Category Archives: Tree Following

Tree Following and other good things last week

June borders & poppies 002 So here it is, in all its June splendour. Just (finally) coming into leaf. Our little walnut (species unknown). I became wildly enthusiastic about Lucy’s Tree Following at ‘Loose and Leafy’ in November last year and decided to follow this little tree in our garden. (I often experience these enthusiasms, then promptly lose the plot).

My first post is here, at my old blog on Weebly. It looked quite angelic standing in the midst of the clothes it had just dropped (although it seemed to take me a couple of month’s of blogging about it to twig that Lucy calls her meme ‘tree following’, not ‘tree watching’ – maybe that was the root of my ‘follow-through’ problem?).

My mission was clear: we have five walnuts in the garden. Two mature and three small. I wanted to determine their species, but the clues were confusing. One,  probably two, small trees are for the chop in the near future. Sadly, I think the little walnut I am following may be one of the two. I’m thinking to replace it with a red oak, Quercus rubra, I bought last winter, heeled in in a nursery bed at the moment.

It seems a little sad, but five walnuts is too many for a half-acre garden. And I prefer its sister walnut (below) for the multi-stems – more interesting? June borders & poppies 004 As you can see the second youngster is only just (on 10 June) coming into leaf. Each year since we moved here in September 2011 we have imagined it dead. But it just teases …

I abandoned blogging about the walnuts back in February, when I realised that they were going to be looking boringly similar for months on end (even to my eye – and they are my walnuts).

Now I’m back. Although there’s a problem. My mission was to positively identify the species of all five and I even found a walnut key on, which I posted as a link in my February post. However I forgot that there would be lots of nettles around the mature trees at this time of year. I have to get my trousers on first thing in the morning and wade down to do the ids and take the pictures. So far I’ve been just too busy (or lazy) for words. And it’s a long way back up to the house to don the trousers when it dawns on you what you’ve got to do!

So now it seems that the plot will thicken for another month – and the leaf ident will be left for my July post, when I’ll also share Nick’s pickled walnut recipe.

Below is my favourite tree of all the five walnuts. I love it’s shape, the mysterious patterns the branches make in the dappled light down by the river, and rusty greens of the emerging leaves.

Sitting and ‘following’ it with a bottle of water when it’s hot has been a real joy. Nick insists that this is Juglans nigra, but the shape seems wrong to me, more like Juglans regia. June borders & poppies 090 June borders & poppies 096 All (hopefully) will be revealed next month!

On the day when I should have been rushing back to the house for the trousers, Ella and I were planting geraniums around the young shrubs in the Hornbeam Gardens. It was hot – we rested in the shade briefly and she did a lot of panting. Unusual in a cat – but then she’s rather a terrier-like cat. June borders & poppies 102 Now I’m faced with endlessly watering them in the heat we’ve been experiencing. Sometimes I regret saying better the ground than a pot … On that particularly day it was the elders in garden that were really catching my attention. During the winter I planted a lovely cultivar called ‘Black Lace’ in the same border that the geraniums have just gone into. I hope that one day it looks as lovely as the mature shrubs here. June borders & poppies 036 Did you know that elder is said to keep away the devil? At the moment I’m just dreaming of making elderflower champagne, wine, or a cordial. There’s never enough time. But here is a link to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for what looks like a very nice cordial. June borders & poppies 032 Finally – perhaps you can help with another mystery? Below is a picture of a wonderful flower that a friend gave me. I now laughingly call it the ‘not’ hemerocallis – because it’s not, is it dear friend and gardener? Personally, I think it is Hemerocallis citrina. Known as ‘Long Yellow Day Lily’ and apparently cultivated in Asian for its edible flowers. Can you end our discussion? Just wondering … June borders & poppies 085 Now do pop over to Lucy's Loose & Leafy Tree Following and have a look at the trees everyone else is following.

Tree following in February


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When I woke up yesterday morning, having wandered about on the riverbank taking pictures of our walnuts on Friday afternoon, I felt quite sure that the two young trees (around which we have been so lovingly mowing circles for two years) were for the chop. In the picture above you can see the two youngsters in their little circles, with the two mother trees by the riverbank, but still inside the garden boundary.

It just felt right to add something that would give me more joy than these do (and I bought a small red oak, Quercus rubra, in November). I’m quite bothered by the effect of the juglone-exuding roots on other (eventual) plantings in their vicinity.

But then I started looking at the mature trees more closely and realised that they both had ivy growing up them. Now, contrary to popular belief, ivy does not kill trees – what it does is take them over and eventually bring them down when they are in the last years of their life. That ivy is a warning – a bit like the wrinkles on my face.

And we do want some walnuts (Nick’s dream of making walnut oil may always just be a dream, but I make nut loaves and add nuts to quite a lot of the vegetarian food I prepare). If we leave the young trees they will be there, waiting in the wings, to take over when the old trees topple.  So I think the jury’s still out. And ‘my’ tree’s branches do make rather pretty patterns against the village church.

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For a bit of a change, I thought I’d go and look at the trees from the riverbank.
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This picture is looking back up at the house and the Châtillon skyline through our rickety old garden gate.
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The tree above is the supposed ‘mother’ of the tree I’m watching. It has less ivy encroaching than the other – but it’s still there. This is the tree I am imagining is the American native, Juglans nigra, because that species exudes the most juglone and the ground under the tree is much more bare than it is under the other.Tree Following February 129

Juglans nigra, or Black Walnut, has smaller green husks than the common or English Walnut (Juglans regia).  The nut itself has a much harder casing, and the flavour is described as stronger, ‘earthier’. They also stain your hands more than those of English Walnut. Walnuts have divided (pinnate) leaves and Black Walnut has more pairs of leaflets than English Walnut. The leaflets are more lance-shaped, narrower, and much more pointed at the tips. English Walnut has leaves which, although still pointed, are more rounded at the tips.

Unfortunately I’ve a long while to wait to compare their leaves – until mid to late May. Today I discovered an excellent key to walnut species on I think I’ll be referring to it many times over the course of the year.

Croqueurs 042This is the tree I am imagining to be the English Walnut or common walnut (Juglans regia). It was introduced by John Tradescant to Britain before 1656 and is the preferred walnut for culinary purposes, with a milder flavour than the Black Walnut (although the black species does seems to have its aficionados, as I gathered during a hasty internet trawl). Juglans regia has a great natural ability to produce variable offspring. It seems that British monasteries were probably the first to recognise and make use of this variability in searching for trees with the best quality of fruit. Dutch arboriculturists and nurserymen continue the search.

I’m starting to wonder, in fact, if we just have five different variations of Juglans regia in the garden – which might explain why they come into leaf at different times. Apparently cultivars were selected for frost-resistance (as well as quality of nuts), a problem in cultivated walnut. I’m imagining now that our ‘late-leafer’ baby has been damaged by frost as the foliage emerges – not that it actually comes into leaf so much later. Given that walnuts are so highly prized in France, it seems likely that the two old trees were actually planted at the edge of the garden where they would interfere least, but still supply the desirable nuts. I’ve been assuming that the babies are just that … so will be showing the normal natural variations.

But hang on a minute – someone’s thrown a spanner in the works. I read very clearly in David More and John White’s Trees of Britain and Northern Europe that: ‘this is a tree for warm, dryish soils; it hates cold, wet clays. So what on earth have we got here in a part of the garden that is usually flooded (albeit briefly) at least once a year? And on our heavy clay soil?

The riddle of our walnuts is becoming more complicated. Only my Tree Following this year has a chance to sort it.

Tree Following February 022Meanwhile I stumbled about over winter-fallen wood on the riverbank, with my small furry friend, and noticed that we had a bit of clearing up to do.



Tree Following February 041The stones in the middle of the little river Apance are the remnants of the pedestrian bridge that walkers (myself included) and fishermen use to access the woods opposite. The walking stones were dragged away by the strong current during winter storms last year. No one can cross over to enjoy the woodland any more. Hopefully the village will repair it soon. Tree Following February 037
Looking back up from the river bank to the village silhouetted up above.
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It was the kind of afternoon you really treasure in February – I think the temperature was up to 8 degrees C. As you can imagine, most of the other trees down here are willow. We enjoy the shapes that all of them make – especially when the river floods and they stand up to their knees in water.

I’m glad that Nick strimmed ‘our’ bit of bank last year, although there’s a fair bit of fallen wood on the ground now. We dragged our deck chairs down and enjoyed a glass of wine among the nettles one fine evening last August. It’s not our land, it belongs to the village, but we’d like to start looking after it properly and make more of it – it’s lovely and soggy down here, and we have such a dry garden!

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This is my contribution to the Tree Following meme that Lucy Corrander hosts at Loose and Leafy. Her posting this month is, as usual, packed with great shots (particularly of Weymouth and ‘cats’ of the unfurry kind). This is what happens when you enjoy going off piste! I need to learn …
Here are the links to the other Tree Following posts on her site, which you’ll really enjoy if trees are what ‘floats your boat’ (I think I spent too long looking at Lucy’s pictures of Weymouth!).

Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow(ish) with news of my exploits at the Croqueurs de Pommes scion market today. Meanwhile, from my walnut trees and I, have a special evening …

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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

Lucy’s Tree Following

Tree-watching December 098 This is the young walnut I’m watching for Lucy’s Tree Following at Loose & Leafy. Profiled against the backdrop of Châtillon-sur-Saône, it looks much bigger than it actually is! Tree Following is supposed to happen on the 7th of each month, so I’m very, very late. However I started in November at my old website, and I really didn’t really want to let it drop. If you are interested, click here and see the first in my series of walnut pictures. I will carry on watching my two small walnuts (and the two large parents) throughout 2015. According to Lucy, I then have to choose another tree to watch. Oh, it’s all very complicated …

Between that posting and now, I’ve had to buy a new camera. Incredibly, Lucy’s Tree Following has influenced my choice at quite a profound level. I did the usual (amazingly time-consuming) research about what camera to buy on a limited budget. And I tried to ask myself continually: what do I want to do with the camera? Lucy’s Tree Following provided me with some of the answers.

I had absolutely no money for a decent camera, but I was in love with close-ups. I wanted (kind of sadly) to take pictures of lichens and mosses … duh… I hope if you are reading this you understand my motivation. Lucy certainly does! In the end, after much agonising, I bought a Canon PowerShot SX510. I found it hard that none of my garden blogging friends had bothered to say what kind of camera they used, which is why I’m taking the time to write about my choice. For someone on a very tight budget it seemed the only option. Or do you know otherwise?

So here is my first Tree Following on my new blog. Much too late. Look out for stuff that’s actually about my walnuts in January! Tree-watching December 065 This is my walnut in the hard light of 8 December. Yes, I did take the pictures way back when I was supposed to, although I had no time to do anything with them at that stage – and, actually, no idea how to use the new camera!Tree-watching December 123 Tree-watching December 072

There’s a lot of moss growing on it! Is this ok? Lichens I can handle, particularly as they are a sign of lovely clean air. Moss, now that’s another thing … Tell me I’m wrong? Tree-watching December 111 Christmas greetings from my walnut … which is providing us with stuffing for the bird at Christmas!