Saturday, 28 October 2017

talking about trees

I had a surprise this morning when I looked in my diary and discovered that this afternoon I was supposed to be in Stowupland for the monthly Plant Heritage lecture.  If asked when it was due I'd have been forced to concede it must be today, but as it was I hadn't thought about it at all.  I like the Plant Heritage lectures, and besides I volunteered earlier in the year to go and help put the chairs out.  Last Wednesday I also volunteered to take back the cooking for a bit, since the Systems Administrator had done all of it in the past month, and as I contemplated the collection of ingredients I'd picked up on the way back from the hairdressers and the contents of my diary for the next couple of days I began to sense a mismatch between the two.

Never mind.  Tonight's chicken breasts that were going to be Moroccan chicken with honey were summarily redesignated as chicken with rosemary and olives, because it is about the easiest and quickest recipe for chicken I know, and tomorrow's lamb that was going to be curry was turned into Lindsay Barham's tomato bredie while the chicken was cooking, to be reheated later, because tomato bredie is more straightforward than curry.  I might need to get a tub of pasta sauce out of the freezer to tide us over until I have time to assemble the courgette and cheese bake I was planning to do.  And then I had better try and think of something that doesn't involve tomatoes.

The head of propagation had already started on the chairs by the time I arrived because she was early and had finished arranging her plant stall.  We put out what we thought was a good number and then the person in charge of the meeting arrived and put out some more.  And then the meeting was not very well attended, for some reason, so that they weren't all needed, and the ladies from the WI had a lot of slices of cake left over at the end.  I don't know why attendance should have been down.  The talk was about autumn colour in trees, by a confident and well established local nurseryman, and what gardener doesn't like trees in the autumn?  Though people who go to garden clubs tend to be at the older end of the age spectrum, and perhaps don't have very large gardens any more, and perhaps are more interested in hearing about perennials they might have a hope of growing themselves than about large woody plants.  Or perhaps it was nothing personal against trees or the nurseryman, but just that a lot of people happened to have something else on today.

It was a good talk, except that I always hope there will be some new and exciting plants I haven't heard of before, and nowadays there often aren't, and today was no exception.  I had already heard of all the trees the nurseryman mentioned in his talk, grew five or six of them, and disagreed with him about Cotoneaster 'Rothschildianus'.  It is a large, arching shrub, although nurseries love to sell young ones trained up into little standards, and in my garden is definitely not evergreen even in a normal winter, and responds to pruning by throwing up vertical shoots from the shortened branches, which would not be a good look in any garden situation I can think of.  If you don't have a space for it about twelve feet wide and tall I wouldn't bother planting one.  You will only upset each other.

I did like the look of the leaves on the branches of Acer saccharinum he brought to show us.  This is the north American silver maple, the sugar maple being A. saccharum.  The leaves of the silver maple were quite deeply cut, more so than an English sycamore, with attractive pale undersides.  My ears pricked up when the nurseryman said it preferred damp acid soil and was one of the dominant trees in the maple forests of New England, even though it did not colour quite so magnificently here as over there.  Forests are quite dark places.  Would young plants of Acer saccharinum tolerate shade, I asked, if they were planted in gaps among existing trees?  They would, said the nurseryman, though they might grow spindly as young plants.  I filed that away for future reference.  If the ash trees die in our little bit of woodland I might want to plant something to grow up in their place, and an awful lot of trees require sun if you believe the books.  It's faintly baffling, since while in parks and gardens you see trees planted as single specimens, in the wild most grow alongside lots of other trees, but still it's hard to find anything that might cope with being inserted into gaps in established woodland.

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