The astonishing extremely tall silver fir (Abies alba) gave up its last big branch during the summer holidays (August 2013). Now the huge main stem cracked like a match. Only an upright growing branch is still alive and standing like a torch. According to Mike Collard from Future Forests, who had – in February – offered to cut most of the dead wood in order not to endanger visitors of the Holiday Homes in Ardnagashel, there should be around 40 tons of timber to be harvested now!
It is so very sad to be witness to the continuing decay of the once so special arboretum which was founded by the family of the first Irish woman botanist Ellen Hutchins. Her brothers and later some of her nephews brought special plants to the place of outstanding beauty and developed a place with a rare collection of trees. The dead silver fir was probably planted around the mid 19th century.
The Kaulback family bought a major part of the magnificent place (after WWII) and they continued to add more specimen trees and very special rhododendrons which had some decades to mature. Some of them might be rare seedlings from Col. Ronald Kaulback who went on two expeditions to the Himalayan mountains [the first as companion of renowned plant hunter Francis (Frank) Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958)]. Now every autumn and winter sees very rare and mature trees falling, breaking, cracking… Along with their surrendering to the gravity they kill precious neighbouring plants. What is not being killed by storms is being eaten by brambles and digested by lichens and moss.
Hard to believe that this place was of interest for many a celebrity who came to visit, among them:
- Taoiseach Éamonn de Valera
- Queen Juliana of the Netherlands
- Peter Markham Scott (the son of the famous explorer)
- Noel Streatfeild (who wrote The Ballet Shoes)
- Mazo de la Roche
- Joyce Grenfell
- Sir Thomas Pakenham
The above photograph was taken after a minor storm and just before the worst storm for 15 years (26th Dec 2013, 150 km/h), the seaweed went much further and is now ‘decorating’ the front verandah.
Aubrey Fennel (on the left photograph with elevated hands) is a hunter of Champion Trees and authoritative voice on their behalf. Recently he published an enormous book about the silent green giants: Heritage Trees of Ireland (The Tree Council 2013, The Collins Press, 328 pages, 24 Euro). Pages 242 and 243 are dedicated to the fabulous myrtle wood in East Ardnagashel (still owned by the Hutchins family).
Aubrey Fennel has recorded over 10,000 champion trees in Ireland for the Tree Register of Ireland’s database at the National Botanic Gardens. In June 2006 he came to Ardnagashel – together with quite a crowd from the Irish Tree Society and – of course – Sir Thomas Pakenham, the renowned tree photograph and expert (on the left photograph with the white suit).
Aubrey Fennel lives in Carlow among his own champion trees.
The summer has been glorious, even autumn is warm, friendly and golden. Our guests had just few rainy or misty days, most weeks had abundant sunshine or at least dry days.
If the forecast is right it will become really nasty from next week on – so we enjoy a few wonderful kitsch situations from the front door of Ardnagashel House… (photographs by Antje Wendel)
Summer is fading… there are still many flowering trees around the estate though: The snowy blooms of the many Chilean myrtles. Once it was named Myrtus apiculata as it is closely related to the myrtles (Myrtaceae). Originally it came from Chile – where it is called arrayán and palo colorado. Botanist and plant hunter William Lobb sent seeds to England and so introduced the lovely plant with the cinnamon colored trunk to cultivation in Europe around 1844.
Labels made by Richard Hutchins displayed in Ardnagashel East
The Hutchins family brought it to our area around 1880. It grows like weed – it IS a weed in der area around Glengarriff and is even hated by gardeners of many a famous garden. The black berries are edible and are either prepared as a kind of chutney or as a liquor. They are also used for their medicinal properties.
After the scorching heat which lasted for about 5 weeks we are now seeing torrential rainfall – between lovely patches of warm sunshine. What was a considerable threat to the visitors during the present summer holidays – especially for those walking from the new cottages to the beach – is now partly solved: a big branch of the incredibly huge silver fir (Abies alba) just crashed onto the main path from Ardnagashel House to the Killeen (No. 19 on this map).
It had been overlooking the estate for a long time, probably for more than a hundred years. For quite some time it was mistaken as an Abies gigantea and was listed as an Irish Champion Tree.
Many weeks have passed after a long, long and cold, cold spring and now it’s summer. Real summer. Real heat and hardly any drop of rain for nearly four weeks. Lots of guests love a swim at the private beach of Ardnagashel.
The water is really warm-ish.
Our guests are exploring the lovely Arboretum around Ardnagashel House: two surviving cork trees, quite a tall Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), many myrtles, a fascinating Colorado White Fir, the exotic Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata) and so many more. I always wonder who planted which tree.
Our guests love to relax enjoying the wonderful view.
Or with a nice book.
Ardnagashel House at dawn.
Ardnagashel saw a group of happy walkers this week.
They explored the area around the Walled Garden which is slowly decaying – what a shame, it would be great to make an organic potager out of it or a Mediterranean lavender garden. Now it’s mainly Japanese knotweed (and buttercups) growing here.