Set A grey alders released into the wild! (Operation Alder)

It’s been over three years since I planted the Set A grey alders as seeds, and in that time they’ve outgrown the garden where I’ve been keeping them in giant plant pots – the smallest (No. 2) is almost as tall as me; the tallest (No. 1) is a foot or so taller! Something had to be done before the 2010 growing season began – who knows how big they will be by the end of the summer – but what? How do you transport four man-sized trees, and where do you plant them if you don’t own a wood?

It turns out that the alders could just fit inside my car, and when they were taken out of their pots and most of the soil was removed from their roots they were light enough to carry reasonably comfortably. And I got around the whole not-owning-a-wood problem by hatching an audacious plan to plant them in the wilderness under the cover of darkness.

Introducing Operation Alder- a series of covert night missions carried out by a pair of crack treemandos!

Part One
Close to midnight on the first of April, the treemandos bundled grey alder No. 2 into my car and sped off towards their secret destination. Arriving in the pitch black, No. 2 was taken from the vehicle and hidden in a dip in the ground, behind a Scots pine. The treemandos returned home to collect No. 3 and dropped it off at the Scots pine next to No. 2.

Part Two
At the crack of dawn (or not long after), the treemandos were back to collect the two alders and carry them off on a back-breaking trek into the wilderness. Arriving at the pre-determined final destination, the alders were set down and digging implements were made ready. A hole was dug in a suitable spot and grey alder No. 3 was planted at around 0700 hours on the second of April (Day 1101). A second hole was dug close-by and grey alder No. 2 was planted at around 0730, a stone’s throw from its sibling. The planting was carried out under the cover of a fortuitous heavy fog.

Grey alder No. 3 in its new spot. Notice how there is no disturbance around the base? Thanks to careful soil-management and bracken-placement, you wouldn’t be able to tell from a glance that this tree had been planted only minutes previously. Those treemandos were pro-style.

Grey alder No. 2.

Part Three
A week and a half later, on the night of the thirteenth of April, the two alders remaining in the garden were transported to a different location. The treemandos then carried the two young trees, grey alders Nos. 1 and 4, on another arduous trek out into the wilderness in the dead of night. The trees were hidden in a wee dyke and the treemandos headed back to base.

Part Four
The treemandos returned to the trees late in the morning of the fourteenth of April (Day 1113) and collected them in daringly bold daytime mission. They carried the alders even further into the wilderness to another pre-determined destination. Upon arrival, a hole was dug and grey alder No. 4 was planted at 1315; a second hole was dug nearby and grey alder No. 1 was planted at 1340. The treemandos were successful in planting all four grey alders far from Man’s prying hands.

Grey alder No. 4

No. 4 was covered in tiny leaves!

Grey alder No. 1.

(I apologise for the lack of clarity and definition in the photos of the alders, but it isn’t easy to capture a small, leafless tree against a busy natural background!)

Now the alders have been released into the wild without mishap, I can breathe a big sigh of relief. They can now go mental expanding their roots and grow as big as they want. The only trouble may come from things that might want to eat them: voles, rabbits, hares, sheep, etc. There are a lot of browsing mammals out there and the treeblog alders are young, tasty and defenceless. Until they develop some nice thick bark and grow plenty of branches above the reach of grazers, they are very vulnerable. They have also got to adapt to their new physical environment.

Will they survive out there in the real world?

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