Lucy’s Tree Following & Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

Crocus 200 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. Crocus 179 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. Crocus 178 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).

Crocus 017 Crocus 055 Crocus 060 The flowers are battered but (sort of!) unbowed. Crocus 063 Crocus 050 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? Crocus 044 Crocus 027 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. Crocus 079Crocus 074

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. Crocus 265

18 thoughts on “Lucy’s Tree Following & Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

  1. Lucy Corrander

    Wonderfully interesting post. Sorry you were late for the Tree Following link box – but next month isn’t far away.
    It would be good if you would check I have your details as you want them on the Loose and Leafy Tree Following page.
    Re. Latin and plants; in my post I am, to some degree, playing devil’s advocate. But it is none the less the case that I haven’t the time at present to read the book well enough to review it properly. So – shall I put your name in the hat to send you the copy?

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks Lucy – sorry, I have a bee in my bonnet about Latin names! I’ll check the link you’ve attached to make sure the details are ok. And – why not, put my name in the hat!

  2. Lea

    Great to have blooms in the winter, and I love that last photo – red twigs against blue sky!
    Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day!

  3. rusty duck

    I have to admit, I took out the two forsythia bushes I inherited here. Not a fan either. The mice/voles seem to leave snowdrops alone, as they do daffodils, but the more expensive ones I won’t take the risk with! There seems to be a direct relationship between the amount I paid for something and the enthusiasm the little buggers seem to have for eating it.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Sadly, I know only too well what you mean! The first plants they ate here were a rather expensive wisteria and a huge white delphinium that Nick persuaded me (against my better judgement) to buy. What can you say?

  4. islandthreads

    I love the last photo of the red twigs against the beautiful blue sky Cathy, I shall look forward to seeing your walnut trees through the year as I know nothing more about them than the christmas nuts that used to appear every year and the challenge of cracking one and getting a whole nut instead of crumbs, Frances

    1. Cathy Post author

      They seem to be quite fascinating in terms of history and use – but you do get fed up with cracking them, cleaning them and then eating walnut loaf for Sunday dinner!

  5. Christina

    Those red stems are wonderful. Your hellebores do look a bit sad but still lovely to have, it’s too hot for them here. We also had a huge number of walnut trees here when we bought the property, I removed all but two and as they rarely produce any walnuts I rather wish I’d removed them all.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Hi Christina – some of ours may still be for the chop! This year of ‘tree following’ will answer a few questions I have, I hope. At least we do get good crops of walnuts – can’t keep up with them!

  6. Julie

    I haven’t visited Erddig, but you’ve just sold the idea to me, the limes and daffodils sound wonderful together. I am with you too on Forsythia ‘Lynwood’. Looking forward to your Walnut Tree posts.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I think the black walnut is the main culprit, but the roots of all contain it to some degree. A good friend of mine used to garden under J. regia and she suffered no great ill effects (in fact planting was also reasonably close to the trunk under the black walnut in Alpine & Herbaceous at Kew). This year will also be about educating myself re species differences and making decisions about my own trees as a result.

  7. Christina

    Dear Cathy, loved the info about walnut trees. We had one in our first garden here in America, which the locals called a ‘Black Walnut’ (I never bothered to identify it properly), and I remember that I had a hard time growing anything underneath. I always thought that it was due to an extensive and aggressive root system of the tree, but maybe it was the juglone that made it impossible for many plants to survive underneath this tree.
    Love your pale vanilla-yellow crocus. So dainty!
    It also always makes me happy to see the hellebores occurring on other blogs (I can’t grow them here). They have so beautiful blooms. Too bad that yours got beaten up by the elements this year quite a bit, they are still very pretty though. I think the idea to protect them with cloches is a really good one!
    Warm regards,

    1. Cathy Post author

      Your previous walnut was probably Juglans nigra, then – the worst for juglone. Good to be happy at seeing plants you can’t grow on other people’s blogs! I need to learn to do that, because I see something I crave every 10 mins (although it might not be good for me)! Looking forward seeing ‘everything coming up roses’ for you in 2015!

  8. Anna

    Fascinating to read about your walnut trees Cathy. I had no idea that they could cause problems for other plants in their vicinity. I have a ever present problem with squirrels. I imagine that voles wreak similar havoc.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s