I love trees, specially in winter when they are en deshabille and the wonderful tracery of bare branches is outlined against an evening sky. I love watching the buds swell in early spring. I pick armfuls of sticky buds from the horse chestnuts and watch them unfurl in water.
Magnolia buds wrapped up in sage-green velvet grow plumper every day.
I am lucky that there were mature trees when we came here but I wish I could have chosen them, because some of them are not suitable for smaller gardens. I have a little copse at the bottom of the garden which I think planted itself. Field maples, oak and wild apple trees probably seeded themselves from the hedgerow. Conkers for the two enormous horse chestnuts were probably brought from the churchyard by squirrels. They are far too big for a garden but they are magnificent trees and each year I worry about the effects of horse chestnut leaf miner and even worse, bleeding canker. There were only four cases of this in the UK in 2000 and now most of the trees in the country are affected to some extent. I don’t like the look of this one in particular.
Apples and pears were planted in the orchard many years ago, but the number of huge plum trees round the garden probably planted themselves. This one gave up the will to live in the storm we had recently.
Weeping willows with their invasive roots are really only suitable for very large gardens. This one carelessly drops branches every winter and causes a great deal of work. I would never have planted it. Still, I do look forward to its first tinge of green buds in spring.
I love crab apple trees and the yellow Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ is pretty but if I had been consulted I would have said; ‘If you want yellow fruit, please plant the lovely Malus ‘Comtessa de Paris’ because her fruit hangs on until after Christmas instead of going brown on the tree. Or how about ‘Butterball’ which is always gorgeous and so heavily laden with fruit?’ But OK, ‘Golden Hornet’ has its moments.
Readers of my blog will know that I dislike the huge cherry tree which dominates the view from the house and offends me with its blowsy blossoms and its alarming habit of dropping branches even when it’s not windy. It’s probably picked up its bad habits from the weeping willow. I don’t know if the cherry is ‘Kansan’ or ‘Hokusai’, but whichever it is I don’t like it. I’m a cherry blossom snob. If only they had asked me I would have said: ‘Try the dainty Prunus ‘Pandora’ or ‘Pink Perfection’ or if you want a bigger tree, plant the gorgeous white ‘Shirotae’ or the double Gean, Prunus avium ‘Plena’.
Anyway, now thanks to the intrepid and acrobatic George, the Pink Knicker Blossom tree has been chopped back and the trunk remains as a climbing frame for Rosa ‘Blush Rambler’.
The greengage has been cut back too. I know that there is a risk of Silver Leaf disease when plum trees are chopped in winter but I have to take the risk because it was swaying so alarmingly in the recent storms and giving me sleepless nights as I feared for my shiny new greenhouse. (More about my winter play pen in another a post.)
So which trees am I grateful for? Acer drummondii has pale lemon variegated leaves and sitting under it on a hot summer’s day is like sitting in a ball of sunshine. Now the cherry tree has been chopped down I have an uninterrupted view of it from the house.
The weeping verruca birch tree Betula verrucosa ‘Pendula’ with its warty trunk is full of character and the long tailed tits enjoy it too.
The walnut tree has lovely fissured bark, but squirrels eat all the walnuts, every one.
The Winter Garden.
I have planted quite a few trees and shrubs in this garden but the ones I am enjoying at the moment are the ones I chose for their beautiful bark or colourful twigs in winter.
I created the winter garden three years ago and now it is maturing nicely. Prunus serrula looks as if it has been polished. Behind it is the red stemmed dogwood; Cornus alba ‘Siberica’.
Acer griseum is a beautiful cinammon colour and has lovely peeling bark too.
Birches are a particular favourite of mine. Last year I planted a group of snowy white Betula jacquemontii to add to the mature group at the bottom of the garden. In the winter garden Betula albo-sinensis ‘Pink Champagne’is maturing nicely.
This bark is pinkish but for really red you can’t beat the red Acer pennsylvanicum ‘Erythrocladum’.This is one of the snakes bark maples and very slow growing.
Nearby the bushy Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’ looks more showy.
You can’t beat dogwoods for coloured twigs. As well as Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ I have Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’ which I think is the best red.
My favourite dogwood at the moment is the orange Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’. It looks good with Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ and the chalky stems of the ghost bramble Rubus thibetanus.
Actually there is another dogwood on my wish list and I think it is the best yet. It is called ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ and I shan’t rest until I have tracked it down.
I quite like eccentric twigs in winter. Bowles put the twisted hazel, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ in a special bed for strange plants which he called the lunatic asylum.
I can sort of see what he means. I like it in winter but I am not so keen in summer when I think it looks diseased. I wonder what Bowles would have made out of the crazy, tangled brown stems of Muehlenbeckia astoni.
I am not too keen on conifers but Abies koreana is very elegant and when it is mature has lovely upright violet-purple cones like candles.
Cryptomeria japonica goes a lovely bronze colour in winter.