Week 3

Hi, I’m Eoin Halpin.

I’m lucky that the responsibility of writing the 3rd week blog fell upon me as it has been the most exciting and enjoyable week so far.

After spending the prior weeks getting to grips with our surroundings and with the work routine, I feel that we have found our pace and are now comfortable enough to enjoy and explore the gardens for ourselves.

The 3rd week has also been specifically enjoyable for me due to how much time we spent in the arboretum. While the exotic species that inhabit the greenhouses interest me, I just love the tall proud trees that can be found all around the edge of the gardens. While it can be hard sometimes to stop myself from sporadically climbing up through the low hanging branches, I can still appreciate their colossal height from the ground.

I can also appreciate the much needed shade they have cast over us during the blistering heat the past few days.

A towering ash tree creates dappled shade

The biggest and most prominent task in the arboretum was the clearing of the native ivy Hedera helix. While we can appreciate Hedera from an aesthetic and ecological point of view it spreads like wildfire. It creeps along the forest floor and sends down roots that set themselves so well in the soil, and attach themselves to bark or rock, that it truly earns its name (Hedera meaning to cling).

The ivy was first upturned with a fork and then rolled forward like a green rug being rolled up. Once the carpet of ivy was removed the remaining roots were then easily removed with the help of a hand fork.

With the covering of the ivy gone, I discovered a diverse community of other tough plants: there were saplings of holly (Ilex), ash (Fraxinus), laurel (Prunus), sycamore (Acer) and pine (Pinus), which will need removing before they too take hold.

With the ivy covering gone, the roots of some self-seeded Echium and a rice paper plant, Tetrapanax papyrifera were somewhat exposed, so I gave them a protective layer of mulch and enjoyed this as they are both brilliant plants.

The echiums took me by surprise as I withdrew in pain the first time I touched their stem (which is covered in plexiglass-like hairs). Their small blue flowers seem to be a favourite for bees, which circle the leaves high above the base. They have finished flowering now.

I also laid mulch down to form a new tree ring around the mature European hop hornbeam, Ostrya carpinifolia. The hop Ostrya may have the most interesting female flowers I have ever seen. Its large knobbly trunk and spreading limbs, scaly bark and its deeply veined leaves (a characteristic of the Betulaceae family it belongs to) make it an impressive looking tree. I laid a large ring of bark mulch in accordance with its size and importance – it now looks as stately as it deserves.

For me, the most interesting of all the tree species in the arboretum is the dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

The Metasequoia were identified only as fossils for the first half of the 20th century, until a live specimen was found and identified in a Chinese temple in 1941. Metasequoia is the only living species in its genus and wasn’t planted in British gardens until 1948. The specimen in Trinity Botanic Garden was planted in 1967 and with a fast growth rate of about three feet a year it has already reached a mature height of around 90 feet.

I look forward to learning more about the trees I will be working under over the next few weeks and will hopefully have more information for my next blog.


The dawn redwood at Trinity’s botanic garden –

it is native to south-eastern China.