The wind has been getting up through the day, and is now blowing close to a full gale, while out at sea the Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic is recording a force nine on the Beaufort scale. That's a severe gale. Once it gets up to force ten it is a storm, a storm being bigger than a gale in technical weather terms. Not all advertising copywriters know that.
A gale is enough to make large branches in the ash trees in the wood wave about, while the alder seems to sway almost down to the coppice stools. It's not weather for working underneath trees, unless you have to, and the Systems Administrator had to put plans to remove more of the fallen ash at the far end on hold. I crawled around trimming the edges of the top lawn, where the largest thing that could fall on me was a rose bush.
There is a lot of sudden die-back in some of the roses. They looked healthy when I pruned them back in the winter, and the leaf buds began breaking normally, but in recent days many of the leaves have shrivelled, and the ends of stems, and even some whole stems down to ground level have blackened. I don't honestly know why. Sudden death of the visible parts of a woody shrub is often down to root damage, so has last year's endless rain rotted their roots so that they can't support the bushes? Or is there a soil-borne infection? Or did a cold night coming at a critical time just as the sap was rising burst the cells and kill parts of the plants that way? Is it old age? They can't have been in for more than a dozen years, and roses ought to last longer than that.
I pruned poor Magnolia grandiflora 'Samuel Sommer' extremely hard. It is a case of kill or cure, and I fear it will be the former, but it looked so terrible with its great bare defoliated branches that it was doing no good as it was. Our neighbours' gardener, the one who is still using our spinney as an off-site compost heap since we still haven't got round to fencing it, cut down their M. grandiflora hard. I know this, because I noticed it had disappeared at the same time as some evergreen magnolia branches appeared in the spinney. The other day as I was going past I saw a fresh crop of magnolia leaves rising above their fence, so the stump is clearly shooting again. I'm afraid that 'Samuel Sommer' has picked up a fungal infection following cold damage in the recent hard winters, and am not at all optimistic that it will respond in the same way as next door's plant. I washed the pruning saw when I'd finished, and wiped it with Dettol.
The Arbutus x andranchnoides is looking terrible. The last few hard frosts hit it hard, and most of the leaves have gone brown and crispy. A few green ones are left at the very top, indicating that the wood is not entirely killed, but I expect there is a lot of dead wood in there. I have a dark suspicion, based on how it behaved in the previous couple of winters, that if it manages to produce a new crop of leaves it will take most of the summer over it, and that I'll have to do a lot of fiddly pruning out of dead twigs. It was doing beautifully, up to the winter of 2010-2011.