A Sunny Day in the UK

 

On the morning of July 29, 40 oak enthusiasts from Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and the United Kingdom met in Jermyn’s House at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (Romsey, Hampshire) for the first Oak Open Day of the year. A grey sky and abundant rain set the tone while participants enjoyed their tea and biscuits, greeting old friends and meeting new ones. No sooner had the army of umbrellas stepped outside but did an indignant sun appear, chasing away clouds and rain forever!

The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is one of the two national collections of Quercus in the UK and many of the accessions were collected in the wild by IOS Board member and former President Allen Coombes, who worked at the Gardens for nearly thirty years. Indeed, as part of the welcome speeches, Allen had sent a message that included, amidst his fond memories, a mission for the day: we were to look at two of his collections, a Quercus senescens Hand.-Mazz. and a Q. rehderiana Hand.-Mazz., to try and determine if the former is indeed Q. senescens or a hybrid of the two. To be continued in International Oaks, No. 25…

For the morning visit to the part of the Gardens called Brentry Woodland, the group was divided into two – one was led by Barry Clarke, the other by David Jewell. Here can be found very nice specimens of Q. affinis Scheidw., Q. greggii (A. DC.) Trel. and one of its hybrids (with Q. glabrescens Benth.), and many, many more wonderful trees. It goes without saying that we never have enough time to both look at all the trees we want to see and enjoy the company of friends, new and old.

Quercus senescens, 1998.0410-A, CMBS 479A, Brenty Wood (Photo. Charles Snyers)

After a very nice lunch, the second half of the day was self-guided and for this we were provided with a good map, an accessions list that indicated where the trees were located and a stern reminder that we were expected back at Jermyn’s House at a quarter past four for refreshments.

Quercus rehderiana Hand.-Mazz. (syn. Quercus pseudosemecarpifolia), 1999.0291-C, Coll. RIPJ 28, Crookhill Field (Photo. Charles Snyers)

It is not possible to give here a detailed account of all of our afternoon adventures so I shall just mention a tree that certainly marked the day for me. I was fortunate to have latched on to Nick Macer (IOS member who also used to work at the Gardens) who showed me the way to Q. delavayi Franch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful oak tree.

The day was deliciously brought to a close with a beautiful oak-themed chocolate cake tailor-made to IOS member Dorothy Holley’s specifications for the event.

Many thanks to Wolfgang Bopp, Barry Clarke and David Jewell of the Gardens for their hospitality and efforts, and to our Tour Director, Shaun Haddock, and Vice-President, Charles Snyers for bringing us together for such a splendid day.

Béatrice Chassé

More pictures can be found here