Tending Trees Part 2

I don’t know exactly how many trees I’ve planted during the past four years.  Not counting a hundred and seventy beech-hedge saplings or five yew-hedge ‘trees’ or any of the ‘shrubs’ that will attain tree-like status (photinias and cotinus for example), I guess about forty.  During the same period, we’ve felled perhaps a dozen dead or unwanted trees … but the Priory is still up on the deal.  And it’s a net increase which will only grow; I want to plant more.

I recently put in three Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ which, as they can grow eight metres high, let’s call ‘trees’ shall we?

Digging into rain-sodden, heavy clay was a joyless, back-breaking task but one I was determined not to give up on.

Ten minutes later I gave up.

But, after a mug of Earl Grey, I came back and finished the job.  The Priory owner suggested planting them closely together and I think he’s right – they should look fine as a mature grouping.

In early 2009, I planted three Eucalyptus gunnii in the small copse up on the drive.  One, sadly, has died but the other two have romped away.  Indeed they have romped away too quickly.

Last winter, weighed down by snow or battered by strong winds, they would often kiss the ground and the root balls rock alarmingly.  They seemed to grow quicker than either their stems or their anchoring root system could cope with – so I decided to pollard them.  I do this to a gunnii in the gardens – to encourage the glaucous, round juvenile leaves.  But here I just wanted mighty, towering eucalypts with a far, high canopy – a goal that will now be delayed.

It’s not an elegant look, but they should soon re-spurt – and the roots and trunk will have time to grow sufficiently strong to support all that top weight.

Three or four years ago I stuck a neighbour’s pruned willow twigs into a pot and, even though they had been lying about for several days, they quickly rooted.  The willow was a corkscrew (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) and last year I planted it out on the east lawn.

It is growing nicely; the lawn here is often soggy.

In my first year, I planted an olive tree on a lawn just outside the gardens.  This was before I had fully realised just what a sharp frost pocket the gardens sit in.  The olive struggled valiantly for a couple of years and then, with a shiver, a sigh and a wistful longing for the warm shores of the Med, it died.  I replaced it (on what I still call the olive lawn), with a …

…  columnar Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Gold’) – eventual height 15 – 20 metres! It seems much happier than the poor olive ever was.

These two flowering cherries ‘Kanzan’ are growing well too.

April 2011

The flowers are a little too pink and a little too fluffy for my taste.  But what could I do?   They were in a plant sale and incredibly cheap.  And the red leaves are undeniably handsome.

Recently, we had some uninvited guests (see … ‘Do Not Tempt Fate’) and actually, they behaved appallingly – killing two apple trees in the meadow; now replaced with ‘Katy’ and ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’.

To keep out the deer, we did consider fencing the garden with six-foot high wire but, as the owner remarked, it would have given the gardens a POW-camp air – not a look we particularly wanted.   Option two was to individually protect the young trees on the meadow and I asked Rob the Brickie (not his real name) to build some wooden barriers.

I was worried that they would look too big and boxy, so Rob and I decided on ‘vase’ shapes to lessen their impact.  Over the course of several days, Rob made twelve of these.  Great to have him on board at times like this.

I’m very pleased with them; I didn’t want big wooden structures in the meadow but given that I had to, I am very pleased with them.  In time the timber will silver and become lichen encrusted and they’ll be rather stately, I think.

I should hate for all these fruit varieties to become anonymous; I wanted to label them for the future – for when me and my Blue Notebook have long gone.   So I had these brass plaques made and for consistency even the easily recognisable Gingko has a plaque.

The trees need to grow of course; up and above the timber cages.  But at least they now have a chance to do just that without the unwanted (and uninvited) attentions of fallow deer.

33 thoughts on “Tending Trees Part 2

  1. I won’t say anything about the eucalyptus, I’m trying to be positive and less bitter.
    I really like that corkscrew willow and the name really gives the idea. I think I don’t have room enough for such a plant in my garden though.

    I love those timber cages! They look like sculptures scattered around the meadow and then a real touch of class with the brass plaques! I wish I had deers in my garden to have the excuse of building some timber cage like that!

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    • I’m trying to be positive about the eucalypts too, Alberto. They’ll be fine – trust me. I’m glad you feel that way re the ‘cages’ – I thought them quite sculptural too but didn’t like to say so. And no, no, no – you don’t want deer. Not at all. No, no, no. D

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  2. Love the Vase shaped tree guards……………….great work (jotted into my note book for future project for hubby) Its so rewarding planting trees and watching over the years their development (a bit like teenagers) …………………..well i thought that was funny! best bit the trees stay and the teenagers grow up and move on…………….

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    • That’s a bulging notebook for Hubby, I suspect. It is very rewarding watching the trees grow and establish though it certainly underlines ones own mortality; especially growing big trees that won’t reach maturity for a hundred years or more. And even the fruit trees won’t be handsome, gnarled, spreading specimens for decades yet! But even though I won’t see all the fruits of my labour, I feel a responsibility to plant for the future and to ensure that the Priory always has big, mature trees at any given time. D

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  3. What posh looking labels and the tree vases look just like the ones up the road in the NTS garden.
    We planted a couple of gunnii and they grew far to quickly. I had meant to keep them bush sized. So I pollarded one and it died on me so the other one is still a tree and it’s far too close to the whitebeam….

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    • They have tree vases up the road from you? Dang, I was just about to get these patented. Sad to hear about your dead gunnii (and you’ve worried me now) but I think my two will be OK. Won’t they? I’ll find out soon enough I guess. D

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  4. How fabulous to be planting trees. Years from now you will be able to see them in all their glory, and it will give you a great deal of pleasure knowing you were the one that planted them. I like those wooden boxes to keep out the deer. They are actually quite stylish, and the finishing touch of the name plaques is perfect.

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    • Well Holley, sadly a lot of the planted trees won’t be in all their glory until well after my lifetime – but I do hope that someone in the future, stands under the oaks I’ve planted or the gingko and spares me a nod. Dave

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  5. I do like the vases and the brass plates are a nice tough, something for posterity. Nothing beats handcrafted features like those; long may your trees prosper!

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    • Hi Faisal, I did use some rather lovely hand-made terracotta tiles to ‘label’ the trees with but whatever paint or marker, I used the names quickly faded. So I thought that these plaques might last a while longer. They are nice aren’t they? D

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  6. It’s amazing what a cup of Earl Grey can accomplish. Like Popeye and spinach, only different. The cherries will look wonderful against the evergreens, I’d think. If there’s any season when pink and fluffy work (especially bargain-priced pink and fluffy), it’s spring. (In the same way, I can’t normally tolerate the drippy sentimentality in Dickens, but eat it up in A Christmas Carol. I.e., if you must have it, at least have it then.) Brass plaques, vase-shaped tree guards (with such exquisitely level cross-pieces), and Earl Grey…there’s posh for you.

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    • I do agree about Dickens, Stacy. Have you read The Old Curiosity Shop? Little Nell? Ugh. But then I re-read Oliver Twist recently and had forgotten how dark and violent and unremitting it is. Too many viewings of Oliver! (the musical) had overly sweetened my memory of it. Fagin far from dancing off into the night with the Artful Dodger is hanged, but then he isn’t really as nice a fellow as Ron Moody portrayed him.
      Earl Grey is a marvellous tonic (and probable strength giver) – indeed I should have a plaque commemorating it somewhere in the garden. And being just so damn posh is a cross I stoically bear. D

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  7. If we had all that space we would surely plant lots of trees, a priority amongst anything else. You have been busy as ever and well done on coming up with the idea of vase shaped cages. Those wedding cake trees are going to look fantastic in the coming years to come.

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  8. I love your tree protectors and the brass plaques are a lovely finishing touch. Much better than 6ft wire although I understand the feeling of wanting to keep pests out. I did, jokingly suggest to Wellyman we just fruit-caged the whole allotment the other day. Sometimes you can feel under siege from everything that wants to attack your plants. Some beautiful tree choices there. Cornus controversa is a particular favourite of mine.

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    • I didn’t mention the costings for deer protecting the gardens – eye-watering, as I’m sure you can imagine Especially as we have already spent so much on rabbit-proofing them. I read your post about mice damage and have to report my first mouse attack – ever! Had to happen, I suppose. As you say there is always something to battle against. Is that one of the joys of gardening? D

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  9. Dave,
    The structure of your timber cages is quite handsome. I like them a lot. I hope you don’t think I am being too bossy but you might want to reconsider how your planted your Cornus Controversa ‘Variagata’ trees, your first plan might have been a better one. I have a specimen in my garden and it has an elegant layered horizontal habit that would outstanding if planted so that each could spread its wings to its fullest potential. I think they would be glorious by the water in your first arrangement. You might even spread them out more. You have a lot of open space which I envy. I don’t think you have used it to it fullest advantage. I can’t tell you how many times I have planted a tree only to relocate an hour later. Best of luck!!!

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    • Hi Michael, I’m only too happy to receive input and advice (part of the reason for blogging!) so thank you. It is a good point and I shall speak to the owner to see whether he agrees to spreading them out. (Sheesh – more digging! Thanks.). He bought them and had this grouping in mind but I can see that giving each its own room to layer makes sense. And like you say, it’s not like we haven’t got the space. Dave

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  10. Love your tree guards – very National Trust! Do you have chicken wire round as well, I’m concerned that your lovely deer will just put their heads through and continue to enjoy themselves !!

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    • Good point Pauline. We talked about netting the ‘cages’ but have decided against it for the time being. Most damage by deer is done by them rubbing their antlers against the young trees and I don’t think (!) they’ll be able to do that now. If they can stick their heads through the slats they’re welcome to a little nibble of the lower branches. They are (so far) very occasional visitors and so in the grand scale of things don’t do loads of damage. But it may be something we might have to do. D

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  11. Love the new plant labels…very professional. Don’t have a flowering Cherry myself because every other garden round here has at least one. I do like them though…in Spring. Twisted Willow is one of my fave trees…so elegant.

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  12. Busy as ever, then. At least planting the dogwoods close together meant less digging. It is not good digging clay when it’s wet and I imagine you’ve had a fair bit of rain lately. Don’t disparage the cherry trees, the bees love them and don’t care if they are too pink, but might not be so keen if they are too fluffy and they can’t get at the nectar.

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    • Hi Karin, yes lots of rain recently which I’m pleased about though it is now holding up all sorts of tasks that I need to be cracking on with. I generally prefer the simplicity of single flowers but I suppose there is room at the Priory for a little fluffiness. Not too much mind you, just a little. D

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  13. At least the cause of the damage can be considered a lovely animal! The greatest losses of plants in my gardens is from ANT damage followed by mole damage. Your barriers look very serious, but I agree I think they look good. Christina

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    • Hi Christina, ants? Well that at least is something I haven’t had to worry about. I did have a mole last year and hoped he would just go away. He didn’t though and eventually I had to call in a mole-catcher. D

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  14. Your tree vases look good and I like your shiny labels. Where did you get them? The upside of plant destroying disasters such as deer is that you get to pick new plants and have new ideas. 🙂

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