Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Gardeners Question Time


Thanks for visiting.

It's still a bit too chilly and gloomy for a lot of gardening at the moment but there's plenty of time for a spot of virtual gardening courtesy of Radio 4's Gardeners Question Time. A panel of experts travel round the country meeting members of the public with particular problems of a horticultural nature and in a light-hearted way try to point them in the right direction.

Whilst listening to the most recent edition from Hull, an item on monkey puzzle trees caught my imagination.

Archibald Menzies was a botanist, plant collector and surgeon on Captain George Vancouver's 1791-95 circumnavigation of the globe in Captain Cook's ship Discovery. He was served the seeds of the monkey puzzle for dessert by the Governor of Chile and rather than eat them, he planted them. He arrived back in England with five healthy plants, two were planted in Sir Joseph Banks garden and the other three at Kew, one of which lasted until 1892.

Nurseryman James Veitch booked a passage to Brazil on HM Packet Seagull for plant collector William Lobb in 1840 to go and collect more seeds from the monkey puzzle as he thought it would be a popular ornamental plant here.

He set off on a perilous journey round Brazil and Argentina collecting specimens of other plants and then travelled overland to Chile via the Andes to avoid the dangerous seas round Cape Horn. This was a gruelling journey on five-foot of frozen snow where he fell ill with fever. Eventually arriving in the Southern Andes, he collected 3,000 seeds by shooting down the cones from the trees with shotguns. They were shipped back to Exeter and seedlings were offered for sale in 1843 and are seen all over the country to this day.

The good thing now is that, using the collection of seeds stored here, they are being sent back to the wild where they are dying out.

Yet again, there is often more to the everyday, it makes life so interesting to find the hidden stories.



  1. Those 18th and 19th century plant hunters were intrepid souls weren't they? Only the other day we were talking about monkey puzzle trees and were told that they were so called because someone in the mists of time said their twisted branches 'would even puzzle a monkey'. There is a huge one in a garden around the corner from us which gets lights on it a Christmas:)

    1. That's interesting, it is a very strange name for a tree. They can get quite large can't they but are very easy to spot.

  2. Replies
    1. Incredible what they were prepared to do without all the technology we have these days.

  3. GQT is a great listen sometimes - well all the time actually! You can find out some really interesting things can't you.

    1. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience, don't they.