Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Falklands Flowers at 52° Latitude S.

Even on windy islands of peat in the far Southern Hemisphere, if there are Anglos, there will be gardens, too.


The garden at the Government House in Stanley

Falkland Islands, Februrary 2008

Photo: Sharen Branscome

A territory hospitable to penguins doesn’t put most people in a gardening mood. But most people are not English people, and they’re the ones who, mainly, settled the Falkland Islands. Shallow soil be damned. What’s a little Antarctic wind? There WILL be gardens.

Friends Jim and Sharen were recently in Stanley—at least Sharen was, while Jim played shuffleboard on the ship and sent out email: “The wind was still blowing at 41 mph this morning when we arrived….” That’s tough on plants. But Sharen found some fascinating gardens around town. The best known, likely the grandest, is outside the Government House, built in 1845 to be home for the presiding Englishman here. As Jim and Sharen discovered in southern Chile, lupines are the showboat garden flowers of the far southern hemisphere. Some grow tall as hollyhocks. The flower stalks bristle with color all the way up—you’ve got a tiger by the tail!

There’s also a big greenhouse and nursery on the grounds for growing the governor’s vegetables. It’s a long choppy ride to the supermarket in Chile (since the war with Argentina in 1982, Falkland Islanders tend to go the extra mile).

Though the islands are way far south, at 52 degrees latitude, the climate here is generally called “temperate.” For example, it’s a very reasonable 61 degrees at Mount Pleasant Airport today. Still, growing things is tough because the islands’ soil consists of “shallow peat over clay” and the winds blow steady and harsh. “Once you get outside the landscaped yards in town, there is nary a tree or bush to be found. Anywhere. None. There is one trial nursery for trees, but no natural greenery reaching above about 12” above ground.”

imageFelton’s Flower (Calandrinia feltonii)

rescued from extinction by gardeners

Image: Falklands Conservation

All this makes islanders exceptionally proud of the native wildflowers—the species that can make it. Herds of sheep about did in Felton’s Flower (Calandrinia feltonii), an endemic plant that would be extinct today, had it not been for the acquisitive efforts of Falklander gardeners.  Pale Maiden (Olysnium filifolium) is the Falklands’ national flower. Botanist J. D. Hooker described “grass plains…almost whitened by the profusion of its pendulous, snowy bells” in “the spring month of November.” That was a hundred years ago.  We understand Pale Maiden isn’t so plentiful now.


Gnome Garden in Stanley, Falkland Islands

Photo: Brian Lockett

Resignation to “dwarf” plant varieties and delight in the islands’ abundant bird life may have inspired this garden in Stanley. Photographer Brian Lockett provides this description. “The yard was tiered. The lowest tier of the garden was occupied by dozens of garden gnomes. There was a ceramic Mexican burro and a pair of plastic, pink flamingoes behind them. Farther up, there were a couple of species of ceramic geese. A large shrub in the highest tier was surrounded by a collection of ceramic Gentoo Penguins and topped by a ceramic hawk.” You will also want to experiment with Brian’s alternative view of this yard: “Cross your eyes” he suggests, “to see the gnome garden in 3-D.”

Jim, have you tried that? You don’t even have to leave the ship!

Posted by Julie on 03/29 at 12:01 PM
EcologyGardening & LandscapeTravelPermalink