On Tuesday 16th May we were joined by Andrew Mikolajski. Andrew is a writer and lecturer who was an adviser on the new edition of the RHS A-Z Encylopedia of Garden Plants and the RHS Encylopedia of Plants and Flowers, he is also an RHS judge. There was a good turnout of members and visitors and we were treated to a really fascinating talk. Andrew began by asking “What is a tree?” He then proceeded to tell us about the evolution of trees and the way in which they adapted to life on land around 420 Million years ago. Andrew described the genetic diversity of trees and went on to list those trees to be cautious about for smallish gardens. The list included eucalyptus which, because nurseries tend to grow them from seeds rather that grafting on root stock, which is the norm, they will grow very tall unless pruned frequently. Andrew also included in the list Robinia pseudoacacia frisia as, being so brittle, strong winds will bring it down and Acacia dealbata – silver wattle as it is too cold for it in this part of the country …
Andrew then posed the question “When is a tree not a tree” the answer being when it is a hedge. A number of good hedging trees were mentioned including beech and hornbeam, European larch and Laurus Nobilis – the bay laurel. Good advice was given concerning hedging as wind breaks. Andrew went on to discuss trees for small gardens and for spring flowers he mentioned, among others, Prunus amanogawa, magnolia, hazel Corylua avellana, and Cornus kousa. I particularly liked his idea of a hawthorn called Paul’s scarlet which has carmine pink flowers. Trees for summer were listed including the Korean fir, the tulip tree, the Indian bean tree and my favourite tree Cornus controversa variegata – the wedding cake tree which I fell in love with when I saw it at Beth Chatto’s garden many years ago – I just wish my own garden was big enough for one. Trees for winter were described and, of course, this is where bark is featured heavily as in Acer griseum, Acer pensylvanicum, Prunus serrula and Betula utilis jacquemontii. The one I have in my garden is “Silver Shadow” and I cannot recommend it highly enough with its brilliant white bark which gets a wash every spring.
Special effects can be produced by coppicing, pollarding and cloud pruning and Andrew showed examples of each. He then went on to discuss planting and who knew that a “feathered maiden” was a single stem tree with side shoots. After the tree has been planted at the same depth as in the nursery leave these small lower branches on the tree as they will feed it and will be shed naturally after five years or so. It was interesting to hear how, in tree nurseries, the tree roots are undercut each year in the autumn so that the tree produces more fibrous roots and transplants well. The feeding roots are near the surface and the stabilising roots are further down.
Andrew concluded his talk by mentioning beneficial mycorrhizal fungi which will find tree roots and latch on to them. All trees are in communication with each other through their underground root systems and if one tree is in danger from pests or disease then the other trees will be aware of this and will reach out to support it. This was an extremely comprehensive talk and we all learnt loads including how to make our own mycorrhizal fungi from lawn plantains rather than buying it. Many thanks to Andrew for sharing his expertise with us in such a knowledgeable and interesting way.
We are a thriving, friendly gardening club who meet in Biddenham Village Hall at 7.30pm on the third Tuesday of every month except August. The meeting is open, not only to our members, but to anyone else who wishes to come along on an ad hoc basis for a charge of £5 per session. We always have an engaging speaker, a plant stall, a raffle, tea and cake and an opportunity to chat to other people who are interested in gardening. So whether you are new to gardens and gardening, are a seasoned gardener or just have an interest in plants and nature there will be something for you and a chance to meet with other people. On June 20th Russell Atwood will be advising us on how to attain “NO-DIG Gardening”. Do come along. We look forward to seeing you at 7.30 pm in the Village Hall where you will be made very welcome. If you wish to be added to our mailing list for information on forthcoming meetings please contact Linda Truscott on the number below.
New members and visitors are always welcome. For more information contact:
Linda Truscott on 01234 270747