The Orange Tip

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Tag: Robinia

Time In The Wood

LogsNine trees came down during the fierce winds of the last couple of months. All but one of them were robinia; a north American woodland tree of which we have a great number at the garden. The pros of robinia are that it’s a great, grand tree; stunning blossom in early summer, fantastic for wildlife (I’m forever stopping to watch nuthatches and woodpeckers scour their fissures for insects) and they grow very quickly. The problem with them however, as so many now frustrated London borough councils are experiencing, is that they are shallow rooted, weigh a great deal and are prone to snapping.

Having finally finished the never ending autumn and early winter jobs around the garden (mostly involving aggravating but useful machines like pressure washers and hedge trimmers) I’ve been at last able to get stuck into the woodland and begin returning it to form.

In early summer the fairly open canopy means lots of wildflowers; alkanet, cow parsley, greater celandine, campian etc all flourish to form a dense and beautiful lower story of up to 1.5 meters. With this in mind I’m aiming to create new paths that weave among them, clean and chop the trees that have come down, fell any leaning with intent to fall and then process the wood into lengths, habitat and firewood for next year.

Wood summer

Pathway summerAll brash wood I’m leaving in large piles to rot down and provide shelter for wildlife (also a much simpler option than shifting it all.. which there really isn’t any need for anyway). There isn’t yet a purpose in mind for the log lengths, however I didn’t want to convert all the good material into firewood and so they’ll remain in the wood until purpose arrives.

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July

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Early in the Wood

Yesterday morning I got to the garden early to finish some paperwork in the shed. Tired after a busy weekend away camping along the Pembrokeshire coast, and finding it hard to concentrate, I decided to have a look at how things were going up in the small patch of woodland at the top end of the garden. A regular walk around the garden is an important practice and helps you keep everything in perspective, however, like so many gardeners, I often end up finding an excuse not to do it and turn my attention to some other job that needs doing. So it was nice to put aside a bit of time just to wonder about and take things in again.

The morning light was bright, showing through all the various greens and there was even a very slight frost lingering on the wood floor. It felt surprisingly Autumnal walking along the paths. I noticed quite a few changes that had taken place quietly in my absence- mushrooms on the chippings, brand new fox holes and fruits developing for the first time on the young sweet chestnuts. Overhead in the robinias a pair of crows were calling to each other, along with a solitary magpie from behind the old wall; all projecting the familiar sounds of Autumn, even more so once the trees lose their leaves and the sound is reverberated further. A pair of nuthatches were also scrambling up and down one of the taller black locusts; for a non-migratory bird it’s funny how they seem to disappear completely after Spring each year and return to view in the Autumn. Can’t imagine where they go.

Fungus Bench

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One of the straighter, sun striving robinias came down in the heavy winds last month. Having had to simply trim it and lay to one side while I finished clearing the woodland area of the garden, I recently got to putting it to use.

I think it was actually more of a dual effort in terms of its demise; the combined forces of strong winds and nature’s craftiest killer, honey fungus. Noticed a clump of the toadstools present on a nearby stump and the unmistakable smell of mushrooms emitting from the tree base itself. I have mixed feelings about honey fungus, but contrary perhaps to many gardeners, most of them are positive. It’s true that once established, the fungus can be a nightmare, particularly in heavy shrub borders or smaller gardens in general. However the ‘disease’ acts out one of the most essential elements in life; death. Or to be more specific, decay. Without it the world would be a very, very different place. It wouldn’t really be here to be more accurate. So, clearly not going any deeper into the biology, trees need to come down in order to support new trees. All green needs to rot, to a certain extent, if new green is to come. Ultimately we ourselves need to rot, but I think the sentiment is best left there.

Honey fungus is certainly one of the most proficient progressors of this natural cycle, though it can be a tragedy in the shrubbery. I really struggle with the concept of attempting to chemically prevent the continuation of such an important natural process however, and in my book, the best thing to do is simply to isolate the problem as best as possible, and burn the remnants. Any uninfected by-product of the felling is for putting to a good use.

I decided to make a bench to go by the pond. It’s very rough cut, and all hacked to shape with the harsh blunt force of a hatchet, mallet and chisel, and below is the process in pictures.

Black Locusts, Black Sky

Robinias make up the predominance of the trees in the woodland. Not a favourite of mine, nor a native, but a great source for wildlife. The blossom in late spring is a spectacle, like enormous beams of bright white, and its deeply fissured bark houses many insects, attracting nuthatches and woodpeckers. I often hear them calling in the canopy.