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BillHunter's Garden

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A sad day

20 May 2013 23:50:46

My last day of being able to work I planted a woodland. It was to be a cherry and apple woodland which I hoped would eventually attract Waxwings to my garden with the apples. A couple of cultivated apples were to be included.

I sent away for 35 trees, 15 of of which were Malis sylvestris (crab Apple) and the rest a mixture of Prunus avium (Wild Cherry or Gean) and Prunus padus(Bird Cherry) all natives of Ireland. They were soon delivered and planting could be start. This took place at the begining of my disability and I spent some two weeks planting, many rests were called to keep me going. My in-laws arrived for a few days, my father-in-law is aways helpful, he loves gardening and I can't do any at all now.

He announced the day he arrived that he was going to tackle some strimming for me. A shiver ran down my spine! He tackled strimming before for me. He stripped the bark off at ground level. With the normal enthusium, he thought to himself that if he could just take care he could get a couple of inches closer, he reduced the revs and moved closer by an inch or two, then, Disaster! The disaster is actually caused by reducing the revs of the strimmer it is no longer actually cutting through the grass but just whackinng it, the ultime thing then happens, the grass gets caught by the strimmer cord and it all gets tugged forward. The bark is striped off completely by the strimmer cord. It strips it off around the trunk to a height of 2" or 3" of the trunk. The young tree dies. He did this with one tree.

A cup of tea and some very gentle talks took place. I said to him, you know it's a strange thing, but for many reasons one shouldn't assume they are being extra careful with a strimmer, it all goes wromg. It's always better to leave a margin around a young treeto be taken care of with hand shears or the like. He agreed whole-heartedly with me, even berating people who could dream of doing such.

He's a cantankerous person, If I'd aid, well make sure you don't strim any more trees, he would have come up with something about how lucky I should be that he does all these jobs for me etc etc etc. I culdn't deal with that, so I made a subtle conversation about why this and that happened and if you do it once, thou should learn from it for next, he agreed with everything I said.

Next day he was off with the strimmer. However, he had been gone 3 days when Rachel turned up and I was guiding her out of our drive to go home when I noticed leaves browning of the few I planred on the fenceline. I rusged over to check them but I knew exactly what I would find, yes, two of them stripped of bark. I went to my little woodland and found another 3 like it.

I don't know what to do now, apart from buy more which I can't afford to do. But one thing is sure, cantankerous or not, I will be telling him thye strimmer is now a life-long ban.

andyf7 andyf7 21 May 2013 00:03:50

Ouch!, thats most unfortunate Bill, Just from my point of view and the sake of family

harmony, i would spray around the trees well in advance and leave that dead circle

around it, No grass to strim :-), its a compromise, just a thought........

maureendid maureendid 21 May 2013 00:12:24

Thats hard to handle after all your work Bill but as Andy says a little bit of Roundup may save a lot of rows and wasted energy. I hope the remaining trees give you fruit and joy very soon.

Jacinta D Jacinta D 21 May 2013 06:09:03

I think I'd find a good hiding place for that strimmer, next time he comes round.

Jackie Jackie 21 May 2013 07:02:25

He may think he is doing good but.........I would go with Andy on this. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Rachel Rachel 21 May 2013 09:05:27

That's really terrible, Bill. It's a very hard situation to be in, having to rely on others for help. I wonder might a cordon, made of brightly coloured rope, around the area be helpful to keep the strimmer out? That would only work if the trees were close together. I feel your pain.

PeterM PeterM 21 May 2013 09:31:54

Sorry to hear about your trees Bill. I`d go with Andy`s idea but instead of using round-up use farmyard manure.  Around them as a mulch plus gives the tree nutrients and plus no one really wants to hit manure with a strimmer or you`d be covered in it. :) just an idea.

TerriShoos TerriShoos 21 May 2013 14:47:47

Oh that's so sad, and even sadder that you can't do the job yourself. Been there and it's heartbreaking. I like Peter's idea with the manure, but you'd have to get someone to put it there so much as I hate the stuff roundup is probably more do-able. Hope the others are all doing well. 

BillHunter BillHunter 21 May 2013 18:43:39

Time will tell, I found a peice of grafting wax in my shed so I've put that on. As much as I could. I think the farmyard manure may be the solution, the night before he arrives I will make sure it's very wet :-D I've plenty chicken manure.

Ah well, I've calmed down a bit, he isn't going to change so I just need to do something to prevent it. I tried a cordon with bright blue rope and tied 'Danger' tape at various lengths, he just reached in with the strimer :-) Looks like I'll just have to grin and laugh a lot when he hits the hen manure.

Thanks for all the helpful tips everyone.

Moya Moya 21 May 2013 23:20:44

Oh Bill, that is really hard - heartbreaking really. Glad you have got over the initial shock. I think I would ask someone to borrow the strimmer or have to tell him that it is broken. One way of keeping weeds down around young trees is to tramp them if you can get someone to do this - a group of children maybe?. Someone who planted a woodland told me that.

I hope you get it sorted for the future.

Johnplotman Johnplotman 28 May 2013 21:33:54

Sorry to read about your damage to the trees Bill.Strimmers can be a setback at times.Some time ago i helped a friend out with his veg garden,and from kindness done some strimming for me.Fine,until late that evening i was checking around as usual and the tunnel got a visit from it in places.

I'm back.

16 May 2013 15:04:10

Well it's been a while and I've got so much catching up to do. All these journals to read over the next few days.

I'm tempted to say that life has been cruel to me so far this year, but I remind myself that cruelty isn't a factor in how life plays out, it's all a part of what we need to go on, it's part of our learning process. It reminds me of a colleague a few years prior to coming to Ireland, Father Conn, I've been thinking about it a lot with all this freezing weather we are getting. I'm still getting frosts here, I'm sure many others are as well, but back to Father Conn. I walked into the staffroom one day and announced "God, this weather is bloody awful!" I forgot he would be on duty that day, very quietly he anounced, "God doesn't give us awful weather, he gives us the weather we need, what you make of it is up to you." Well I've ever since looked at bad weather in a different light, so freeze I must and wait to see what becomes of it all.

I don't think I've had heaters running in May, ever! especially in the cooler house. I've had a bountiful winter and early spring with orchid flowers but late spring and summer flowers are way behind. I may have to turn the heaters of regardless of how the weather plays out, Lesley is beginning to pay too much attention to the electric bill. Still, I'm hoping that it will be balanced out with next winter being a short heating season.

Rhynchostele cordata is in full bloom, the accompanying photo was taken several days ago prior to the last flowers opening. I'm especially pleased with this plant because it is the first time it has flowered, it has two spikes one with ten flowers and the other has nine. In orchid first-flowering-terms, that's pretty good.

We also have a tiny flower on Bulbophyllum acutum. I actually bought the plants in fro Thailand as Bulbophyllum membranaeceum, but it turns out to be a mis-labelled batch. It happens. The tiny flowers measure about 2mm across. I know, several of you will be asking, Why? What's the point? Well, it's down to conservation, they have as much right to survival as their bigger, more colorfull cousins. I try to encourage orchid growers to take in at least one miniature that way we can build up stock. So much deforestation is taking place, so much habitat being destroyed, we need to do a little bit each. Orchids are one of the youngest plant forms, they are still going through evolutionary changes, but more importantly, they have filled various niches, as regards pollination they have become species specific in their choice of pollinators, by offering scents that copy the scent of specific female insects they entice the male to their flower andso strong is the desire in the insect they carry out pollination going from flower to flower, plant to plant. Others offer pseudo-sexual promises by mimicking the shape and colour of various female insects. Other species actually make a real promise to insects and are evolving to offer food in return for pollination. One of the most famous is of course the orchid found by Charles Darwin in Madagascar. When study the species Angraecum sesquipedale he noted that the flower was only scented at night, he also noticed the spur, the part that holds the liquid nectar, was in excess of 36cm or 14" and that the nectar ws only in the bottom 1cm. He was then rediculed for claiming that the pollinating insect was a moth which would be found to have a tongue of at least 12" (30cm) in length. He was told it would be impossible for such an insect to operate such a tongue and still manage to get airborne. Several years after his death such a moth was discovered, sadly he didn't live long enough to see it himself, the moth was subsequently named Xanthopan morganii praedicta. The moral of the story, however, is that on an island which has a unique amount of flora and fauna found nowhere else the orchid and moth rely on each other for survival, and the same can be said about many species all over the world, if one is lost, so is the other but the chain doesn't just stop there. The moth has since been filmed and can be seen in action in this 4 minute youtube video http://bit.ly/12DLjCu

Finally, a gardeners friend who is very busy collecting outside my office windo, making  good job in particular of the leather jackets, a Dunnock, I seem to have more than usual.

Hope I haven't bored my readers too much.

andyf7 andyf7 16 May 2013 21:54:00

welcome back, you sure know your subject, have to say i fall short on that type of detail, im a bit of a chancer really, i have gotton away with it a long time. :-). i do like my wildlife. keep posting and i may learn a bit more :-).

PeterW PeterW 16 May 2013 22:16:57

you def don't bore me, it is very interesting reading your journals and your passion comes across in them. Well with the weather i think we need more sun and heat now. lovely shot of the bird

Rachel Rachel 16 May 2013 22:55:09

This May is unbelievably cold. I don't have frost now (touch wood) so don't send it this way. It's hard to imagine how many plants are going to manage to have a long enough growing season.

I heard that Darwin moth story before. What amazing self-belief the man had!

BillHunter BillHunter 17 May 2013 16:32:56

Thanks all.

I like to look at that little piece of video every now and then. I love that guys passion and excitement. I've seen a lot of his nature programmes and the torture he puts himself through to deliver his passion is only equalled by David Attenborough.

As a kid, Darwin was my hero, I often followed him around the World on the HMS Beagle :-)

In Fower

22 April 2013 00:32:39

A few plants are flowering at the moment, I've been out of action for a bit and haven't had a chance to bore you all for a while.

I just love this plant, it never fails to amaze me. It's found throughout Indo China and is one of the few cool growing species of this genus. It grows at 10c (50f in old money) and can take temperatures 2 or 3 degrees lower. Bright light with a couple of hours sunshine per day if possible. It's found in primary rain forest at altudes varying fro 400 metres to 1,300 metres, so you can see it will adapt to varing temperatures. It likes lots of water during the growing season reducing to daily sprays in the winter.

What I find astonishing about this plant is, it has a very powerful scent like vanila, as soon as the sunsets it switches on it's scent. You could go a check it any time of the night and the scen is still there, whin the sun rises, it switches the scent of and what was in the greenhouse seems to diminish very quickly. If you like scents, this is one to get.

TinaJ TinaJ 22 April 2013 07:39:24

I never knew there was cool growing vandas.It is very beautiful :)

Hoeys Hoeys 22 April 2013 10:45:59

oh wow.

Rachel Rachel 22 April 2013 16:12:29

I saw a cool growing Vanda one year in the Johnstown catalogue but they didn't have it. I love the soft yellow colour.

andyf7 andyf7 23 April 2013 00:22:04

it looks beautiful, you have a great knowledge of your subjects. 

BillHunter BillHunter 23 April 2013 00:53:37

HI Tina, there are two or three cool growing Vanda species and two three which are warmer but can be acclimatised down if done carefully. Thanks for the comments everyone.

Johnplotman Johnplotman 29 April 2013 21:32:42

Good luck with all your plans with them,Bill.A lovely scent.

A good greenhouse day.

22 April 2013 00:12:15

I love weather like this for working in the greenhouses. I had the door open as I worked and I could hear the little willow warblers singing their hearts out.I pair of bullfinches were playing tag.

Well, I got a few plants potted up, I also got some seed collected from an orchid hybrid and no, I'm not saying what the hybrid is :-) it took 1 year and 4 days for the pod to mature then there will be another 4 years waiting on the first flower. That's the point when I can register it with the RHS, not before.

I'm expecting good things from this plant, it should produce some lovely plants that will be ideal for the window sill. Of course, I'll be living on my nerves waiting to hear if the seed is going to be viable before it gets sown.

I thought I would share a little about the seed. I've posted photographs. In Victorian times you paid a pretty penny for a plant. Even in the Victorian time a plant may have cost you anything between £100 and £1,000 pounds, the reason was only a few plants survived the journey back to Europe. They didn't know how to sow seed to increase their stock, except for being able to remove a back bulb (a bulb on a plant that has flowered in earlier years), which still needed some two or three years to grow on.

It was a long time before mass production of plants would come in. several hybrids had been registered with the RHS and a few species grown from seed, they were begining to realise that the seeds need a fungas to help them germinate and grow. It is a microscopic fungus, it needs the orchid itself to survive so it's a two way street. Orchid seed is absolutely tiny, from the pod they can number anywhere between several thousand to 100,000 or even into the millions. Out in the rain forest perhaps only a few dozen will land someplace where there is a fungus waiting innoculate the seed. So, the gardeners then hit upon the idea of sowing the seed on the top of the parent plants compost and the symbiotic gungi may innoculate the seed. It worked to some degree, they could get at least a few seedlings. Orchid seed has no food storage, so it needs this symbionic relatship with the fungi, the fungi break down food for the seed to use and germinate, in return the fungi get a place to live in relative safety.

Nowadays we germinater our seed on agar under sterile conditions in a lab and in this way we can get thousands of plants from a seed pod. However, this an expensive method for the hobbyist, paying a lab a lot of money to germinate their seed for them and get 25 seedlings back, the lab often keeps the rest to grow on. Many hobbyists have managed to make a makeshift lab in their kitchens to cut out sending to professional labs.  So my seed is off to a friend and member of my forum who has made such a lab.

After working in the greenhouse I made my way back to the house and what did I see? Our first swallow! as well as that, in the far side hedge the first of my Chiffchaffs calling over and over.

I'm exhausted.

TinaJ TinaJ 22 April 2013 07:43:28

Another very interesting journal.

Best of luck with it

Looking forward to seeing the flowers in the near future

Hoeys Hoeys 22 April 2013 10:49:06

interesting to read and learn.

Pat Pat 22 April 2013 11:41:37

Very interesting.

Rachel Rachel 22 April 2013 16:15:20

Well, if growing orchids from seed were easy we'd eb all going it ;-)

andyf7 andyf7 23 April 2013 00:09:00

you seem to have it well planned, i hope it works out for you.

BillHunter BillHunter 23 April 2013 01:00:27

Thanks everyone. I suppose that's true, Rachel :-)

BillHunter BillHunter 23 April 2013 01:03:06

By the way, thats the point of a pin to give some idea of the seed size, but you probably worked that out anyway :-))

Echium wildpretii

09 April 2013 23:07:29

Well I've done some searches. Unfortunately the RHS don't have Echiums their "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families" although they do have an article on Echium pininana.

I'm not a terrific fan of Wikipedia but have had to use it today.

Both Wikipedia and the RHS do agree that Echiun pininana is a half hardy biennial or triannual and needs to be protected from frost.

Echium wildpretii is found in higher elevations and is endemic to Tenerife. E. wildpretii is subalpine and can withstand frost down to -6 but it is probably better to offer protection with horticultural floss or other material. The subspecies E. wildpretii ssp. trichosiphon found is alpine and can probably survive lower temperatures.

Echium pininana is found at lower levels and does best in coastal gardens in the south, with protection. It needs to be taken indoors in the winter. As there is a huge  diversity in genes the plant, through natural selection can produce seed that in turn produces plants less tender to cold and frost. The plants are planted out in the garden to flower (either the second year or third) and allowed to go to seed. You can collect the seed or let it fall to germinate itself and a more hardy plant results. Any seedlings can be left in situ and some can be sown in pots in the greenhouse - just in case...

In subsequent yours you should have quite hardy plants. It may be that E. wildpretii is caple of similarly producing hardier seed but I cand find anything affirming this. Once E. pininana seeds (up to 200,000) it is not unusual to find seedlings up to 100 per sq metre, many die due to the most vigirous and hardy seedlings choking them out in competition.

It's worth noting that they easily hybridise and if you have any other Echnia close to them the resulting seelings could well be hybrids.

BillHunter BillHunter 09 April 2013 23:12:42

I should have added that the information came from Wikipedia and The Robinson Garden at Earlscliffe, Baily, Co. Dublin

andyf7 andyf7 10 April 2013 00:19:15

thats a lot of research. 

TinaJ TinaJ 10 April 2013 07:16:32

That is very interesting

I am growing three types from seed this year

Rachel Rachel 10 April 2013 08:59:48

Thanks for all that, Bill. It makes sense that wildpretii stands a few more degrees of frost than pinanina. I would love to see wildpretii in flower on Mount Teide but the two times I went it was off season.

Want to know something ridiculous? Two plants of E. pinanina sprung up in my garden and yet I never had one go to seed! And no neighbours grow echiums.

I thought that all plants were capable of producing hardier seed in the way you have described. It would be nice. I've been trying to collect seed from a sturdy Lobelia tupa in the garden but the force is not strong with me :P

Conrad Conrad 10 April 2013 12:12:40

I think given that it grows on rocky mountain sides wildpretii is less keen on winter wet than pininana so can be difficult to overwinter for that reason, plus any freezes are likely to be short lived in it's habitat.
I'm watching the development Rachel's with interest......

BillHunter BillHunter 10 April 2013 17:16:45

The Robinson Gardens say that as a result of natural seeding, plants are well established in all parts of the garden at Earlscliffe and other gardens in the locality and on waste ground at Howth peninsula. The original seed was brought from Logan by Colonel David Price, he sowed the seed under glass at Kilmokea, Co. Wexford, it's likely that plants would have changed hands many times helping the spread. It's possible that seed may have reached your garden somehow.

Robinson Gardens have some very interesting information on this species. http://bit.ly/16O3c2r

Rachel Rachel 10 April 2013 17:33:32

Yes, very interesting link. Thanks, Bill.

damo19 damo19 10 April 2013 20:11:56

Great  journal i have not managed to get any echiums through the winter for the last 3 years. This year i plan to leave a few in pots and put them in the greenhouse over winter in the hope this will get them through. Like all gardeners i'm hopeing next year will be better.


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