144 posts in the category

The treeblog trees

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Set A treeblog seedling update (Day 196)

This is another retrospective seedling update: today is Day 202 for treeblog Set A, but the photographs in this post were taken last Wednesday (Day 196). I am grateful to my father, who has once again taken the photographs, since it is not possible for me to be the photographer from my present location in the Scottish capital. Do not be alarmed by the brick in the photos! It is merely there to improve the sharpness and detail of the seedlings by providing a contrasting background.

A long awaited photograph of cider gum No. 3, a.k.a. the Freak. Not only is this specimen all small and runty, it also has tiny, curled leaves and a few shoots branching off from the main stem. The big question: is it a freak for genetic or environmental reasons? Genotype vs phenotype.

Cider gum No. 14. Quite a nice little seedling. According to my father, it is marginally the best of the second wave of cider gums.

Cider gum No. 7. A little bit tall, this one.

Cider gum No. 9. “A fine upright specimen - possibly Top Gum” (dad joke).

Another long awaited photograph. Behold! It is grey alder No. 4 in all its glory! What an absolute, stonking beast!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A treeblog seedling update (Day 193)

The photographs in this post were taken on Sunday, or Set A Day 193. And what progress! My father took them (thankee) with an ancient 1.3 megapixel digital camera hailing from Christmas 2001, the legendary Fuji FinePix 1300. The old girl still has a use, it seems.

Check out grey alder No. 1! Although not a patch on its sibling, No. 4, it is the second biggest alder seedling and is making good progress. Look how healthy that leaf looks!

Grey alder No. 2: the runt of the bunch. Very small, but perfectly formed.

Grey alder No. 3: third by name, third by nature.

Alas! I hear that all photographs of grey alder No. 4 were really out of focus. As were the cider gum photographs, which is disappointing since the word on the street is that cider gum No. 3 is doing some pretty freakish things these days. But ne’ermind. I hope we’ll be seeing some new photos for another update soon.

The beautiful, beautiful alpha Scots pine. Feast your eyeballs upon all those needles! They are as numerous as Legion. (Apologies for the out-of-focusness…ness – same with the next one.)

The (as always) charming and delightful gamma Scots pine. My, how the little fella has grown! Hot on the heels of its elder sibling, this one.

And finally: behold the grand vista of all four grey alder seedlings (at the back) plus cider gum seedlings 1 through 11! Marvel at the towering behemoth that is grey alder No. 4! Astounding! Breathtaking! Feel the awe (so much awe, it’ll make you sore). Cider gum No. 3 can be seen just in front of the imposing alder No. 4.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A treeblog seedling update (Day 186)

As I have already mentioned, I am back in Edinburgh all winter for university. But, all the treeblog seedlings are home in Sheffield. Yesterday, my father kindly provided a sort of status report for all the seedlings. Yet there are no photographs for the time being since his camera was stolen on holiday! Please bear with us.

The Report

The grey alders:
1. 3.7 cm. Well proportioned. 6 leaves.
2. 1.8 cm. Very weak looking. 6 very tiny leaves.
3. 3.3 cm. Similar to No. 1. 9 leaves with a new pair ready to open
4. 11 cm. PRIZE specimen. Sturdy trunk, many leaves. 4 actual branches with growing tips.

The cider gums:
1. 6.5 cm. Well established, but spindly. 6 leaf pairs, 2 new ones.
2. 7.5 cm. Spindly. 10 leaf pairs.
3. 4 cm. Strange specimen. Extra spindly, very small leaves & 2 branches – needs photo.
4. 7 cm. 5 leaves, but only in top 2 cm.
5. 8.5 cm. 8 leaves in pairs – all in top half.
6. 3.3 cm. Very sickly specimen – 8 leaves.
7. 10.5 cm. Very healthy. 14 leaves.
8. 8.5 cm. Spindly but healthy – 10 leaves.
9. 11.5 cm. Healthy. 10 leaves.
10. 10.5 cm. Healthy. 12 leaves.
11. 6.5 cm. Spindly but healthy. 8 leaves.
12. 9.5 cm. Very spindly. 12 leaves.
13. Spindly & over-tall. 8 leaves.
14. 9.5 cm. Very spindly. 8 leaves.
15. 3 cm. Small but healthy. 6 leaves.

The Scots pines:
Alpha: 5.5 cm to top of needles – looks well.
Gamma: 4 cm – very thin stem, but looks fine.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 154)

Today is actually Day 166 for treeblog Set A, so this seedling update is 12 days late. Day 154 was Wednesday the 29th of August and the very next day, (with a tear in my eye) I left the treeblog seedlings behind and travelled up to Scotland. I will not see them again in person until nearly Christmas; until then, my father will act as caretaker.

So... grey alder Number 4 has grown tremendously! I was very impressed when I returned from Italy to find such a fine level of growth. It is now the largest of all the seedlings by quite a margin. Unfortunately, the other 3 alders aren't doing quite so well.

Grey alder Number 4 - you beauty!

For the Scots pines, I have nothing but praise! Old Alpha is looking vital and vigorous, and is recovering well from its lean... and Gamma is coming on in leaps and bounds!

Scots pine Alpha.

Scots pine Gamma.

The majority of the cider gums are also doing well and growing faster than ever. In my opinion, they are growing upwards too quickly without sending out any lateral growth, and I am worried that they may end up rather spindly. But! The sickly looking cider gums are sending out plenty of lateral growth! And as of Day 154, all 15 of the cider gums were still alive and kicking.

Cider gum Number 5 - an example of a fast grower.

Cider gum Number 3 - a sickly one (note the lateral branching).

Posted in The treeblog trees

Sweet chestnut - waiting for the nuts

Thinking ahead to next years' set of treeblog seedlings (Set B), I have already been out and collected two lots of seeds. Another species I want to grow for treeblog is the sweet (or Spanish) chestnut, Castanea sativa. My Collins Field Guide Trees of Britain & Northern Europe [2nd Ed.], by Alan Mitchell (1978, HarperCollinsPublishers) has this to say on the sweet chestnut's flowers and fruit:

Axillary bunches of cord-like catkins at end of June open whitish-yellow, 25-32 cm long, crowded with small male flowers each a mass of stamens, turn brown and fall in mid-July. Female flowers sometimes on small, separate spreading catkin, 5-6 cm long, 5-6 flowers; usually 1-2 at base of short, 10-12 cm catkin of unopened, yellowish rudimentary female or rarely male flowers, near tip of shoot. Female flower a 1 cm rosette of bright green, minutely hairy spines with a bunch of spreading, slender white styles. Fruit in bunches of 2-3, in light yellow-green 3 x 4 cm husk covered in sharp spines 1.5 cm long, radiating in clusters; interior white with silky, appressed hairs. Usually two nuts: one globose, the other smaller, concave; dark, shiny red-brown, narrowing to a tip bearing dead styles.

There is a huge, old sweet chestnut quite local to where I live, and it is the offspring of this tree that I wish to raise. I visited the tree on the 7th of July, earlier this year. However, the 'cord-like catkins' were not yet in flower.

cord-like male catkins on the sweet chestnut

Cord-like male catkins on the sweet chestnut (7th July 2007).

close-up of male catkins - not yet in bloom

Close-up of the male catkins (not yet in bloom) (7th July 2007).

I visitied the sweet chestnut again a few days ago on the 8th of August, but was disappointed to find that the nuts were not yet ready for harvesting. In fact, the tree was still in flower, despite my Field Guide stating that the male flower-supporting catkins "turn brown and fall in mid-July". Perhaps the unusually wet weather this summer has affected the tree's phenology. treeblog will have to wait a little longer to get hold of some sweet chesntuts.

cord-like male catkins in bloom on the sweet chestnut

Cord-like male catkins in bloom on the sweet chestnut (9th August 2007).

close-up of male catkins in bloom, with female flowers (spiny) in foreground

Close-up of male catkins in bloom, with spiny female flowers in the foreground (9th August 2007).

Posted in The treeblog trees

Cider gum seedling review

Today is the 130th day since Set A was planted. There are currently 15 cider gum seedlings in the treeblog stables, with no deaths since the seedlings were first transplanted from the seed trays (before which there were many fatalities, probably due to slugs). The image below shows all the cider gum seedlings, Numbers 1 to 15, in numerical order from left to right.

cider gum seedlings, Numbers 1 to 15

Of the original 3 seedlings to be transferred out of the seed tray on the 5th of June (Day 69), Numbers 1 and 2 are doing very well. Unfortunately, Number 3 looks rather unhealthy. Its growth is stunted and its leaves are shrivelled; I don't know what is ailing it, but that seedling doesn't look good.

Of the second wave of cider gum seedlings (Numbers 4 to 9) which were moved into individual pots on the 23rd of June (Day 87), all are thriving with the exception of Number 6. Like Number 3, it is stunted and has tiny, underdeveloped leaves.

Of the third wave of cider gum seedlings (Numbers 10 to 15) which were transplanted out of the seed tray on the 9th of July (Day 103), again all are thriving (although Number 11 looks to have a bit of a lean going on)... with the exception of Number 15. Number 15 was tiny when it was moved into an individual pot, and I expressed my doubts then that it would ever live long. But it is still alive and kicking almost 4 weeks later, albeit without any real growth. It is still tiny, and compared with the other cider gum seedlings is really miniscule. Surprisingly, given its excessively diminutive stature, cider gum Number 15 has already sprouted its first pair of 'proper' leaves!

The image below shows the three weedy seedlings singled out above (Numbers 3, 6 and 15).

weedy cider gum seedlings; Numbers 3, 6 and 15

What does the future hold for treeblog's cider gums? Who knows? But I hope that all 15 continue to grow and survive the winter, and that the 3 sickly seedlings improve in health.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 122/124)

treeblog has returned from its hiatus. In other words, I arrived back home this weekend from a sunkissed couple of weeks in Turkey. Upon reacquainting myself with the treeblog seedlings, I was impressed by how much some of them had grown over the last fortnight, particularly the Alpha Scots pine, grey alder Number 4, and several of the cider gums. I was also met with a happy surprise; an optimistic check of the apparently defunct seed trays revealed a shiny new Scots pine seedling! This bumps up the total number of germinated Scots pine seedlings to three (although Number 2 (Beta) is dead, suspected of having been wolfed down by a stinking slug). Three seedlings from a whole packet of seeds: disappointing (see how many seeds were originally in the packet).

Grey alder Number 4 on Saturday (Day 122).

I transplanted the new Scots pine seedling into a pot on Monday, and whilst I was at it I repotted the Alpha Scots pine in new soil as well, as concerns have been raised that the soil it was in was too constrictive. Alpha Scots pine had also leaned right over, so I was able to correct that. Both pines were replanted in a soil mix containing a bit of garden topsoil, a bit of compost, and some soil and leaf litter from an actual Scots pine wood. So far, they seem to have taken to it like ducks to water.

Alpha Scots pine in new soil on Monday (Day 124).

Gamma Scots pine in new soil (Day 124).

The Alpha and Gamma (inset) Scots pines in their entirety (to scale) (Day 124).

Coming soon: a review of the cider gum seedlings!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Cider gum third wave

A mere 16 days after transplanting the second wave of cider gum seedlings from seed tray to individual pots, a third wave has made the transition. I spent some time yesterday transplanting all six of the newest seedlings, including the "runtish" plant which was left out of the second wave. That particular individual (cider gum Number 10) no longer looks sickly, but has its first set of proper leaves on the go. Cider gum Number 15 is the smallest of the new wave by far, and perhaps should have stayed in the seed tray a bit longer before I disturbed it. Its future doesn't look bright.

new arrivals: the third wave of cider gum seedlings (photo taken yesterday)

From left to right, cider gums Nos. 10 to 15.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 95)

First of all I bring good news: there is a third wave of cider gums. Including the 'runt' of the second wave (not transplanted into an individual pot), there are now five cider gum seedlings in the seed tray awaiting transplantation! There seems to be a new one popping up on an almost daily basis.

And in the bad news department... Remember the root of the slug-eaten beta Scots pine and the grey alder seed which had a root but no above-ground parts (Number 5)? Well, I had a rummage in their respective pots yesterday and no signs of life could be found. Therefore I pronounce them missing, presumed dead.

Those still with us are doing remarkably well considering that they are growing in perpetually wet soil. The Scots pine continues to plod steadily onwards, as do the leading grey alders. The most advanced cider gums (Numbers 1 and 2) are doing rather nicely, and a half of the second wave of cider gums already have their first 'real' pair of leaves in development.

Photos taken yesterday (Day 95).

The alpha Scots pine seedling.

Grey alder No. 4.

Cider gum No. 9 (of the ‘second wave’).

Cider gum No. 1 (left) and cider gum No. 2 (right).

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog hit by floods!

There has been no internet access at treeblog HQ since Monday (hence the lack of updates), due to what is likely to be known henceforth as the Great Flood of 2007. In the treeblog post on Monday the 18th of June, I wrote that "the worst of the weather now seems to be behind us..." Oh, how wrong I was! It seems to have hardly stopped raining this month, but last Monday (the 25th) was stupendously rainy. Our road was turned into a virtual river, with huge gashes carved in the tarmac, over a foot deep in places. But across much of the North of England, especially around Sheffield, the damage has been much worse. I'm sure anyone in Britain will know all about this, but for you abroad who may not have heard anything, it was bad. I will post some extraordinary flood pictures in a couple of days.

The treeblog trees have come through more or less unscathed. I fashioned a makeshift cover to keep them dry after they were literally swimming in rainwater by Monday afternoon. One of the poor cider gum seedlings had keeled over and was stuck, submerged, to the soil. I righted it as best I could and it appears to have recovered somewhat. More details forthcoming in the near future!

Word on the street: A third wave of cider gum seedlings!?

Posted in The treeblog trees

Cider gum resurgence: a second wave

This last week has seen more rain, rain, and even more rain. The treeblog seedlings have been continuously sitting in pretty wet soil for quite a while now. Yet so far they don't appear to be suffering from any adverse effects, thankfully. Even though I moved the seedlings out of their seed trays and into individual pots a while ago, I retained the seed trays in the hope of further germinations. This week, my optimism has been rewarded! A further seven cider gum seeds have germinated, although no more Scots pine or treeblog surprise have surfaced.

Yesterday I transfered six of the new cider gums into individual pots, and they joined the rest of the gang. The seventh new cider gum I left in the seed tray because of its sickly and runtish form. Harsh? Perhaps.

Anyway, take a look at the root development on these new additions to the treeblog stable. From left to right, we have cider gums Nos. 4 to 9:

new arrivals: the second wave of cider gum seedlings

the full treeblog complement

The treeblog trees (new cider gums on the right).

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 81)

Good news! All seedlings that made the transition into the new pots are still alive and well, with the possible exceptions of the beta Scots pine's root (unknown condition) and grey alder 5 (condition also unknown). The recent weather has been awful here. According to the newspaper, South Yorkshire had a whole month of rain in just two days! We've seen some local flooding and plenty of springs popping up all over the place. These generally find a road or lane to follow, and have caused quite a bit of damage to the road surface in places. All of this precipitation has left the treeblog seedlings in quite waterlogged soil, but the worst of the weather now seems to be behind us and the soil is returning to its non-saturated natural state.

Photos taken yesterday (Day 81).

The Alpha Scots pine seedling is looking strong and healthy. Its second rosette is coming on apace, and it has become an important support for a small spiderweb.

The grey alders are likewise doing well for themselves. The most advanced seedling, Number 4, has fleshed out a second proper leaf in the past week, and looks set to produce a few more!

The good news continues! The leading cider gums, Numbers 1 and 2, are both in the middle of squirting out their second pair of proper leaves. Cider gum 1 is taller than cider gum 2, although its stem does not look quite so sturdy, I'm afraid.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Grey alder No. 4: most advanced seedling

The grey alders are vying with the lonely Scots pine for seedling supremacy! After not a lot of growth-excitement, the alders seem to be finally going for it! The current champion is grey alder Number 4, with one lovely new leaf being quickly followed by another.

Grey alder No. 4 photographed yesterday (Day 74).

In light of this competition, the Scots pine is now building up for a second rosette of needlings! Photos coming soon!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedlings annihilated (Day 69)

I come bearing bad tidings. After returning from a camping trip in the Lake District, I was shocked to discover that the treeblog seedlings have been reduced to a pitiful number. I think it must be the damn slugs. So some changes have been made. All surviving seedlings were carefully transplanted from the seed trays into individual pots yesterday. The seedlings should benefit from deeper soil, and a slightly different soil mix (half compost / half garden topsoil, as opposed to 100% compost). And drastic times call for drastic measures. Up until now I have not used slug pellets, but a liberal application is now laid down. The survivors must be protected at all costs!

Photos taken yesterday (Day 69).

In a horrific turn of events, the beta Scots pine seedling was devoured (by a hungry slug?) sometime during Monday night. After recovering from this hefty blow to treeblog morale, I transplanted the remaining root into the new pots but I am doubtful it can make a recovery. Therefore, out of the entire packet of Scots pine seeds that I planted 70 days ago, only two ever germinated and only one is still with us.

The cider gum seedlings have similarly suffered from bad fortune. Only three now remain. When I was transplanting these from the seed tray, I noticed little bits of half-devoured cider gum stems and leaves all over the shop. Bloody slugs.

The grey alder seedlings have also seen a decline in numbers. But four seedlings have survived (plus a recently germinated seed). The first proper pair of leaves are developing nicely in a couple of the seedlings. (The fourth seedling from the left in the photo is a weed that got in there by mistake).

The new set-up. Top row, left to right: Beta Scots pine; alder No. 1; alder No. 2. Middle row, l to r: alder No. 3; alder No. 4; alder No. 5 (seed). Bottom row, l to r: cider gum No. 1; cider gum No. 2; cider gum No. 3. The Alpha Scots pine is in a separate, larger round pot.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 62)

Better news than the last treeblog seedling update! Even though only two have germinated so far, the Scots pines are powering along. Both seedlings are looking strong and healthy, and the beta seedling is doing a good job of catching up with the alpha.

The alpha seedling is on the left, the beta seedling is on the right (photographed yesterday (Day 62) - not to scale).

And after what seems like an eternity with no change in the germinated cider gum and grey alder seedlings, they now appear to be on the verge of a growth spurt. A few of both the cider gums and the alders are now developing their first pair of real leaves. The grey alders are also looking sturdier than they were last week.

Two typical cider gum seedlings.

Two typical grey alder seedlings. Are those red twiddly things on the left seedling new leaves?

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 55)

Bad news: The cider gum and grey alder seedlings seem to be in arrested development. I think it might be worth trying a different sort of soil. Only two Scots pines have germinated.

Good news: One of the Scots pines is looking nice and strong. It is definitely the pick of the treeblog crop:

The most advanced treeblog seedling yet (photographed yesterday).

The Scots pine seed tray. The alpha seedling is circled.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 47)

Well, today is actually Day 49, but my photos are from Day 47 - Monday. So it is now seven weeks since Set A was planted. In the cider gum and grey alder trays, there are quite a few seedlings (roughly twenty in each), but these are still very small; somewhere in the order of a few millimetres to a centimetre or two. There is now a definite Scots pine seedling (and possibly a second), but this is also very small. Just about a centimetre. I predict that by this time next week, we should be seeing further Scots pine emergence and hopefully an increase in the size of the other seedlings. Compared with a sycamore seedling of similar age, the cider gums and surprises are tiny... but then again, sycamores do produce much larger seeds, and hence probably contain larger initial food reserves.

The last week has seen almost continual rainfall. An unusually high amount of rainfall. Yesterday's paper reported that some places in the UK had received half of May's expected rainfall in just 24 hours! We have also seen very heavy rain, which thankfully hasn't appeared to damage the treeblog seedlings. Nevertheless, the soil in the seed trays is pretty waterlogged. I hope that this won't cause the base of the seedlings to rot. That would be a shame.

A typical grey alder seedling.

A typical cider gum seedling.

The Scots pine alpha seedling.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog seedling update (Day 40)

It is Day 40. A whole forty days since Set A was planted. Almost 6 weeks. Seedlings have grown, but progress is disappointing. There are a fair few grey alder seedlings (I apologise for a lack of precise figures). Unfortunately, these do not appear to have made any progress in the week or so since the last update. Neither have the cider gum seedlings. In fact, the number of cider gum seedlings has apparently declined! This is a bit of a mystery; the seedlings are missing, and so presumably haven't just shrivelled up, and yet there is no sign of anything that may have eaten them. If they are being eaten, it must be a pest small enough to get through the wire mesh that protects them at night. And there is no sign of any slug or snail trails. And on the Scots pine front... well, there aren't any Scots pine seedlings (yet). Bah.

The photos below were taken on Saturday morning (Day 38).

The grey alder tray. Lots of seedlings - a pity they are so small.

A grey alder seedling.

Cider gum seedlings. Where are they vanishing to?

A cider gum seedling.

No sign of any Scots pine here...

...or is there?

Posted in The treeblog trees

First treeblog seedlings appear!

Important progress! A number of treeblog seeds have germinated! Over the past couple of days, tiny seedlings have emerged from the soil. No Scots pine have yet made an appearance, but as of yesterday (Day 31) 9 cider gum and 4 grey alders have been noted. At least I hope that they are trees; it may be that some or all of the seedlings turn out to be weeds. Unfortunately I am currently in the Scottish capital and so have been unable to witness firsthand the emergence of the first treeblog trees. Therefore all information and photographs at present are courtesy of my father (also an A. Peace).

One of the cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) seedlings (Day 30).

One of the grey alder seedlings (Day 30).

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog's inaugural plantage! (Set A) Day 0

The long awaited day has finally arrived. treeblog has its first seeds in the soil! This initial set is comprised of 3 lots of seeds: a packet of Scots pine seeds, a packet of cider gum seeds, and a group of mystery seeds. Each species was planted in a special tree soil in individual trays. I tried to keep the pattern of seeds in each tray as uniform as possible, but only time will tell how that works out. The cider gum seeds were laid on top of the soil, as per the instructions on the packet. After plantage, I watered the trays and placed them in the garden. The cider gums get a clear plastic lid in a feeble attempt to bump up their humidity.

the Scots pine seeds

The Scots pine seeds prior to plantage.

the cider gum seeds

The cider gum seeds.

the seed trays. left to right: cider gum; Scots pine; mystery seeds

treeblog Set A. From left to right: cider gum; Scots pine; mystery seeds.

The first person out there who correctly identifies the species to which the mystery seeds belong will get something special. Oh yes! [Update (August 2008): The 'mystery trees' or 'treeblog surprises' are actually grey alders (Alnus incana).]

...treeblog Day 0... How long until the first seedlings rear their tiny heads? Will all three species have successful germinations? Will the seedlings get devoured by slugs? Check back soon!

Posted in The treeblog trees

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