prominent Scottish nurseryman and was linked to Cooks first voyage to Australia on HMS Endeavour. “Antarctica” denotes a southern or cooler location but not the continent of Antarctica itself.
Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Firetree)
E. coccineum is an evergreen tree which grows up to 30 feet tall and produces very striking dangling clusters of deep orange coloured flowers in May of each year.
Here, it has been planted in a moist but well drained mix of soil, ericaceous ( acidic) compost and horticultural grit. It is difficult to propagate and not easily available to buy. We are most grateful to a friend who gave us a cutting which seems to be benefitting from its relatively sheltered position in the garden and lots of rain-harvested water in the Summer months.
E. coccineum is native to the Valdivian Temperate Rain Forests in South of Chile. It was introduced to Europe by William Lobb following his plant collecting expedition to Chile in 1845-1848 on behalf of the James Veitch nursery in Exeter, England. At the time, Kew Gardens in London said that “perhaps no tree cultivated in the open air in the British Isles gives so striking a display as this does”.
E. coccineum grows very well in the South West of Ireland because climatic conditions in the higher reaches of the Chilean temperate rain forests are very similar to conditions here i.e. cool and wet.
Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp niphophila ( Snow Gum Tree)
This is a beautiful evergreen tree having slim, matt grey-green leaves 4-5 inches in length and white flowers each Spring. The patchwork-like flaking silver-green bark provides year round appeal. Over 20 years it grows up to 30 feet in height and has a spread of up to 15 feet. From the Greek roots “Eu” meaning “well” and “calyptos” meaning “covered” in reference to the operculum giving protection to the seed vessel. Here, E. pauciflora ssp niphophila has been planted in our own compost and leaf mould ensuring good structure and drainage. It is a thirsty tree and likes a lot of water passing through, especially in Summer.
It is native to Australia and Tasmania at altitudes of up to 1,800m in locations having high rainfall and has been found to be hardy down to -20° C. The first Eucalyptus was discovered by English botanist David Nelson in 1777 and brought back to the British Museum in London. It first appeared in Ireland in the 1930s and grows well in our damp and cool conditions.
Liquidambar Styraciflua Worplesdon ( Sweet Gum Tree)
Liquidambar is a beautiful deciduous tree which grows to a height of 16-20 feet over 20 years having long narrow lobed maple-like leaves that turn a fiery red/orange colour in Autumn and a corky bark which adds interest in Winter.
Here, it has been planted in a fertile, moist but well drained soil in a bright and open position but reasonably sheltered from the wind.
It is native to the warmer parts of the Eastern United States and parts of Mexico. It was first introduced to Europe about 1690 by John Bannister and planted in Fulham Palace Gardens, London. It was named by Linnaeus in 1753, “liquidus” in Latin meaning fluid and “ambar” an Arabic reference to the sweet gum which flows from the bark when wounded.
Worplesdon as a cultivar or clone is more favoured in Ireland due to its greater tolerance of frost and for having a more reliably uniform crown.
Macabeanum is a large evergreen shrub or tree with magnificent dark green leaves up to 15 inches in length having a whitish, furry underside which acts as a kind of insulation against hard frosts. This makes it hardy down to – 10°C. It flowers bell-shaped in a pale to deep yellow with a purple blotch in dense rounded trusses.
Here, it has been planted in a moist but well drained mix of soil, ericaceous (acidic) compost, leaf mould and horticultural grit. Each year, it grows about 4/6 inches taller in a spurt of growth in May. We expect it to flower sometime in the next few years but we are not holding our breath!
The reason these shrubs do so well in the far South West of Ireland is that they come from the provinces of Manipur and Nagaland in the North East of India and foothills of the Himalayas growing at altitudes of up to 2,700m in cool and wet conditions very similar to our own. R. macabeanum is named after Robert Blair Macabe, an Indian civil servant who in the 19th century served as deputy commissioner of Manipur and Inspector General of Assam. It was first introduced into the British Isles in 1926 by Frank Kingdon-Ward, a famous British plant hunter and explorer.
Sorbus vilmorinii ( Mountain Ash)
S. vilmorinii is a small elegant deciduous tree with dark green fern-like foliage that turns orange and bronze in Autumn. In June, white flowers appear followed by decorative deep pink Autumn fruits.
The tree is native to the Dali area of Yunnan Province in Western China and was first discovered by a French missionary priest, Pere Jean Marie Delavay who was one of the first Western explorers to visit this part of China. In 1889, Delavay sent the seeds of the S. vilmorinii to Maurice de Vilmorin, a famous Parisian nurseryman after whom the tree is named. In 1905, Vilmorin gave a grafted sapling to Kew Gardens in London and from then on, the tree became a firm favourite with growers and gardeners alike.
Vilmorinii was found to grow in the foothills of the Southern Himalayas at altitudes of over 2,000 metres in climatic conditions which were temperate and similar to those prevailing in the UK and Ireland. This explains why this tree grows so well here.