Saturday 29 November 2014

'Tis the season to ... cut down trees

It's not the bells which have been ringing out in my neck of the woods, this last few days, but the chainsaws! For some reason, our little cluster of neighbours,  have gone chainsaw crazy and cut down enough trees to keep those festive log fires burning for months.

Yesterday there were actually three chainsaws droning away in unison, in different gardens, and between us, we have made a lot more sky visible. Whole new vistas have been revealed which we were unaware of.  Light is flooding into murky corners, where only ivy was brave enough to grow.  I reckon we will have two to three more hours of sunshine in our garden every summer's afternoon, due to our lovely neighbours removing three very tall, wide and sombre conifers. All the conifers visible at the right-handside of the photo at the top of this post, have now vanished into thin air ! The photo below shows just what they were concealing from us.

Our garden needed some work doing on it, mostly annual maintenance of hedges, pruning and raising of tree canopies, so we called on the ever- affable Richard to come and work some magic. He took off a lot of lower branches on specimen trees to allow more light and air into the garden.

One large sycamore branch was overhanging the wildlife pond, and we were worried that it might puncture the lining, if it fell in as it was sawn through. However, all was well and the offending branch landed on nearby grass with a satisfying thud.

Richard mainly used a manual telescopic saw for the branches, which meant that he did not have to use ladders, or do any climbing. The three tree surgeons who were working next door, yesterday, had a different approach and climbed the trees before the cutting sections above them, with a chainsaw.

Half way down the garden is a massive, prostrate conifer which takes up half the garden and is officially the most boring plant on earth. I hate it with a passion and have been giving it the evil eye for years, hoping it would wither and die. It has resolutely ignored me, and remains in the rudest of rude health. And so began a 'discussion' about its future, which has lasted for months between the Under Gardener and myself. I had already donned my black cap, but the Under Gardener begged for a reprieve for the conifer. Guess who won ? Ten minutes work with the chainsaw  and I now have a whole new area to plant up ... and I have the roses lined up and ready!

Richard also cut down some complete trees for us, mainly old, self set elders strangled by ivy, and an odd multi - trunked self seeded Robinia which was growing way too large. He did the sawing and we did the labouring, trundling up and down the garden with logged branches and barrows full of brash. There are going to be some cracking bonfires over Christmas and New Year.

Now, a whole day of a chainsaw has led to a very full log store, and I feel just like a squirrel must feel when it has a store of nuts for the winter - smug! There is no better feeling than looking at a full log store knowing that the wind may blow, the snow may fall, the power may be off - but if you have a full log store you know you can weather it all in a cosy glow.

Saturday 15 November 2014

The patter of tiny ferns ...

About eighteen months ago I bought an envelope of fern spores from 'The British Pteridological Society' stand, at Tatton Park RHS Show, for £1only, intending to produce squillions of luscious ferns. The enthusiasts on the stand were really helpful and full of good advice. I followed the instructions they gave me carefully (or so I thought) and sowed the spores on the surface of sterile compost, and then put the seed tray in a sealed bag. After a couple of months I checked for signs of any  progress and found the compost covered in a sort of lumpy moss, so ... I threw it out!

When I was at Tatton again this year, I revisited the B.P. Society stand to discuss what went wrong. Turns out, nothing went wrong, and I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. The lumpy moss was actually the developing ferns, at a stage of their development when they are termed Prothalli !! Who would have guessed it . 

So I decided to try again and bought 2 packets of spores this time -'Braun's Shield fern' (Polystichum Braunii) and 'Dickins's Wood Fern' (Dryopteris Dickinsii). I chose these varieties as they were recommended for being comparatively easy to grow. 'The British Pteridological Society' have produced a fantastic step by step guide with photos, so I felt more confident of success this time.

I  posted in summer about the process of sowing the spores in ''A ferny thing happened ...', if you care to find out more, but the basic premise is that the spores are sown on the surface of newly sterilised compost. Once sown they are kept in a sealed bag to keep moisture in and bacteria, chance seeds etc out.

When I spoke to the very nice people on the stall they said that it could take a while for germination to occur, but that patience was the watchword, so I put my 2 seed trays in the greenhouse, and left them to get on with germination unhindered .

After a couple of months, the surface of the 'Shield Fern' compost just looked as if it was covered with a fine green film, but that began to grow into what I believe are fernlets or, more correctly, Prothalli ! Yes, we have the patter of tiny ferns ! Babies ! Only Shield Fern babies though, as the Dickins's Wood Fern compost remains a sea of brown.

Shied Fern prothalli
My instruction leaflet informs me that it is best to leave them undisturbed at this stage, so that is what I plan to do. Just sit with my feet up and watch them grow...

Monday 10 November 2014

Settling down for a long Winter nap ...

Every month   'Loose and leafy'  hosts a 'Tree Following' meme, where lots of bloggers from around the world, give an update on a chosen tree. I have joined in whenever I have been able to, and have been chronicling the ups and downs (mainly downs if I'm honest!) of my Fig Tree, Ficus Carica 'Brown Turkey'.

Since March it has been subjected to savage pruning, roofers and builders working around it, and last, but not least, the tail end of a hurricane and subsequent collapse of a nearby wall. Quite a lot of trials and tribulations for one little tree.

It had a very slow start in the Spring, which I now think is probably the norm for fig trees in this country, and not because of the mistreatment meted out by my tree loppers. However, once it was in leaf, it went from strength to strength and the long, warm growing season resulted in strong growth, as you can see from the green stems in the photo below. The green growth has all been put on this season.

Sadly, it only produced one fig this summer ... and that was down to my pruning!

After advice given in comments on my posts by gardeners who know about these things, I have removed the small figlets growing on the tree at the moment, as these stand no chance of ripening. Apparently if the tree was in warmer climes, it would produce some figs in January, but that ain't going to happen in the cold, drear UK !! I have asked Head Gardener Mr Google, who told me to remove all figs which are larger than a pea, as they will not ripen. Apparently the tiny, tiny fruit nestling in the branches are the ones which will grow and ripen next summer, all being well.

Even though many of the leaves are changing colour, there are still a few which think it is still summer, and remain resolutely green.

However, most of the leaves are turning colour and falling quite quickly now.

Although some leaves are an interesting yellow, the tree is not renowned for its autumn colour.

One more strong wind and I think it will be totally bare.

We have had an amazingly sunny and mild autumn which the fig tree has really loved, and the leaves have only really started to turn over the last couple of weeks.

I had to cut this poor clematis ('Polish Spirit')  right back to allow the builder access to the brickwork behind the fig tree, back in the early summer. It usually grows through the fig tree and scrambles around in its branches.

As you can see it has made a full recovery, and is growing back more strongly than ever. The flowers are a rich dark purple, and are freely borne.

I think that my December photos will show my little tree totally denuded, and slumbering deeply, just waiting for the Spring to stir it into growth again !

All it wants now is to go to sleep ...