Rare and endangered species of Fir, "cones" for the first time in decades in the gardens!
UPDATE! SEE BELOW
One of the worlds rarest and most endangered species of Fir Tree has “coned” for the first time in decades.
The Abies bracteata or Santa Lucia/Bristlecone Fir is a native of Monterey, California where its natural habitat is less than a 30 square km area and is regarded as an endangered species. Whilst there are several other trees of this species growing in selected gardens in the UK, a “coning” is a very rare experience.
The exciting discovery was made just before Christmas when the huge tree was undergoing routine maintenance by Herefordshire based Tree Surgeons, Abortech.
“We are absolutely thrilled and very excited about this event” said Austyn Hallworth, Head of Marketing & PR for Hergest Croft Gardens.
“This discovery is so horticulturally important and crucial for its survival outside of North America, that we have sent seeds to specific centres throughout the UK and Europe in an effort to propagate and cultivate for the future” he said
So, to finish the story as so many of you have requested… in fact 4.2k likesd at the time of writing! Seeds have now been sent out to various friends and colleagues throughout the UK and Europe, from where they will be further distributed around gardens, arboreta and private collections. One such is Thierry Madern in France who is a passionate conservationist working with Abies, more of which can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/mediterrannean.firtrees.7/?locale=fr_FR
Although Abies bracteata is rare, it does appear in many collections with the Tree Register of Britain and Ireland listing some 155 individuals. For anybody wishing to find out more about this species, and indeed trees in general, we cannot recommend highly enough Trees and Shrubs Online: https://www.treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/abies/abies-bracteata/ Here you will find photos of wild trees in California. The account for this species was recently updated by friend of the garden, Tom Christian, who will also be responsible for finding some homes for young trees.
Furthermore there is an extensive paper here which has been shared with us from one of our friends on Facebook which, while exhaustive reading, is extremely detailed and informative regarding the species. http://www.elkhornsloughctp.org/factsheet/factsheet.php?SPECIES_ID=100&fbclid=IwAR17iwOEyC-zl7ZXopW8612_XJD-SDTI-TScoHw47RwhsYTUazSU97HiNEY
The parent tree at Hergest Croft does look under a little stress and there are signs of Armillaria (honey fungus). This may account for the abundance of cones. Fortunately it is one of several trees that were propagated from those first planted here c.1922 and since deceased. The species, which is noted for its sudden demise, has been maintained in the collection by regular propagation and replacement with younger trees whenever seed has become available. We continue to try and maintain many of our historic collections in much the same way.
We have one of the tallest trees in Gt Britain!
According to the Registrar of The Tree Register of the British Isles ("TROBI"), Owen Johnson, who recently made a visit to HCGs, we have the third tallest tree in the country measuring a staggering 200ft! Furthermore, it is over 160 years old!
The Tree Register is a charity which collates and records a database of notable trees throughout the UK and Ireland and has the largest database in the world. The register currently lists over 250,000 individual trees and is based on the original work of the internationally acclaimed dendrologist, the late Alan Mitchell, who started this work in the early 1960s.The Register includes historical records going back 200 years which record the height and girth measurements of record trees ("Champion Trees") so that the growth rates and longevity can be measured. The Register not only records the largest trees of more common species; it also records details of rare and unusual trees of which Hergest Croft Gardens has many. Our gardens currently have 130 Champion Trees.
Mr Johnson said "So good are the growing conditions that Hergest Croft can now boast only the third tree in England to be measured at 200 feet (61 m) tall. Part of a plantation of Douglas Firs planted most probably in 1863 in Yeld Wood, by a public footpath which runs just north-west from the garden carpark, this fir grows on a very steep slope and it was only this autumn that I found a position from which to measure it precisely. Thanks to the steepness of the bank, the height to an average ground level (rather than to the base at the top side) is 61.5 m."
Thank you, Owen!
(Should you wish to visit this tree, please email me email@example.com for the OS grid reference.)
Such an astonishing story and what a value!
Karl Maughan - Hergest Croft Gardens
oil on canvas - signed and dated 2/6/2002
1830 x 3640mm $130,000 - $180,000
During the late summer, we had a visitor who was on holiday from New Zealand who told us the remarkable story of Karl Maughan, the iconic New Zealand artist who had visited Hergest Croft Gardens in 2022. He took a shot (amongst a huge portfolio of others) of the stunning Azaleas and Rhododendrons and on his return to the Islands, painted the huge ten metre long picture A Clear Day (below)
The Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa purchased this major piece and it was recently the subject of an auction of Maughan' s work with a hefty price tag of around £150,000!
(Pictured L to R Steve Lloyd, Head Gardener. Mell Lloyd. Edward Banks)
We say a heartfelt thank you and a fond farewell to Mell Lloyd, who has worked tirelessly for the estate over the last 30 years in various important administrative roles including Gardens and Estate Secretary - but it’s not goodbye for ever as Mell will now concentrate on managing the highly successful Maples Tearooms in the Gardens which have been under her stewardship since 2021.
“I have worked almost half of my life for the Banks family and the Hergest Estate and I have loved every minute of it” Mell said. It was a very hard decision to relinquish my office role, but I will always be here. I am really enjoying the next chapter in my life and ensuring that visitors to our gardens have a wonderful experience at Maples Tearoom”
Ed Banks, owner of Hergest Croft Gardens and Estate said” We are extremely grateful to Mell for all of her hard work and diligence over the years. We wish her continuing success with Maples Tearoom.”
Congratulations to our very own Rowan!
Rowan Griffiths, one of our dedicated team of gardeners has just been honoured with one of the highest awards from the Royal Horticultural Society. 33 year old Rowan is this year's recipient of the Roy Lancaster Award, which is given to an individual under 35 who has achieved an exceptional contribution to the practice, science or promotion of horticulture. Rowan was personally presented with his award at a glittering ceremony in London. Rowan said " It is a special honour to receive this award in Roy's name escpecially as he has been a source of knowledge and inspiration to me from the early days of horticultrual career. "I also owe a special debt of gratitude to Lawrence Banks of Hergest Croft Gardens who passed away last year and who provided me with the opportunity and environment to grow my knowledge. Well done Rowan!
The short film by Paul Eggerton of Curious Egg Film & TV, made possible by Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire is now on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPy8JOggL8k