Two for the price of one! We all know what happened on 7 January when my monthly post was due for Lucy’s Tree Following meme. On Sunday I suddenly remembered my tree and managed to capture some pictures. (I always think that word ‘capture’ a little odd in relation to photographs – I didn’t have to chase my walnut around the garden after all? But it makes me puff my chest out a bit, so I’ll go with it.)
In 2014 I’m watching this little walnut at the bottom of our garden near the river. It is, I believe, Juglans regia, although we have the other common walnut, Juglans nigra, in the garden as well. Incidentally, the word walnut seems to be a direct descendant of the old English word for the tree, wealhhnutu, meaning ‘nut of the Roman lands’, to distinguish it from native hazel. I always thought we were a bit special (although perhaps not in a good way!) Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal, published 1931, tells me that during the ‘golden age’ (probably a classical reference?) when men lived on acorns, the gods feasted on walnuts. And we have five trees in the garden to make us special!
Five is too many actually … Walnut roots exude juglone, which may be toxic to other plants for a 50 to 60 foot radius from the trunk of a mature tree. When I looked after a woodland garden at Kew, the mature Juglans nigra at the entrance made some plants very tricky to establish, but there was a large, rather lovely patch of a pink Orobanche (‘broomrape’, afraid I can’t remember the species), a parasitic plant that delighted in the walnut roots, when nothing else did. Given that walnuts are not ‘plant-friendly’, I am quite sure that five is too many for a half-acre garden. We need some lovely shade-giving trees that will nurture some of my favourite woodland species, rather than kill or alienate them slowly and quietly.
But, as I said, at the moment we have both the common species in the garden. My challenge for 2015 is to work out which is which. (Nick, my husband, knows; he’s keeping it a dark secret.) One of the reasons I wanted to ‘follow’ two of the young trees is because they leaf up so very late.
Mrs Grieve tells me that Juglans regia (called English walnut by Americans, to differentiate it from their own species) flowers in April and is in full leaf by the middle of May. We’ll have a long wait for these buds. The tree in my pictures today comes into leaf around the end of May/beginning of June. The other tree did not come into leaf until an astonishing July in 2014. The parent trees are in leaf well before that, although the putative parent of the late-leafer was in leaf by the beginning of June last year.
I read, however, that even in the south of France walnuts are sometimes injured by late frosts. So perhaps that’s the reason for the very late habits of the trees in my garden? (Or maybe they’ve been infected by my husband’s tendency to get out of bed late; he spends a lot of time in their company and it may have rubbed off?).
This year – mark my words – they will be WATCHED! And I hope to pass on a few interesting titbits about how you can use their foliage and bark as well as the nuts. Nick and I will also test the pickled walnuts he prepared last year after the July ‘drop’. Apparently gargling with the vinegar in the bottles will do my sore, ulcerated throat some good if it hangs on until Nick comes home again at Easter …
The Châtillon walnut saga continues next month (hopefully nearer the correct date on the 7th). Meanwhile, go to Lucy’s page and enjoy the offerings of the other curious ‘tree followers’.
Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day I poked about yesterday under the lovely cosy hazel leaves covering them and, yes, there are snowdrops! ‘Warham’ is virtually in flower (see Wordless Wednesday), but ‘Sam Arnott’ and the common doubles and singles are lurking down there as well. Thank goodness; I live in fear that these expensive bulbs will be ‘had’ by the voles. They shouldn’t be eaten really, as they are in the daffodil family and Narcissus spp are not the preferred food of these little blighters.
Or at least so I thought; last year I read that the latest personal challenge the voles of France have set themselves is to destroy the huge wild N. poeticus populations of the Massif Central, used in the perfumery industry.
Anyway – my snowdrops live to bloom again in 2015! Less expected was a smattering of early crocus on the Iris Garden lawn and Helleborus orientalis already bearing seed (they were flowering in the very mild late autumn).
The flowers are battered but (sort of!) unbowed. Ditto the small patch of Helleborus niger. The pure white flowers of these are so bashed and beaten by the elements that I’m seriously considering acquiring a few of those Victorian bell jars to protect them. Or have you a better idea? I don’t like Forsythia ‘Lynwood’– at all (at all)! Its common shade of glaring yellow in spring is all very well in other people’s gardens (where I enjoy it), but given a choice I’d not let it into my own. I inherited two here and have to steel myself to remove them where they don’t scream ‘Look at me!’ all the time. As for that habit they have of producing fasciated branches at the drop of a hat when there’s any physical damage to the plant? Not fascinating at all to me – just plain ugly! In January they are lingering at the stage I prefer. I can cut them and bring branches into the house for forcing. Warms the kitchen in the dreary days of February.
That’s about all that’s flowering at the moment. Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Click on the link to see what other garden bloggers have on the go at the moment – more than me, I’ll warrant!
But I do have colour from the dogwoods and I always appreciate the young stems of our peached limes. Erddig, a National Trust property near Wrexham, has (I seem to remember) a wonderful row of pollarded limes with Tenby daffodils naturalised below them. Might be an idea for our three standard limes that I can’t make my mind up about? Against a bright blue January sky (which seems all too rare these days!) the coral-red of those twigs is a real picture.