Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tree Following: March

There is a spring in Nature’s step: the sun is like a daffodil in the sky (oh yes it is!) and the earth is fuzzing up with weeds. So what’s new with the ‘weed tree’ I’m following?

Well, annoyingly, I’ve chosen a tree whose leaves are all ‘up there’. I was too entranced by the exposed root system to really consider that there were no low-down branches on which I could observe bud burst. Such vernal activity is not going to have the details described in as much depth as I’ve read about in other tree-following posts. Hey ho.. With its multi stems and sparse side growth, this tree resembles a mature coppice tree, one whose cutting cycle has been abandoned so that the shoots have thickened into trunks. Sycamore is ideal for coppicing: the regrowth is rapid and can be harvested again after just eight years. The wood is superb for kitchen utensils as it has a fine grain which is easily cleaned, and it has no odour or toxins that might taint food. Over in Wales, it is favoured for lovespoons.


Snail trails on tree trunks. Look closely..

What a roundabout way of saying “I can’t really tell you what the buds are doing”! What I can tell you is that the molluscs are awake and roaming. There are snail trails heading straight up the trunks so far I had to crane my neck to look for their terminals, but there were no ends in sight. I’m guessing these are adventurous snails rather than slugs as I have a vague recollection of reading that snails will travel to greater heights. Whatever they are, they’ve investigated the Jelly Ear fungus.. See the slime silver?


Jelly Ear fungi with snail slime

There is more of the fungi on other parts of the tree which looks fresher..

I had a closer peek at the white-mouldy-looking fungus on the underside  of a sideways-leaning trunk. The colours are all 1970s wallpaper!


The weeds are becoming more identifiable – at just the leaf-seed stage, I didn’t recognise this as a Speedwell. I’ll have to wait until it flowers before I can figure out what Veronica it is..

IMG_0794As for Umbellifers.. they’re difficult even when they’re afroth with blossom! Puzzling through my new, super-dooper, more in-depth wildflower book, I’m having a wild guess that this is.. should I embarrass myself by saying? I’m surely wrong! Okay, Burnet Saxifrage.. I reserve the right to change my mind!


Unsurprisingly, there are sycamore seedlings sprouting from their ‘helicopters’. This one didn’t fly very far from the tree, having crash-landed in a crook between the stems..


Sycamore seedling

Something I didn’t notice last time was this fragment of glass embedded in the bark  – of course I tried to prise it out! It has the shape of a rose thorn..


Rose thorn piece of glass

If you haven’t arrived at this post via Loose and Leafy, and are interested in the minutiae of trees, go to the tree following page on said website, and you’ll find lots of us arboreal stalkers!

 Until next time…



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Save our UK National Parks!

Oak Trees Studio

First they tried to sell off our public forests, now the UK government are after encouraging the privatisation of our UK National Parks! Have you heard about this?

I don’t often post about my campaigning activities, but this one seemed too important to not share with you. Please help to save our UK National Parks! (I am actually so shocked, I can hardly believe I am writing that!)

The UK’s National Parks are renowned for their beautiful landscapes. The parks contain a lot of the very best scenery you can find in the UK. They are havens for some of our iconic wildlife and provide important habitat for many species.

Today, one of my regular campaigning groups, 38Degrees, have written to me to say:

“Our beautiful countryside is under threat. Government cuts are forcing huge land sell-offs in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.”

“National parks are looked after…

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Suffragettes Forever? An Opinion(ated) Piece

Today is International Women’s Day and I feel compelled to ask: are women gardeners valued as much as their male counterparts?

I have a particular reason for this question. I am a woman and a freelance gardener but my self-employed horticultural activities are recent. I’ve usually been employed by organisations. The last company I worked for acted, in the past lustrum, as if women aren’t worthy gardeners. Since the latest head gardener started (as second-in-command to begin with, then as manager) all members of gardening staff employed have been male. This included apprentices, maternity cover and supposedly qualified full-timers. The woman who took time off to have a baby didn’t return as a gardener and, by the time I left a year ago, I was the only woman on the team apart from office workers. Totting up the amount of new horticultural staff, including those who left after a short period of time, that’s twelve men in the space of five years!

When I raised the issue after five or six blokes had joined us, I was told “Oh, we wanted to balance up the team but the girls [who had applied for the apprenticeships] didn’t turn up for their second interview.” How interesting that this same excuse was wheeled out again in the past month. (I have a friend who still works there and he relayed this info to me.) Not long before I resigned, I asked why I was the only woman gardener there. The answer? “No woman applied” for the new position which had just been filled by yet another man. I piped up I found this very difficult to believe given that most of the students on my RHS courses were women. Of course, in the interest of open-mindedness, perhaps these excuses were genuine; I wasn’t part of the recruitment process, so what do I know? But surely these reasons weren’t applicable to every post. This company is supposedly an ‘equal opportunities’ employer, so where are the women gardeners? In the words of the Suffragettes of old: “Deeds not words!”

You may be wondering if I’m arguing for positive discrimination. Well.. I’m not sure. Part of me thinks if that’s what it takes to redress the balance, then yes! Another part of me counters that surely discrimination is wrong in whatever form. Maybe you think that the best people for the job should be, and were, recruited. Er.. not from my observation. My new colleagues were supposedly raising standards yet, for example,  I’d seen them prune with hedge-trimmers. And lately, an external expert had been brought in to teach the team how to prune! I would’ve thought that pruning is a basic skill required by qualified members of staff, and that the responsibility for teaching junior staff belonged to the Team Leader and two Senior Gardeners. Incidentally, these elevated roles didn’t even exist before the new manager, and hardly seems necessary when the remainder of the staff equals only seven. It all smacks of funny handshakes and an Old Boy’s Club mentality to me. Certainly not appropriate for the 21st century.

Since I’ve left that department, more gardeners have been taken on; all men. So I would say to any young woman who believes feminism isn’t relevant, think again! For all that changes, there are still engrained sexist attitudes out there, and the situation can quickly revert to ‘boys only’ under the pretense of ‘best person for the job’. I would be interested to hear the experiences of other women gardeners.



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Wordless Wednesday: Backlit



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