Tag Archives: Roath

A Spring Trip To Asia (and the rest of the world) via Roath ( Part One) 

We are well into June – so this is a bit of a retrospective – in fact exactly a month ago today! – but as with all walks in the company of Terry Davies and Malcolm Fraser, their annual Tree Walks are very memorable and should  be compulsory in everybody’s diary! 

Notice of Spring Walk

Having spent the week prior to this immersed in my daughter’s offer of a permanent job in Hong Kong it was appropriate that Asia featured highly on the agenda.

It was a chance to de-stress with these two horticultural therapists whose in depth knowledge of trees and shrubs in Roath Park’s botanic gardens is both stimulating and soothing.

Running late as usual I caught up with them standing in the sunshine pointing out the aptly named Chilean Lantern tree from South America. Its’ beautiful perfectly formed red lantern-like flowers are bountiful and you immediately feel a sense of satisfaction at the privilege of seeing it in all its beauty hidden away in the borders opposite the cherries and rose garden. 

Chilean Lantern Tree

Its’ neighbour, dressed in another bright primary colour – is the yellow-flowered Barberry from Turkey – a country which straddles the continents of Europe and Asia. 

Yellow flowering Barberry

Alleged to have come from Judea in Asia minor is a tall willowy Judas tree covered in bright pink. With its perfectly formed heart shape leaves it is not surprising that it is also known as a Love’ tree. 

Judas Tree

Some say its’ name ‘Judas tree’ derives from the myth that it was the tree from which judas iscariot hanged himself.  

Looking very cool in the background nearby and coming from from cooler central China is a large leaved architectural plant called the Loquat. It fills a space in the border quite unobtrusively. It has white flowers in late Summer and would normally fruit later in the year but not in this country.

The leaves are about a foot long and a gorgeous rich dark green with a white slightly furry underside.

Loquat

Turning to walk alongside the borders of the rose garden we pass 50 year old bushes with their roots surfacing in the poor soil. Andy and Anne Bell’s website is such a treat – read here about the –  Rose Garden history with photos

My favourite roses are two red climbers – Ena Harkness & Dublin Bay, both of which are at the far end of the rose garden.

Ena Harness – heavily scented tea rose

Moving further along the border is another thorny plant –  a hardy spiky shrub from Uraguay and Brazil, called Colletia Paradoxa Which is alsoknown by the descriptive names of ‘crucifixian thorn’ And ‘jet plane ‘ plant! 

Beware spikes!
Jet plane plant

We learn that they grow strongly and are never damaged by frost. Their white flowers in September and October are strongly scented and are useful for insect pollinators. 

Within sight of this rare ‘leave me alone’ type of plant is the beautiful feathery ‘look at me’ pink of the Tamarisk Tree from North Africa- it is gales resistant and often found near the seashore as it can be used to stabilise sand dunes, enjoying a high salt content soil.

It is a lot to take in and Terry speeds up the process by mentioning  three trees in one breath….the first is the from Asia –  the white Himalayan Birch from China standing next to two trees from the USA – the Kentucky Coffee Tree and the large leavedMagnolia Maceophylla  which can have leaves of up to 3 feet long and white flowers up to 14 inches across.

Kentucky Coffee Tree f/g, Magnolia Macrophylla b/g
Himalayan Birch

Further along on the corner is the Kaki tree – also known as the Chinese ( or Japanese) persimmon. It is native to China, Burma and India and this particular tree was planted in memory of the Italian Head Gardener of Roath Park – Giovanni. Terry remembers him well and his stories of his home town near Naples. He used to enjoy relating the tradition of how when someone got married in Italy two trees would be planted either side of the new couple’s home – a peach and a persimmon. He loved eating the orangey fruit which were always best when allowed to riped fully on a warm windowsill. They are quite astringent and not to everyone’s taste. The trade name for the non-astringent variety is sharon fruit.

Chinese persimmon
The beds near the rose garden really should be named Magnolia Heaven as including the champion tree –  the Magnolia  Virginiana (also known as Sweetbay Magnolia) from North America  – which flowers May to June followed by a fruit which ripens to show bright red seeds which lasts until February, there is a vast array of different other types. 

The Friends of Roath Park facebook page – fRiends of Roath Park has a picture of the Magnolia Denudata – or Lily Tree in all its’ March glory. Its’ flowers were regarded as a symbol of purity in the Chinese Tang Dynasty. It was planted in the grounds of the Emperor’s palace and is the official flower of Shanghai. 

Another tree nearby is the Magnolia Acuminata  from the USA which is also known as the Cucumber Tree due to the shape of its fruit.

So onwards and with leaves similar to a Mountain Ash, the Yellowhorn is  a very attractive bush, or small tree. It bears sprays of elegant white flowers on bare branches in May or June. 

Yellowhorn in flower
Reading more about this plant from the Kew website it says how the director at Kew in 1897 described it as Xanthoceras sorbifolium ‘…one of the most attractive and interesting hardy garden shrubs that has been introduced for many years’. It was originally collected near Beijing in about 1830 by the botanist Alexander von Bunge (1803–1890), when he was accompanying an overland mission to the capital from St Petersburg. It was brought into cultivation in Europe in 1868, when the botanist and missionary Père David (1826–1900) sent seeds and live plants to the Jardin des Plante, which is the main botanical garden in France.Roath Botanic Gardens  isn’t quite the 28 hectares of the French gardens but in such a small space you get a real taste of World nature.

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Portugal, Parks, Pollen (& Lions)

Estrella Park (Jardim da Estrela) in Portugal is magical. In central Lisbon it could easily be bypassed as it isn’t heavily advertised and is on the Western route taken by tram 28 rather than the more touristy Eastern ascending route to the cobbled hills of Alfama.
Stepping off the tram at the end of the line outside basilica Estrella the wrought iron entrances to the park opposite are camouflaged a little by the yellow miniature tram-shaped coffee hut. 

Estrella Park gates
 

I cross the road leaving the basilica area – crowded with funeral mourners and Funeral directors carrying large halos of fresh flowers from the four by four polished black hearse.

It is midday and on this beautiful sunny lunchtime I join the locals as they stroll through the green oasis of park with its’ palms, olive trees and magnificent banyans. 

Banyan tree
 

The banyan tree – the national tree of India – gives welcome shade. Apparently the Portugese adopted the word ‘banya’ from Gugerati when referring to the Hindu merchants who would gather to do business beneath it and so the tree gained its’ name. 

To Hindus the banyan is ‘the wish-fulfilling tree’. They are long-living and in mythology are seen as representing eternal life. 

It is strange to see their aerial roots hanging down from the branches. They will form trunks in the ground and can spread to 200 metres in diameter and 30 metres in height. 

The banyan features at the top right corner on the coat of arms of Indonesia,, symbolising the unity of Indonesia – one country with many far-flung roots.

Banyan tree on coat of armsof Indonesia
 

Strolling on I pass young and old – sitting, reading, dozing, chatting, sleeping. 

Lunchtime in Estrella Park
 

Sculptures blend happily into their surroundings.

Lisbon beauty
Taborda (actor)
 

And flying high above the pines are bright green Parakeets squawking and chasing each other above the human visitors below.

These tropical birds must have great views of the meandering paths, the glistening pond, intricate bandstand and outdoor cafes. 

At each view I stop, look and photograph – memory postcards to take back home.

My flight back is to London so I take advantage of a day there before returning to Cardiff. Icy wind and flakes of snow greet me in North London as I walk through Waterlow Park in Highgate. Estrella park was opened in 1873 and apparently featured a real live lion kept in a cage for over 70 years for the benefit of visitors. . Waterlow park – opened in 1889 leads to Highgate cemetery where sleeping above George Wombwell’s grave is Nero the lion who was in George’s travelling menagerie. The Wombwell family are still involved in the circus business.

Nero

Lions weren’t a feature In Victoria park in Cardiff (opened in 1897) but it did have a zoo and animals such as monkeys, a polar bear, antelope and exotic birds. Andy and Anne Bell’s website list all the animals known to have been kept in Victoria Zoo – Cardiff parks

Most people have heard of Billy the seal who lived in the park in from 1915-39 – Billy the seal

The nearest I got to wildlife in cold Waterlow park was two little moorhens who timidly tiptoed up to me in the hope of food. Even they looked a bit shivery.

On the tree trail around the park are some bee favourites such as indian bean, walnut, strawberry and Alder : Trees of Waterlow Park

In our sheltered garden our bees have been active over the winter months collecting some early pollen. 

I am one of the 20 per cent of people allergic to tree pollen and the Alder tree is amongst the early pollen producing trees that can cause an allergic reaction. Alder trees are monoecious – both male and female flowers appear on the same tree.
There are yellow male catkins and brown female cones on the Wales champion (2013) Italian alder in Roathmill park and on others along the bank at Roath recreation ground.

Alder cones & catkins
Alder in February
Alder, Roath recreation ground

More catkins on this beautiful silk tassel shrub in Roath Pleasure Gardens – 
Silk tassel shrub

To the bees, Pollen is considered to be ‘ bread’ – high in starch and a great carb/high energy food source for baby bees..
 My hay-fever-like symptoms (itchy eyes) usually occur anytime between now to May depending on how early Spring is and the amount of pollen released so I am on standby but have been taking a teaspoon of our spring honey every day trying to build up my immunity as local honey contains grains of pollen from the various plants – invaluable and why we have a waiting list..
Forager bees decide in advance if they are leaving the hive to collect nectar to make into honey or pollen to store up for development when they leave the hive. They return with the pollen on their legs like shopping bags. They give it to the housekeeper bees when they return home who put away in their cell-like cupboards. This is a frame of store honey and pollen in a frame from our hive. The yellows, greens and oranges are the pollen. The dark shiny cells are full of nectar/honey. The varied pollen colours reflect the different trees, shrubs and flowers they comes from.

Soon, the baby bees will emerge and the colony will develop. There are around 5000 bees in the hive at the moment. In Summer that will increase to 50,000 bees. Roll on Summer….

Pollen frame