Field Trip Reports 2011Field_Trip_Reports.html

17th May - Clandeboye Estate

Fergus Thompson, Head Gardener at Clandeboye Estate showed BNFC members and friends round the gardens on an unexpectedly fine May evening. The estate covers around 2000 acres and contains the largest area of broad-leaf trees in Northern Ireland.

Near the entrance to Clandeboye House (left) is a bed of spiky plants, such as Phormium, Tree Ferns and Cordylines, designed to reflect the spikiness of the weapons which decorate the Entrance Hall. Many had suffered from two cold winters but Fergus hoped that the many seedlings from the biennial Echium canarense would be flowering by next summer.

200 year old oaks stand among the wild-flower meadows where cowslips, yellow rattle, buttercups, red clover, ox-eye daisies, knapweed and native grasses made a colourful display in front of the lake where we spotted a swan with cygnets.

Fergus showed us many exotic trees, including a Chestnut-leafed oak, and a Fern-leafed/cut-leafed Beech (Fagus sylvatica heterophylla). 20% of Fergus’ seedlings had not reverted to the common species.

We saw a fine collection of pines from across the world and many Southern Beech (Nothofagus). Fergus was growing a Bristle-cone Pine from a seed he had collected.

We all admired a wonderful display of purple Acers, red, orange and yellow Azaleas, multi-coloured Rhododendrons and red Chilean Firebush (Embothrium)– one of them a champion tree as it has the largest girth of any in the British Isles. There is a fine collection of magnolias, many recently planted – the newer species flower when still quite young.

The intimate walled-gardens have fine tree peonies, colourful irises, geraniums and walls covered with wisteria.

In the Bee garden, so-called because of a bee-house restored from a Victorian original, are old species of apples, mulberry trees and peach trees. In the Conservatory Garden Fergus pointed out a 60 million year old fossilised Metasequoia trunk from Lough Neagh, akin to the living Metasequoia we had just seen in the gardens.

Fergus Thompson was thanked for sharing with us his great knowledge of plants and enthusiasm for the Gardens.

Margaret Marshall         


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