A tree from across the sea

Four men are holding a cross pole; the pole is attached to a large tree which is being lowered into a planting hole.

This month an extraordinary thing happened; a man called Joerma Biernath and his team sailed a World War 2 training boat containing a tree (and a barrel of gin, naturally) 600 miles from Hannover in Saxony to the UK. This tree now has pride of place here in the Botanic Garden, planted by the sailors themselves, North Sea salt in their hair and now Bristol soil under their fingernails.

The tree is Cornus mas or Cornelian Cherry, a rare plant in Lower Saxony; the sailors have planted it outside our Welcome Lodge where it will live as a symbol of the bond between cities. In early spring it produces small bright yellow flowers at a time when flashes of brightness are such a welcome sight after a long dark winter. (more…)

Adapts shoots and leaves: the cactus.

The spines of a tall cactus.Cacti are interesting plants and a bit strange; some look like they could hoik themselves out of the ground and lumber around with spiny arms flailing, and others like they’ve just landed, and a door will slowly hiss open unleashing a thousand tiny aliens. They used to be something we only saw in Western movies, an indication of an arid landscape, usually accompanied by a lone rider with chapped lips shielding eyes from the sun.  There’s been a resurgence in recent times, a lot of care and love is being heaped on these fascinating and unusual plants in houses around the country.  It’s about time they received the attention they deserve; they’re one of the plant world’s many success stories, settling comfortably in the harshest environments with ingenious adaptations. (more…)

Toxic beauty

Daffodils on a sunny bank.The daffodil is symbolic to many of us; an innocent sign that winter and spring are side by side before walking away from each other taking the past and the future with them. The nodding yellow flowers of Narcissus can be bathed in sunshine or covered in snow, or, as I write this, blown horizontal by storm Eunice. It will weather all of this, experiencing everything that this time of year throws at it until it fades while other flowers form. Playing the role of seasonal buffer to perfection, the Narcissus must be able to withstand hungry bulb grubbers as well as the weather; it has become the icon it is through its attractiveness and its defences. (more…)