Transplanting Oak Trees: An Update

The Priory oaks are impressive.  Huge, ancient, gnarled, neck-craning impressive.  They were the first thing I noticed and the last I shall say good-bye to.

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September 2013

We have about twenty mature oaks; most hale, a few less so.  With an eye on the latter, and because the Priory should never be oak-less, I planted some replacements.

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When I was nowt but a lad (February 2011), I wrote about digging up and re-planting three small oak trees (see ‘Planting For The Future’).   I don’t suppose I’ve mentioned them since.

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Well, four and a half years later might be time for an update.  And the update is:  after a little initial hesitancy, they’re doing fine.   Slow growing, of course (they’re oaks!), but otherwise fine.  I wasn’t even convinced they would survive the trauma of being tugged up from their original home – a small area of woodland up on the drive .

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Toffee the Viszla on sniffing duty

For a couple of years, I watered them intermittently during very dry weather.   I put tree protectors on the trunks against rabbits; but deer – my biggest worry – haven’t touched them.  Yet.

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One of the three has done especially well.  Why, it’s almost big enough to hide behind … if not to climb.  I’d struggle to transplant it now.

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February 2011

This is the same tree when its protector was a more generous fit.  My intention was to continue an existing line of two big oaks and an enormous ash whilst avoiding an often water-filled ditch.

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July 2015

And I think I’ll achieve just that.  (The large oaks might be dead before these babies reach full height but we’ll simply ignore that inconvenient truth).

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I shouldn’t think I’ll be around in two hundred years to see my oaks grow into mighty giants.

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September 2013

But if they do, I might be allowed to gaze down over the Priory and smile, paternally.  (Assuming I’m up above.  The view from below won’t be as good).

The Tropical Border And How I Learned To Hate Soaker Hose

Like last year, I gambled on a fine spring by planting up the tropical border early.

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In mid-April, to a comb-and-tissue-paper fanfare, I dug up the big red banana (Ensete maurelii) from its winter-greenhouse-home and wheeled it into position.

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And then I did the same for the ‘small’ one.

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Each year I add a deep leaf-mould and compost mulch; as well as a generous scattering of pelleted chicken manure.  Beneath the mulch and marked by canes are over-wintering dahlias, cannas and what-nots.  I mark their position so that I don’t slice through a big, fat dahlia tuber whilst planting a banana.

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Within a day or two of planting, temperatures took a dive and I gave the red bananas a little protection.

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Pretty, huh?  Next out, were my three colocasias and various other bits and bobs.  But in retrospect I should have left all these non-hardy perennials in the greenhouse for another month.  April and May 2015 were bitter at times; and all of these plants suffered from that harsh, grim spring.  But if leaves shrivelled and blackened, plants shrank and glared, they all survived.  No thanks to me.  Last year an early planting paid off; this year it didn’t.  I’ll eat patience pie next year and plant them out in May.  Probably.

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Over the past four years, I have spent a large chunk of my time on Earth watering the tropical border.  To make life a little less drudge, I decided to lay soaker hose throughout the bed.

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Have you ever used soaker hose?  I hadn’t.  Good grief but how I hate soaker hose.  (Hate isn’t strong enough a word).  There’s probably a knack to laying it: a very simple, straightforward, commonsense knack.  But if so, it fluttered above my head just out of reach, chortling.  As per the instructions I laid it out under hot sun to make it warm and pliable.

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Contrary to the instructions, that made no difference … whatsoever.  It kinked and twisted and – as only an inanimate, unreasonable, spiteful thing can do – made me apoplectic with sweary rage.

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Drawing on a superhuman patience I didn’t know I possessed, I slowly wrapped the untameable, kinky coils around plants and pegged it into place; un-kinking as I went.  (I should have buried the blasted thing but there were too many established plants here to dig trenches).

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Eventually, to my great surprise, the horrible job was done and to my greater surprise still, it worked.

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Later, I smothered the hateful hose pipe under barrow-loads of compost to hide it from view … and memory.   And to reduce evaporation.

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I connected the hose to a timer and for an hour every summer morning, water is pumped up from an adjacent well to soak these thirsty big boys.

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The hardy bananas (Musa basjoo) were thrusting impatiently out of their winter jackets

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and so I released them.  Last year, growth started almost immediately and the border quickly plumped up.  But not this year:  April, May and even June passed by in a blur of inactivity.

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Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

It is only in July that the plants have fully woken

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and the border has come to life.

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It is still early in my ‘tropical’ season and some plants aren’t half their eventual height and width.

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Or at least I hope they’re not.  I’ll show you the border’s progress in a few weeks time and detail the plants I’ve used; those I’ve moved; those I’ve added and those I’ve removed.  And we can hope by then, if nothing else, that those beastly satellite dishes will be lost from view.   Along with the damnable soaker hose.