It’s been a long Winter in Wales – not rainy and mild like last year but a proper cold Winter with proper snow.
The trees and bees have been delayed, and, like us – particularly with Easter being so early at the beginning of April – have been desperate to move forward into more warmth and sunshine.
The daffodils struggled to appear for Saint David’s day this year. Last year I took a photo of them on Feb 26. This year it was over a month later nearer the beginning of April.
The park’s tulip display was at its’ best on May 6th.
Equally magnificent before Spring’s arrival was this highly ornamental shrub called Stachyurus praexox which was laden with blossom in March.
But then May’s first bank holiday brought hot weather records, flowers and pollen. Everyone and everything burst into bud with renewed energy and now we are enjoying a Spring where everything is playing catch up. This was last week’s beautiful horsechestnut bouquets
and here is a white rhododendron called the ‘Loderi King George’ which Terry Davies planted in Roath Botanic Gardens.
Terry led the 2018 spring Walk in the Botanic Gardens along with Malcom who planted these two Callery Pear trees guarding the entrance to Cathays Library in Cardiff.
The Callery Pear tree in the Botanic Gardens is one of hundreds of Welsh champion trees in Cardiff. It usually blossoms in early spring but is running late. It is more of an ornamental tree as the fruit isn’t edible. Due to its’ beautiful vertical tallness it is perfect for street planting (although In N.E America is considered invasive)
The Botanic Gardens have an interesting history and reading this website – Cardiff Parks – maintained and updated in great detail by Anne and Andy Bell, gives you a great insight into the parks of Cardiff..
One of the original trees planted by William Nelmes in the thirties is the Indian Bean tree on the bridge next to the conservatory in the Botanic Gardens.
It has a beautiful canopy of foliage and in Summer there are tall white pannicles of flowers. This particular tree doesn’t flower as well now so the Friends of Roath Park who charge a mere £5 membership fee , have planted a young replacement on the river bank opposite. More info here –
Our bees in the garden noisily made up for lost time and are now busy foraging and building up their honey stores.we have had to speedily add two honey supers on top of their brood box so they have room to expand and store their nectar. The hot sun directly on the hive means that we have had to increase the ventilation by placing four match sticks between the Queen excluder and first honey box. It will save the bees having to fan quite as much to keep the hive cool.
Not far out from Cardiff is Cosmeston Park.. in the Vale of Glamorgan.
As our garden thermometer showed it to be 45 degrees in the recent heatwave I felt a bit sorry for our bees and dug our sun umbrella out of the shed and gave them a bit of shade.
The temperature in a hive is maintained at around 35 degrees – even in winter. But anything above that the bees start fanning with their wings and collect water. You can see them fanning at the entrance and often they gather in clumps outside.
It was a glorious but cooler day back in May when the Spring walk around Roath Park took place and to go back to that now seems a bit crazy but all the blame lies with Terry and Malcolm. They just didn’t stop throwing out the facts and figures and made it far too interesting so I am determined to do as promised and follow on with ‘part two’ if I can make sense of the notes I jotted down.
And it’s a graceful start – with the pinus patula – a Mexican beauty with its hanging green locks and salmon pink bark which apparently smells of aniseed when cut.
It has five needle clusters and when its cones ( which are its flowers) are rubbed they issue a fine dust.
As we walk out of the ‘secret garden’ opposite the Acer’s we stop to admire beautiful examples of the Mahonia shrub. Originating in Asia the flowers are individually small and bell-like in shape, flowering either on long racemes, or on short, congested ones. The bees love the nectar and pollen they provide and the flowers are often followed by tiny plum-coloured fruits, which are loved by birds.
So having walked for some time through the park you really do begin to feel the wonders of those who have gone before you and planted such gems. We should cherish their work for future generations despite the cut backs due to money that the council are enforcing. Cardiff council need to look at the bigger picture and invest in what makes Cardiff special. Thanks to Terry and Malcolm their enthusiasm is being passed on and everyone on the walk is becoming equally enthused. – the trees here are full of stories such as the one we now pass which ‘Malcolm explains is known as the tree for sailors… It is called Drimys Winteri or Winter’s bark and it was discovered by a sea Captain – John Winter – as far back as 1557 who used its aromatic bark to treat scurvy. Scurvy was the bane of sailors’ lives – causing millions to die – and the root cause was the lack of vitamin C.
It is also said that Sir Francis Drake himself drank tea made from the same bark to help with stomach problems. If you crush its leaves they have a peppery smell. It flowers in early Summer –
One of the main botanists planting here in the botanic gardens was Pettigrew and Terry explains that he grew the Davidia involucrata from seed.
It also known by the names of the handkerchief tree and the ghost tree and it is easy to see why.
And to end this tour with a more natural sun umbrella than the one I began with – and the final tree of the tour – is the queenly Cut Leaf Beech. She stands proudly on the corner of the rose garden greeting those who make their way to the rows of memorial benches.
Malcolm points out that a few of the branches have normal beech leaves as the new growth reverts back to its original species….
The new branches point us in the direction of the tea rooms so off we go to refresh our bodies. Our brains having been more than refreshed by Terry and Malcolm’s tree wisdom.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Observations on trees and bees in Wales, Ireland and beyond