THE FRIENDS OF
Number / Rhif 13 January / Ionawr 2002
The Friends have enjoyed another very busy summer and autumn, with an
extremely full diary. Events included a trip to South West England to see the
Lost Gardens of Heligan, Bristol Botanic Gardens, RHS Rosemoor and the
Eden Project (see front cover), the rescheduled Len Beer Lecture, and a very
successful AGM. So there is a lot to report in this Newsletter. Thanks again
to everyone that has contributed - please keep notes and articles coming!
Since the Chairman's Report from the AGM is reproduced in this Newsletter,
I will keep this editorial very short! The most important note is probably a
CHANGE OF DATE FOR THE LEN BEER LECTURE. This will now be held
on Thursday 28th February at 7.30 in the Main Arts Lecture Theatre,
University of Wales, Bangor - please see the Diary for full details.
The next edition of the Newsletter is due out in May 2002. As always, all
articles will be gratefully received (preferably on disk); please submit any
contributions to me by 1st April 2002.
Trevor Dines (Newsletter Editor)
Rhyd y Fuwch, Bethel, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 3PS.
CHAIRMAN'S REPORT FOR THE YEAR 2000 to 2001
The previous year has been an extraordinary one for the Friends and the
gardens. We designated the last 12 months as the "Year of the Volunteer",
and we were all thrilled and excited at the level of active support we have
been able to galvanise. We have also learned valuable lessons, however,
and we are always evolving and refining the way we manage volunteer help
in the garden. This is an ongoing process, and I hope this year has been a
good start on which we can build. When people see the effect we are having
on the gardens, I hope they will be inspired to join in, so that this year, next
year and every year thereafter can be a "Year of the Volunteer"!
We have, of course, had a very active calendar of events, all of which I think
have been successful. Early in the year, the horror of Foot and Mouth
caused widespread heartbreak and disruption; several events were
rescheduled and a Cheese & Wine evening at Grace Gibson's was
cancelled. Since all these have been reported in the Newsletter, I will not
mention them individually here. I would, however, like to thank all the
members of the Committee that work so hard in arranging and organising
these events; I'm sure that, like me, they do it because they enjoy bringing
people into the garden, and love to see Treborth being used in the way they
are intended - for relaxation, recreation and, most of all, education. The
Open Day (our main fund-raising event of the year) proved a big success
again in July, with over £900 being raised, mostly through entry charges and
plant sales. This justified the huge amount of effort that went into preparing
the gardens for the day, and we must look at whether it would be possible to
open for longer, perhaps for the weekend. We must also avoid clashes with
other events! The two events that will stick in my mind for years to come will
be our first Moth and Bat Night (when children and adults alike braved a wet
but warm night to trap moths, point detectors at bats, and generally get lost
in the woods at night) and the trip to South-west England, where we visited
Bristol Botanic Gardens, RHS Rosemoor, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and
the Eden Project. The diversity of gardens, their quality, the enthusiasm of
the staff, and the overwhelming joy that staff and visitors obviously got from
the gardens were a real inspiration. We also had a wonderfully friendly group
and a great bus driver - I don't know how we can follow it next year, but a trip
to Bhutan has been mentioned!
During the year we have also produced three further copies of the
Newsletter, and I'd like to thank all those that contributed articles and reports
towards them. We have a constant battle between space and cost - I'd like to
include much more material, especially about plants and gardens, but
increasing the number of pages increases the cost of production and
postage, and these are a real burden on our limited budget. However, the
Newsletter is such an important, and (I think) well received, part of what we
do, we'll have to see if we can increase its size in the future. As always -
articles from all members are extremely welcome!
We've also had a few television and media events this year. The "Plant
Detective" programme went out in May, and it was particularly pleasing for
me to see Dick Roberts in the gardens. Mike Dilger spent a few nights filming
moths at Treborth for a Channel 5 series (Wildlife Uncovered : UK) that is
going out in the Spring, and Rachel Hughes became a slightly unwilling
celebrity when the flowering of the Amorphophallus in April caused a stink
and some media excitement. We shouldn't underestimate the value of media
coverage, and should be something we actively court. With the proposed
developments at Treborth looking more and more likely, it's important that we
get our name mentioned, especially in the local area, as often as possible.
I've covered what we've been doing "in front of the cameras", so to speak,
but probably the most important developments have been happening behind
the scenes. Dr Maurice Lock (Head of the School of Biological Sciences)
kindly spoke at last years AGM on our proposed developments, and I'd like
to build on this and report on what's been going on in the last 12 months. I'd
also like to show you where much of our Friends funding has been going.
At the time of Maurice's talk, we had little idea of exactly what we wanted to
do at Treborth and where we should go. While there was no shortage of
excellent ideas, there was no overall development plan, which was not really
suprising as none of us had ever done anything like this before. So we
approached someone that had. We are extremely lucky to have David Toyne
on the Committee. David is a qualified horticulturist and has been involved in
producing development plans for several University-owned botanic gardens
in the same situation as us, such as that at Leicester. We therefore
commissioned David to produce a development report for Treborth. This
would outline the garden's history, itemise its assets, examine its potential as
a garden open to the public, and outline a proposal for its step-by-step
development. An absolutely vital aspect of the report would also be an
accurately surveyed base-map of the garden's, something we were
surprisingly lacking at the time. David delivered his 40 page report to the
Friends in October at a cost of £1400. It was immediately obvious that it was
money well spent, not least because David assessed the Friends to be one
of the gardens most significant asset! The report and map became a catalyst
for progress, and was enthusiastically commended by Maurice Lock. For the
first time we had a clear analysis of what was needed from the Friends and
the University, and we also began working together much more closely than
before. A clear theme for the gardens developed, which was "Plants for
People". This will concentrate on explaining how all our daily lives depend on
plants, and how we have modified, developed and exploited both plants and
their habitats for our uses. We have many exciting plans and planting
schemes following this theme.
The next step was to pull all our ideas together. David's base map was
invaluable here, and we went away separately to put down our own thoughts.
Priorities were in delineating the garden boundary, determining access
routes and areas for parking, the placement of visitor facilities (ticketing,
refreshments and toilets), designing paths around the gardens, and the need
for and location of greenhouses, teaching buildings and working buildings.
When we put all our maps together, it was amazing to see what agreement
there was amongst us! From this, a development plan has been produced,
with different areas of consideration clearly illustrated.
A plan is not worth the paper its written on without potential sources of
funding. The beauty of the development plan is that different parts of it can
be funded by different sources. The University now has an Objective 1
Development Officer, who is examining which parts of the plan might be
funded from this source. I have taken on a Heritage Lottery Fund application,
which will hopefully fund other parts of the plan. This latter fits beautifully with
our objectives of opening the garden to the public as an educational
resource, and restoring the original Paxton features of the garden, some of
which still exist. Both Objective 1 and Heritage Lottery need match funding,
and the strength of this bilateral approach is that they can match fund each
other. I am arranging a meeting of the people involved in these two sources
at the garden, and there is a real feeling now that development money may
well be within our grasp; this part of the project is snowballing as outside
people realise the potential of the garden and come on board as supporters.
There has been much recent talk of a new Menai Strait crossing. On our side
of the Strait, the proposed new bridge would run alongside and close to the
existing bridge, over and above the far end of the playing fields. An access
route into the garden from this new bridge is not possible, and we are looking
into alternative access possibilities as this is an important aspect of the new
While plans for large-scale funding are being developed, the Friends are
doing a huge amount in the garden, not only preliminary work that fits in to
the broader picture of the development plan, but also essential maintenance
work in the beds and borders that needs to be undertaken now. Many of the
shrubberies are overgrown, and careful management is needed to control or
remove unwanted trees and shrubs; this will allow more desirable plants to
thrive, and also create areas for exciting new planting schemes. Our
volunteers have been phenomenally busy in undertaking this work, and a
huge amount has been achieved. Not all the work can be undertaken by us,
however, so Friends funds have been used where needed; these include
£1000 for tree surgery, £250 for shredding, £150 for stump-grinding and £80
for some wonderful new compost bins. We have also produced development
plans for each bed and border, allowing better co-ordination of the volunteer
effort. One especially successful lesson has been the allocation of a
particular area to a particular person; this person then takes responsibility for
that area, and is not overwhelmed by the total amount of work that is needed
in the garden. Rachel Hughes, for example, has taken on the pond, and has
been working wonders here; Hazel Cave has turned the rockery from an
Alchemilla monoculture to an area for exciting new planting; and Simon
Retallick has transformed the orchid collection in just a few weeks. What is
especially satisfying is that all this volunteer help counts towards match
funding, so we are keeping careful records of the time spent working in the
The last year, then, has seen huge changes at Treborth, and I'm very
confident that the next will be just as successful. This confidence comes from
the strength and determination of the Committee! Funding is now much
closer than it was and we have a much clearer idea of where we are going.
In the meantime, our volunteers are going from strength to strength. This is
the area in which I'd like to concentrate most resources next year. We must
attract more student volunteers into the garden (it exists for them in the first
place!) and we must manage all our volunteers carefully, so they can see
clearly where they fit into the wider Treborth picture. If the effort and
determination of last year can be repeated next, the future of Treborth must
certainly be secure.
Thank you to all Members who have renewed their membership. We really
appreciate your support for Treborth, and hope you get as much out of the
events and talks we organise as we do. We have also had a great response
to our appeal for Standing Orders, which help both us and you in your
renewals - many thanks.
This will be the last edition of the Newsletter for those of you who have not
renewed your subscriptions, so PLEASE do it NOW! We do not want to
loose your valued Membership and I am sure you do not want to miss out on
the exciting developments that are taking place in the garden.
Hazel Cave (Membership Secretary)
FRIENDS OF TREBORTH EVENTS
COACH TRIP TO THE WEST OF ENGLAND
13th to 17th September 2001
The major event of the year for the Friends of Treborth (after the Open Day,
of course) was our trip to the West of England in September, arranged by
Ann Wood. Thirty-five people boarded the luxurious Voel Holidays coach
early on the Thursday morning, and set off on what turned out to be a
wonderful and truly memorable trip. Ann had arranged for us to visit four
different gardens (Bristol Botanic Garden, RHS Rosemoor, The Lost Garden
of Heligan and the Eden Project [see front cover]) and the contrast between
these as the days unfurled was one of the delights of the tour. Accounts of
these visits (below) have kindly been provided by different members of the
group, for which many thanks indeed!
Thanks must also go to Dave the driver, who was extremely friendly and
helpful, to Voel Holidays for helping to arrange the trip and providing such a
comfortable coach, and to Ann Wood for organising the whole event. Ann put
a huge amount of effort into ensuring that the trip went well, and I was very
pleased to be able to present her with a garden-centre voucher from a
generous collection made on the bus (and even more pleased that she knew
exactly what she was going to spend the money on!).
Bristol University Botanic Garden
We left Anglesey prompt at 8.30 and had a very pleasant journey to Cannock
Garden Centre for an early lunch. This centre is so huge I was amazed
when everybody reappeared on time to resume our journey. Sharp rain
storms on the way down to Bristol gave way to sunshine and showers.
The first surprise we had on being welcomed to the Bristol Botanic Gardens
by Nicholas Wray, the Curator, was to learn about the business behind them.
Their Friends group, started in 1975, number 2400 i.e. 10 times ours at
Treborth. These Friends, together with the 6 staff, raise £55,000 to £60,000
per annum, making this a considerable business in its own right.
The gardens occupy the grounds of a Victorian house built by one of the
Wills family of tobacco firms. We were told it covered 5 acres but it seemed
much more, due I think to the intensity of the planting. There was a lawn and
an area of wild grass but all the borders and beds were densely planted with
a huge variety of plants, many of a tropical nature.
It is really quite invidious to pick out any areas for special notice but on a
purely personal basis the ones that interested me most were the grasses
with some stunning varieties of Miscanthus; the beds in the Rose garden
devoted to local native plants; as an ex-farmer the area devoted to plants of
economic value; and finally the Chinese Herb garden. I loved the design of
the garden, and the fact that it will be used in the teaching of courses
devoted to Chinese herbal medicine added to the interest.
This is a beautiful garden packed with interesting features was made all the
more entertaining by the very friendly and knowledgeable guides who
showed us round. They were members of the Friends who gave freely of
their time and effort to make our visit a huge success.
RHS Gardens Rosemoor
When I first visited Rosemoor in 1991, just a year after work began on the
garden, I felt instinctively that it was going to be a gem. Then, the planting
had barely begun - all that was visible on the 32 acre site, which was
donated to the RHS by Lady Anne Berry (Palmer) along with her own eight-
acre garden, were the bones of the new rose gardens, and the obelisks
which now carry mature climbers. Now, visiting for the third time ten years
on, I know I wasn't wrong about it - Rosemoor has developed into one of the
finest gardens in Britain.
In September, the delights were not the rose gardens, which I must say
looked a bit tatty. But the borders were a delight, and as we were taken on a
garden tour by a very knowledgeable young woman who was one of 30-
strong full time garden staff we learnt a great deal, not only about the garden
themselves but also plants which many of us now aspire to grow. One of
Rosemoor's aims is to produce a practical garden demonstrating the widest
range of planting appropriate to the area, and it succeeds very well. Apart
from all those species that might be expected to survive frosts in a
temperature dipping to minus 10 degrees in winter, there are borders
devoted to more tender subjects, Mediterranean style plants. The gardeners
have to contend with a heavy clay soil, treated to suit whatever they are
growing. Leaf mould and grit is added in order to grow heathers, for instance.
Over the ten years, the borders have been changed around several times, in
order to achieve a better combination with plants that enjoy growing together.
We also visited the fruit and vegetable garden, an inspiration in itself. Raised
beds, watermelons suspended at head height, and a tremendous range of
green and root vegetables of all kinds. Small orchards now nearly four years
old have been planted using dwarf M26 rootstocks, so that pruning and
harvesting can all be done without steps or ladders.
Lady Anne's Garden and Arboretum are reached by an underpass below the
public road, and remain very much as they were at hand over. A small lake
has been filled-in, but the trees and shrubs on the original island are still
there, and water plants have been moved to the new lake. Rosemoor is
clearly a place to return to, and new ideas are constantly being tried out.
Plans include a series of small model gardens by different designers,
grouped around a central lawn, which will no doubt be worth a future visit.
Mary Garner (Gwynedd Chairman, Welsh Historic Gardens Trust)
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
After a night at Bideford, our coach driver Dave easily found the Lost
Gardens of Heligan nestled in the folding landscape near St. Austell. The
recaptured spirit of the garden is of 100 years ago. Vegetable varieties
predating 1906 are grown, essentially for flavour and these supply a large
percentage of the cafes needs to nourish the gardens annual 250,000
After an excellent lunch I set off along the woodland walk encountering
Susan Hills impressive "giants head" and "maiden mud" sculptures before
descending the boarded path through the Jungle garden which afforded one
of the only views of Heligan House. Luxuriant Tasmanian tree-ferns,
bananas, chusan fan-palms and numerous gunneras filled the narrow ravine.
Below, the Lost Valley lay in tranquil timelessness. A steep climb up the
wooded Bottle-dump Hill led out into the nut walk and Orchard. Hot and
somewhat breathless I joined the others for the tour.
Viljeeto, our excellent guide, introduced the Northern gardens on Floras
Green surrounded by 150 year old rhododendrons and a huge Magnolia
campbelli before leading us through the productive walled gardens. Apples
with names like Cornish Honeypin and Tregonna King arched the pathway
bordered with pink and purple asters beyond which stood neat rows of winter
vegetables and bright decorative piles of pumpkins and squash. Next the
melon house and pineapple pit heated by 360 barrow loads of manure
changed every 5/6 weeks!
The pristine Paxton vine house reflected the sun filled cut flower garden,
bright with rudbeckias and cosmos while nearby the quiet space of the Italian
garden complete with fountain statue recently recast in the original Italian
The day was not long enough to see everything that had been achieved over
the past 10 years and do justice to these inspiring 80 acres where 22
gardeners continue to realise the vision of Tim Smit to recreate these
gardens (first designed in the 1780's) from a lost wilderness.
The Eden Project
We alighted from the comfortable coach to be greeted by the sight of
beautiful coloured flags flapping loudly in the strong wind. Looking down into
the great bowl that had once been a china-clay pit I saw seven huge bubble-
like structures shimmering in the bright sunlight. These are the biomes which
are arranged in two groups connected by a low building (see front cover!).
The hexagonal panels of the biomes are made of high-tech film filled with air,
the pressure of which is adjustable. The frames are designed in such a
unique way that no internal support is necessary.
I walked down the curving path and read the first of many interesting, well
"Welcome to the living theatre of plants and people.
Eden is a project, dynamic not static
Changing, evolving and growing.....
Welcome to your journey and enjoy"
At the bottom I examined the insect filled pond surrounded by water loving
plants including the Brazilian Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata). The path
led on past a gigantic bee, one of the many models on display, and the
notice reminded the reader that plants rely on insects to be pollinated as
does much of the food we eat.
I hastened on to the Biomes as I had been warned that they become very
crowded after mid-morning. The Humid Tropics Biome and the Warm
Temperate Biome are connected by a long, low building with a fine turf roof.
The lower floor contains restaurants, and a bar.
On entering the Humid Tropics Biome, the largest conservatory in the world
(240m long, 110m wide and 55m high), I immediately felt the heat (220C) and
the humid atmosphere created by the many ultrafine water sprays. The 2000
species of carefully collected plants in this Biome are divided into areas and
countries. I was pleased to see the Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) used by the
ancients for writing, also Screw Pines (Pandanus), Bottle Palms, Australian
Palms from St Helena island, and a weird seaweed-like plant, Hemigraphis
The Malaysian village house, made of timber, rattan and bamboo, fitted well
into the surroundings with its self sufficient cottage garden or rige. Here I
saw the Horseradish tree (Moringa oleifera), most of which is edible, and the
strange Bat flower (Tacca integrifolia). The path then rose past plants from
West Africa and Tropical South America to a bridge over the fast flowing
stream. Way below I could see ferns around a pond on which grew the huge
leaves of the Giant water lily (Victoria amazonica). Near the bridge is a
visitors' cooling room. I must have looked over-heated because the Steward
invited me inside. I declined the offer as I was impatient to see the large
volume of water cascading down from the highest point of the Biome. The
beautiful red flowers and striated green leaves of Cuphea hyssopifolia caught
my eye in this comparatively undeveloped area.
In the Crops and Cultivation zone I learned that the Panama Hat Palm, from
which the Panama hat was made, is not a palm at all but is a Cyclanthaceae,
Carludovica palmata. How I hated those 1930's school summer hats! I did
not know that coffee (Coffea arabica) is the most valuable product after
petroleum nor that each bean is picked by hand. The different stages of
growing rice were cleverly arranged. The notice stated that more sugar is
grown in the world than wheat. We do not use Annatto to colour our hair as
do the Colorado Indians, we call it E160a and use it to colour cheese and
sweets. The information on view is encyclopaedic!
I walked to the Warm Temperate Biome. This was packed with fascinating
plants from the Mediterranean basin, South Africa and California. The plants
included fruiting citrus trees, vines, cork and legumes of all varieties. Did you
know that the Dwarf Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) regenerates after fire
and is used for baskets and vegetable horse-hair in upholstery, or that South
Africa has the richest density of plants in the world?
There have been problems in this Biome. A Steward explained that the
pumpkin beds developed white-fly and all the plants and soil in the area had
to be removed. I was also told that a little cheating goes on in that the roots
of the plants are watered by a system of underground pipes.
The grains were well displayed and their importance emphasised. I learned
that Millets were among the first to be cultivated and that Sorghum bicolor is
the fourth most important crop in the world. Why? Because it is drought
As I returned up the steep side to the exhibition centre, shops and exit, I was
able to view some of the outside gardens. There was much to see in this
changing environment. I admired the beautiful carved Totem-like poles
supporting the Hop wires. At the side of the intricate Hemp rope fencing the
notice stated, "Hemp is back in the running because it produces a wonder
crop. Fast growing. Earth loving. Forest saving. Money making. Yields four
times a much as wood. Matures in four months. Can be used to produce
cloths, construction materials, fuel, paper and plastic". Alas! Hemp cannot be
grown without a licence.
The only way to fully comprehend the amazing vision and enterprise of the
Eden Project created by Tim Smit and his colleagues is to see it for yourself.
One visit is not enough. I hope to make many more.
Annual General Meeting
Thursday 4th October 2001
This years AGM, our fourth, was very well attended with 41 Friends
attending. Once the business of the day had been concluded we retired for
tea and biscuits in the Brambell Building common room, where Hazel Cave
collected memberships, and a plant sales stall did brisk business. We then
returned to the lecture hall for the evenings entertainment.
The first ever Friends of Treborth "Gardener's Question Time" was chaired
by Eric Robson (aka Trevor Dines), and saw the assemblage of great and
knowledgeable gardeners from across the country, namely Roy Lancaster
(aka David Toyne), Bob Flowerdew (aka Nigel Brown) and Pippa Greenwood
(aka David Shaw). Once the panel had been introduced, we kicked off with
questions from the floor, starting with one from David Saunders on the care
of a rare conifer showing signs of browning on the foliage. As the evening
progressed, it was obvious that the combined knowledge of our panel was
considerable indeed, as no question left them stumped. Some members had
bought in specimens to examine (thank you Hazel for your humorous
parsnip), and while others asked for direct help with gardening problems
("What is this gall and is it a problem on my Oak?"), others called for the
opinions of the panel ("Which plant do you most regret ever planting?"). The
answers were always spot-on, being drawn from considerable personal
opinion, and they were also frequently light-hearted.
As if the panel didn't have enough to do, they were also asked to suggest a
"Plant for the week" (which included Solanum jasminoides from David Shaw
in huge quantities - enough for everyone to take home a cutting) and also a
"Topical tip" (which solicited advice on planting lilies from David Toyne and
tips on growing ferns from spores from Nigel). We also had a mystery plant
which foxed everyone (a Seersucker Plant, Geogenanthus plicatus which
had wonderful puckered leaves and was then donated to the garden - it can
now be seen in the tropical house), and the evening ended with some
mystery garden implements from the David Toyne (which no-one guessed
and included a herbaceous-border weeder, of which only five remain in
The evening was a huge success, and one that we may repeat next year.
The combination of a knowledgeable audience that provided good questions
(and a few answers too!), an expert panel and a light-hearted atmosphere
was wonderful. David Toyne, David Shaw and Nigel Brown worked extremely
hard for an hour, for which we must thank them enormously - there can't be
too many people that are willing to face an audience and answer their
questions we no preparation beforehand. I for one cannot wait until next
Trevor Dines (Chairman)
Len Beer Memorial Lecture
"From wellie boots to Gucci shoes: How to save plants in Europe"
Friday, 19th October 2001
This years Len Beer lecture had a distinctly "native" feel about it, which
began in the foyer with a display of rare and unusual native species that are
grown at Treborth. We were extremely lucky to have Liz Radford come and
talk about the activities of Plantlife (the world's only plant conservation
charity) in Britain and Europe - and what a roller coaster of a talk it was.
We began with a quiz. Or rather, the distribution of an answer sheet to allow
us to identify the slides of twelve 'mystery plants' that Liz scattered through
her talk. This kept us on our feet, as the prize for the most correct answers
was a copy of Peter Marren's recent book, Britain's Rare Flowers.
Plantlife was formed in 1989, and currently has around 12,500 members
worldwide. Its goal is to create, 'a world in which the riches of our wild plant
inheritance are not diminished by human activity or indifference but are
recognised, cherished and enhanced'. This is achieved through work in five
separate areas: the direct conservation of species and habitat, the
acquisition of nature reserves, the involvement of the community, raising
awareness through campaigning, and by working in partnership with other
Liz began at the wellie boot level, with a look at Plantlife's species and
habitat conservation programme in Britain. Most of this work is directed
through the Back from the Brink project, which aims to generate research,
identify threatened populations, and actively manage sites for 99 species of
vascular plants, mosses, liverworts and fungi. They have had some stunning
successes. Liz showed the work of volunteers in the field restoring ponds in
Buckinghamshire where Starfruit (Damasonium alisma) has grown in the
past. One particular pond had one plant in 1999, but over 100 were counted
in 2001. A population of Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia)
in Worcestershire increased by 50% following careful management. New
populations of Shore Dock (Rumex rupestris) have been discovered in
Pembrokeshire as a result of Plantlife-CCW funded surveys. The list is
endless, and extremely encouraging.
Plantlife also has a network of 22 nature reserves up and down the country,
covering some 3,900 acres of land. Many of these reserves are hay
meadows purchased with the help of sponsorship from Timotei in the early
1990s, but also include other threatened habitats such as ancient woodland,
limestone pavement and blanket bog. We were shown sides of the two
reserves in Wales - Cae Dyffryn in Carmarthenshire and Caeau Tan-y-bwlch
near Pwllheli in Caernarfonshire.
Much of Plantlife's conservation work is done by volunteers, known as Flora
Guardians. These people take part in practical activities, such as clearing
scrub or pulling ragwort, or in monitoring populations, such as those of
Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) on a field border. There are also national
surveys, like the Cowslip Count, in which to partake, while other valuable
volunteers help in the Plantlife offices in London. The aim is to get the
community involved directly in plant conservation activities, so they directly
reap the rewards of success.
Plantlife is also an engine for political change, and has a loud voice and
influence in policy making. Much of this is achieved through the publication
and dissemination of reports and advice. Plantlife assisted in the successful
passage of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill for England and Wales
(2000), particularly focusing on issues relating to the protection of Sites of
Special Scientific Interest. It has also campaigned actively on the issue of
non-native species in Britain.
Finally, Liz turned to her area of particular interest, the Gucci shoes of plant
conservation in Europe. Plantlife have been campaigning and building
partnerships to develop the Planta Europa organisation. This group, founded
by Plantlife, is basically a network of European governmental and non-
governmental organisations from 16 countries. It began in 1995 and Liz is
now the secretariat. At the last meeting, a Plant Conservation Strategy for
Europe was produced, providing a framework for conservation work over the
next six years. Liz is also responsible for the establishment of Important
Plant Areas (IPAs) in Europe, an initiative being undertaken by 7 countries.
In Britain, the Countryside Council for Wales is very keen to implement these
To provide us with an overview of Plantlife's work in one hour was some task.
To do it seamlessly, entertainingly, and with stunning photographs
throughout was brilliant, and Liz left us enthused and inspired for the work in
which she has been involved. This was reflected in the quality of the
questions from the floor, which could have lasted for another hour, but it was
time to call proceedings to a close. John Good kindly gave a vote of thanks,
the quiz papers were collected, and we retired to the bar. Here, the answers
to the mystery plant slides were revealed. They varied from the relatively
easy Betony (Betonica officinalis) to the very difficult Three-lobed Water-
crowfoot (Ranunculus tripartitus), with a few European alpine species on the
end to really sort out the experts. The winner was John Good, but as he
already had a copy of Britain's Rare Flowers, he passed the prize on to
second place, which was Ian Bonner. However, he also had the book, so it
was passed on to third place, which was me. I already have the book, and,
since I now work for Plantlife, I was disqualified. After a quick consultation
between me, Ian, John and Liz, we decided the book should be donated to
the Treborth library, where it will form a very fitting reminder of an excellent
and very entertaining Len Beer Lecture.
Trevor Dines (Chairman)
Botanical Art Painting Workshop
Saturday 3rd November 2001
In this day and age, it is a rare pleasure to have a whole day spent on a
relaxing and absorbing activity that totally removes you from the pressures of
life. This event was certainly that, and I cannot think of a nicer way to spend
a day at Treborth. Six Friends joined Kay in the Laboratory for this workshop
on Botanical Art. The levels of ability varied, from me (absolute beginner) to
Pauline Perry, who had been on another course previously. The laboratory at
Treborth proved to be the perfect setting, as plant material for painting was
abundantly available, the light was good, the tables were the perfect height
and there was plenty of room to spread around.
Once we had chosen our subjects, which ranged from richly coloured leaves
of Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) to flowers of a Maxillaria (an
orchid), and the intricately patterned leaf of a Mother-in-laws Tongue
(Sansevieria), Kay began by running through the materials we needed and
the types of paint, pencils and paper available. We then began putting pencil
to paper to sketch out a very faint, life-size outline of our chosen leaf or
flower. Once complete, Kay wanted us to get some colour on to the paper,
and explained how to apply a wash - the first coat of colour - usually a very
pale background tone applied very lightly. Her expertise was obvious, as she
introduced the complexities involved in mixing the correct colours to get the
correct tone. A dab of this and a dash of that and - hey presto! - the exact
match was produced. We then had to apply a wash to our drawings, which
was a considerably less professional effort (at least in my case!) and this was
allowed to dry over lunch.
The next few hours completely disappeared as we concentrated intensely on
applying more and more layers of colour, and usually having to take them off
again as well. Kay was able to move around the class and give everyone
one-on-one help and advice. This was superb, as we could take our time
over our paintings, free to experiment and make mistakes, and Kay was
always on hand (with a smile!) to help out. I quickly decided that I had
chosen a subject that was too small and complicated (an orchid flower) for
my ability, and was envious of those that had the broad areas of colourful
leaves to paint!
By the end of the afternoon, six paintings had been produced. I'll not
comment on anyone's artistic ability suffice to say that everyone's efforts
were superb (except mine, which was the worst) and that we had thoroughly
Trevor Dines (Chairman)
Jo Hughes: Herbal Medicine
Thursday 8th November 2001
On entering the laboratory at Treborth it appeared transformed by an
attractive three-sided arrangement of quantities of herbs, herbal medicines,
healthy foods and display cards giving information on various herbs.
Studying and sampling these alone would have been a worthwhile evenings
entertainment, but Jo Hughes was present with her infectious enthusiasm,
deep knowledge and experience to give us some insight into what herbal
medicine, food therapy and natural healing is all about.
One simple adjustment I am sure we could all make is to have more diversity
in our diet. Taste is also important and seasonal adjustments. At this time of
year we should be having hot foods such as soups, stews, baked apples and
porridges made from a variety of cereals. Whilst in summer fresh fruit and
salads and cold cereals would be the order of the day. Garlic was strongly
recommended and we were convinced that if used properly no adverse
odour was emitted in the breath! More specifically many conditions, such as
chronic fatigue, can be helped by following advice on dietary habits.
Herbal medicine goes a step further in that it is the use of plant remedies in
the treatment of diseases of various kinds. Of course many of the drugs we
obtain from the pharmacy come from plants, but these are based on single
active constituents synthetically produced whereas in herbal medicine the
whole plant is used where constituents are balanced by other substances
thereby reducing side effects.
Natural healing combines these two with exercise and various other healing
techniques. It was a most stimulating evening and we were given a vast
amount of information on various aspects of the subject. I for one felt I would
like to know a lot more especially regarding food therapy.
Pauline Perry (Committee Member)
NB: A day's workshop to cover the above subject in more detail has been
suggested. There would be a limit in numbers and a charge, possibly £20 for
the day and May could be a time. Anyone interested please phone Pauline
(01248 362507) so we can gauge interest before making detailed plans.
WEATHER AND WILDLIFE
August – December 2001
Thankfully 2001 turned out to be the second driest year since our records
began in 1988 – a welcome contrast to the exceptional precipitation of 2000
when we recorded 59.8 inches of rain. Temperature wise it was a fairly
unexceptional year though there were some prolonged and quite severe cold
periods in January and March whilst the autumn proved milder than average.
Summary of Rainfall and Temperature at Treborth in 2001
Rainfall Temperature oC
mm Inches Max Min
January 56.8 2.24 10.5 -4.5
February 117.1 4.61 9.75 -1.75
March 45.2 1.78 12.0 -5.25
April 105.4 4.15 15.0 0.0
May 52.1 2.05 23.5 2.0
June 30.2 1.19 27.25 4.0
July 58.9 2.32 24.75 6.0
August 98.7 3.89 22.0 6.5
September 101.2 3.98 21.5 6.5
October 84.1 3.31 20.5 5.25
November 114.8 4.52 13.5 1.75
December 64.3 2.53 12.5 -3.5
Total 928.8 36.57
A westerly airflow predominated during the first three weeks of August
bringing mixed weather and below average temperatures. Despite this the
highest moth catch of the year occurred on 1/2nd (515 moths of 55 species)
and the second highest on 14/15th (401 moths of 50 species). Four light traps
were run on 11/12th August as part of a Friends meeting which coincided with
National Moth Night. Almost 400 moths were caught representing 40
species, highlights including the Pretty Chalk Carpet, Coxcomb Prominent
and Cabbage Moth. Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies were particularly
common during this period, attracted by a fine show of Knapweed
(Centaurea nigra) in the meadow plots. Warm southerly air on 14th
encouraged 10 species of butterfly including Comma, Painted Lady,
Common Blue and Small Copper. Migrant waders such as Whimbrel and
Common Sandpiper were also obvious though mainly by their contact calls
as they journeyed by night down the Menai Strait. Breezy conditions on 21st
resulted in the tiny light weight seeds of birch (Betula pubescens and B.
pendula) falling like confetti. Young Tawny Owls called noisily from the
arboretum throughout the month as did at least one pair of Raven actively
displaying over the eastern woodland most days.
The final week of August brought calmer conditions with a pleasant high of
21 degrees on 29th and a chilly low of 6.5 on the night of 27/28th. The second
Old Lady Moth of the year appeared in the light trap on 22/23rd. Later that
week Autumn Crocus commenced flowering and the moth catches included
distinctly autumnal species such as Sallows and Thorns. The totals dropped
well below an average of 100 moths per night as overnight temperatures took
As the seedheads of Knapweed matured in September they attracted
increasing numbers of Goldfinch. The corvid roost in the wood swelled to
well over 1000 and Whimbrel continued to migrate south through the Strait.
An influx of Jays was noticeable by the end of the month. An inch of rain in
the first week combined with continuing warmth brought out lots of fungi
including Death Caps (Amanita phalloides).
The show of Autumn Crocus and dark wine-red foliage of the American
Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) was a fine sight by the pond where the
numbers of dragonflies showed a welcome increase on previous years,
Southern Hawker (Aeschna cyanea) being particularly prominent. The Sweet
Gum yet again proved a star attraction this autumn displaying vivid red and
purplish tints from early August until late November. By the third week of
September the native species of Rowan and Whitebeam (Sorbus spp.) were
very fruitful and the whole of the Long Border began to take on distinctive
Blair’s Shoulder Knot, a newcomer to Treborth, continued to consolidate its
status as a widespread and moderately common alien moth species with
record numbers (22) this autumn from 25th September until 16th November.
Southerly winds brought mild conditions during the last 4 days of the month
(max. 21.5 degrees on the 28th) and triggered off heavy thunder showers
overnight 28/29th when the temperature was still 17.5 degrees at 20.30hrs,
producing easily the largest moth catch of the month and the highest of the
last quarter of the year (130 moths of 15 species).
October got off to a windy start and saw the seasonal arrival of many
thrushes such as Redwing on the night of 8/9th, and during the day on 13th
and 21st. Above average day and night temperatures mid-month (max. 20.5
degrees on 17th) resulted in good moth catches including migrants such as
Vestal (13/14, 18/19, 21/22) and the aseasonal appearance of the Engrailed
(17/18th) – normally seen on the wing March – April and late June - early
August. Of considerable interest was the first appearance (14/15th) at
Treborth of the Light Brown Apple-moth (Epiphyas postvittana) a tortrix
species native to Australia but now naturalised in the more southern parts of
UK and expanding its range rapidly northward. This alien species was first
recorded in Caernarfonshire last year and my thanks go to Dave Anning for
pointing this species out. Continuing mild conditions encouraged Song
Thrush to sing consistently throughout the final week of October and there
was a marked influx of Goldcrests on 23rd.
Pheasants reappeared in the Garden at the beginning of November and
there was a big influx of Blackbirds on 14th. Woodcock had arrived by mid
month including one disturbed from its hiding place in a clump of Sasa
kurilensis bamboo. The peak of autumn colour was late this year, 15th – 20th
November, coinciding with a spell of settled weather and relatively low
overnight temperatures (1.5 degrees on 13/14th). Not surprisingly moth
catches dropped to single figures. It was therefore a big surprise to record a
new species for Treborth on the 18/19th – The Cosmopolitan – a rare migrant
moth from the Mediterranean and N. Africa. Earlier in the month there were
several more migrant moths recorded – Vestal on 1/2nd, 2/3rd and 11/12th
The Gem on 1/2nd and 15/16th. A brief return to much milder conditions on
23rd and 24th prompted Song Thrush and Coal Tit to resume singing.
December witnessed two interesting phenomena – strong dawn chorus from
Song Thrush and big catches of the aptly named December Moth with 33
individuals of this species appearing on the night of 8/9th despite a ground
frost. The clear conditions of the first half of the month provided excellent
star watching opportunities and the chance to see the International Space
Station and the Space Shuttle track brilliantly across the southern sky.
The Geminid meteors were profuse around the 14th and Saturn and Jupiter
were very favourably positioned and free of moonshine on 10th. As the year
ends there are dust storms raging on Mars whilst in the Garden open catkins
of an Alder (Alnus sp.) wait to welcome in the New Year.
Nigel Brown (Curator)
KEW AND EDINBURGH BOTANIC GARDENS
– AN ‘INSIDERS’ THOUGHTS
If you have ever visited a large botanic garden, I hope you gave a thought to
all the busy botanists ‘behind-the-scenes’. Imagine the work over the
centuries that has resulted in the names of species, genera and families you
see on all the plants. In many cases these names are still controversial and
so taxonomy (including naming, descriptions, comparing morphology,
anatomy, physiology, molecular evidence and genetics) still goes on in many
This year I was privileged enough to be able to visit and work in two Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew and Edinburgh. In both I saw famous botanists
around every corner (even if I didn’t quite know who they were!). In Kew, a
wonderfully historic place to be, it was even possible to imagine Darwin
suddenly rounding the corner hurrying past you muttering something about
the trouble with Quercus these days.
I went to Kew in August for a month to work with Dr. Eimear Nic Lughadha
an Irish botanist whose specialism is the Myrtaceae in Brazil. Myrtaceae is a
difficult family for taxonomists as the flowers and vegetative structures are
very similar. Often to distinguish families or even genera, characters such as
the shape of the embryo in the seed and the number of stamens in the
flowers (and there are anything from 50 to 100 of the things) must be looked
at. My job was to describe two new species that Eimear had discovered on
her trip to the Brazilian forests two years ago – this among other things
involved careful measurement of all parts, counting the number of stamens
(ahhh!) and comparing with other closely related species to determine
distinguishing characters. These characters will be used later in keys for
identifying species collected from the wild in years to come.
It was while I was wandering around the corridors of the herbarium looking
for similar species for comparison that I reflected that I was doing exactly
what botanists have done for centuries in these very corridors. From the
time of Joseph and William Hooker, George Bentham and Joseph Banks in
the 18th century to the multitude of specialists now working at Kew, I was
following in their footsteps . . . perhaps literally . . . .
Later on in the year, at the start of October I began the MSc course in plant
taxonomy at RBGE. The course is world class with lectures given by around
35 of the staff at the gardens. All are enthusiastic and give fascinating,
illustrated talks of their subject area such as Sam Bridgewater on tropical
South America, Martin Gardner on Conifers, Quentin Cronk on Socotra,
Crinan Alexander on Rosaceae and George Argent (an ex-Bangor University
lecturer) on the Ericaceae. Socotra is an island south of Saudi Arabia that is
a major research and conservation effort for RBGE. Also important to RBGE
are the Flora of China and the Flora of Bhutan (just published).
Within the course, we also have the chance to visit Edinburgh’s satellite
gardens. These were established to expand the range of plants that could
be grown for RBGE. They have widely varying climatic conditions. So
Logan in Wigtownshire with its warm climate grows tree ferns; Dawyck in the
borders with its extensive Scottish woodland areas has many cryptogams;
and Benmore (formerly Younger) with its wet climate grows massive Dawn
Redwoods and Douglas firs over 55m. Benmore I think is my favourite
botanic garden so far with its recreated natural environments from around
the world e.g. China and Bhutan. (I have been informed by a fellow student
that Bhutan was particularly realistic…he should know, he’s Bhutanese!).
Plus, because of the (extremely) wet climate, mosses and lichens cover
everything, hanging from rocks and trees alike. Sphagnum moss was a foot
and a half deep in places! Benmore botanic garden also has fantastic
surroundings being close to the sea and the Holy Loch as well as rolling
Scottish hills – spectacular!
In my opinion, possibly due to its smaller size, RBGE has a friendlier
atmosphere to it – you get to recognise everyone – and there is less of a split
between the scientific and horticultural staff unfortunately seen in many
botanic gardens. In addition, it is free for the public so people visit regularly,
particularly families as well as many regular school classes. The gardens
themselves are a great place to explore with its gently undulating landscape,
views across the whole of Edinburgh and at the moment with beautiful
autumn colours and fantastically shaped leaves carpeting the ground.
Although, someone should do something about those squirrels, they must by
now out number the trees!
THE LATE JOAN MORGAN
After much delay caused by a variety of problems, including Foot and Mouth,
the dedication of the Welsh Oak planted earlier this year in memory of Joan
Morgan finally took place at Treborth Botanic Garden on September 22.
The occasion was jointly arranged by the Gwynedd Branch Welsh Historic
Gardens Trust (WHGT) and the Friends of Treborth, and we are very grateful
not only to them but particularly to Nigel Brown, Curator of Treborth, who
sourced the tree locally and arranged for its planting at Treborth. The tree
was very kindly donated by John and Della Fazey, and came from their farm
in the Ogwen valley a mile from where Joan lived.
Joan's three children, Dewi, Glenys and Ceridwen, were among the friends
who gathered for the short ceremony. Ceridwen afterwards sent a card
saying she felt deeply touched that so many had remembered her mother so
fondly and with such respect. She thought it was a very fitting tribute to her.
With Joan's death, Wales has lost an eminent entomologist, who the WHGT
was lucky to have on its committee. In choosing a Welsh Oak (Quercus
petraea - the Sessile Oak) we were mindful of its potential as a long-lived
tree which would attract butterflies and other insects, as well as birds and
other wildlife, into the next century and beyond.
Mary Garner (Gwynedd Chairman, Welsh Historic Gardens Trust)
NEW POST FOR TREVOR
Just a quick note to say that I have a new job! After the chaos of the Atlas
2000 project (the results of which will be published on May 23rd, 2002) and a
few months working on my own garden, I was delighted to be offered the job
of Plantlife Wales Officer. This post, funded by the Countryside Council for
Wales and the Laura Ashley Foundation, aims to extend Plantlife's very
successful Back from the Brink project (see the report of Liz Radford's Len
Beer lecture above) from England into Wales. I will be working in the active
conservation of 40 species, including Sword-leaved Helleborine
(Cephalanthera longifolia), Toadflax-leaved St. John's-wort (Hypericum
liniariifolium) and Pilwort (Pilularia globulifera). I'll be establishing and co-
ordinating a network of Plantlife volunteer Flora Guardians to help manage
and monitor sites for these species, and will also be involved with Plantlife's
two nature reserves in Wales (Cae Dyffryn near Lampeter and Caeau Tan y
Bwlch near Caernarfon) and looking for other sites in need of protection. An
exciting, challenging and rewarding job!
Trevor Dines (Chairman)
The front of this edition of the Newsletter carries a picture from the Friends
trip to the South West of England. It shows nearly all the participants
standing in front of the two massive biomes of the Eden Project (Tropical
Biome on the left, Temperate on the right), and was taken by David Toyne.
Other pictures from the trip can be seen at Treborth.