Why fossil plants I hear you ask?
At about the age of 5 my family moved into my Grandmother’s house.
It was a very large house with an extensive garden that was dominated by a huge Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana). The tree stood taller than the house and caused a large area of the garden to be much too dry to grow anything. Even the privet hedge around the garden had a huge gap where it ran alongside the tree. Unfortunately the tree also had a tree preservation order which meant that my parents were totally unable to do anything about the ‘nuisance’ tree.
I loved the Monkey puzzle. It was right outside my bedroom window and it was home to multiple pairs of collared doves which I could watch rearing their young.
Another tree came into my life as I grew up, a huge Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). It was as tall as the church by which it grew and was my favourite tree to climb. I dubbed it ‘the lookout tree’ as I could watch the goings on in all of the surrounding gardens from a comfortable spot about half way up.
The tulip tree flowered with its extravagant magnolid blooms every year. These flowers and its strange leaves prompted my inquisitive mind to find out more about the tree I loved so much. As a budding naturalist, my research led me to learn more about the monkey puzzle too. You can imagine, when I discovered that both trees had been around at the time of the dinosaurs, my interest only increased.
So, that’s how it all started. Whilst my brothers looked at books about dinosaurs and could tell you all their names, I looked at the plants the artist had depicted in the background and was able to tell what each and every one was. A collection of ferns and other prehistoric oddities was started. I would preserve the horsetails (Equisetum arvense) growing through the cracks in the patio at all costs (much to my mother’s annoyance) and a pond was built so that I could have water lilies (Nympaea sp.).
Life went on, I grew up and moved house and the ferns came too.
Fast forward now to two years ago, my partner and I had just bought a house in Llanberis and we had a blank canvas of lawn for a garden. It was time for the ferns to finally have a permanent home. I hadn’t really envisaged having a prehistoric garden (although my interest still burned) but on the day we got the keys to the house we went to buy some plants for a hanging basket at the front door and came back with a 5’ tall Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis). So we hardly had any choice, our fossil garden was born.
All the plants have to be members of families that were around at the time of the dinosaurs or before so we work between 400 and 66 million years ago. It is surprising the variety of genera of plants that have been around for that period of time and have a fossil record. It isn’t all ferns, cycads and pines either. We have plenty of flowering plants in the garden too. Admittedly they aren’t the type that you would find in a traditional garden but they are deffinately flowers.
So there you have it. Its amazing how things turn out some times!