The big sweet chestnuts are on the Significant Tree Register. They are hard to date but were probably planted in the 1890s, but possibly earlier. They have suffered from drought over the years. Because European trees, like chestnuts grow very quickly here, they become brittle and tend to snap in storms. This is why they are propped. They bear heavy crops of nuts, but since the cockatoos arrived in the mid-1980s very few escape their depredations. You are welcome to use any you can find. The traditional way is to cut a cross in the bottom and roast them in the hot coals of a fire, or, failing that, on a hot plate, and serve them with salt a butter. The main cooking use is as chestnut flour, and dishes like Montebianco/Mont Blanc, a dessert made with chestnuts, whipped cream and chocolate. They are very labour intensive to prepare.

The chestnut trees at night
A branch of the biggest chestnut tree (Castanea Sativa) with another chestnut behind and the Woodshed Temple.

The tree to the left of the Chinoiserie fabrique is a red flowering gum. It is quite old and hasn’t changed much in fifty years. It is spectacular in late January, where the red of the flowers clashes agreeably with the fabrique!

The flowering gum beside the Chinoiserie fabrique

Another old tree is the monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana) visible at the other end of the path leading to Pan. This is probably female, as monkey puzzles ‘are usually dioceious, with the male and female cones on separate trees’ but ‘occasional individuals bear cones of both sexes’, which may be the case here. A monkey puzzle expect who once visited suggested this. Either way, it produces nuts that grow into seedlings. The smaller monkey puzzles in the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens (for example, at the right of the road near where it forks to go to Wombat Hill House café) were planted from seeds from this tree in 1983. They are very slow growing. Also seedlings from this tree are two in the parterre à l’Angloise. The idea of planting a monkey puzzle in a small parterre comes from Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire, England, where some of the earliest monkey puzzles propagated in England were planted in the 1840s. When they got too big they were transferred to the arboretum. We will cross that bridge when we come to it!

Monkey puzzle trees in the Italian parterre, Biddulph Grange.

To the left of the monkey puzzle closer to Montacute is a good sized tricolour beech. This has very pretty leaves in early spring. This was planted in the 1970s.

Beyond that the very big tree is a copper beech. This is one of the original plantings from the 1890s(?).

Notable in mid October is a big pink rhododendron to the right of the line of the path. This said to have come from Wombat Park.

The big rhododendron in mid October

Beside the Raven Seat is a tulip tree. This has pretty tilip-shaped flowers in spring.

Over the top of all this you can sometimes see a magnolia grandiflora planted close to the main house, again probably in the 1890s. This has big white flowers in summer, although the cockatoos, most malicious of birds, often snip them off.

The mulberry beside the Montacute terrace was originally a small tree growing on the mine tailings on the other side and moved here in the 1970s In season, please be careful not to walk mulberries into the house. It suffered damage during building works.