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Set A update: grey alders (January 2015)

Grey alder No. 3 on the 5th of January 2015.

It’s now been just over a year since I last wrote an update on the Treeblog trees. That post reported on a visit my father and I made to the grey alders on the 28th of December 2013. The next time either of us saw the alders was a year later on the 5th of January 2015 (Set A Day 2,840) – nearly eight years since I planted them as seeds with my own hands. This post has the photos and measurements we took on that most recent visit, plus three tables and two graphs which gather together for the first time ever all of the height and stem circumference data we’ve recorded over the years.

The photo above shows grey alder No. 3 with my father for scale. No. 3 is currently the tallest of all the Treeblog trees, measuring approx. five metres from base to upper tip. Its stem circumference is 26 cm at the base and 15 cm at a height of 1.5 m, so it is also the girthiest of the Treeblog trees. It has great form and is clearly thriving out here in the wild. This winter it had male (but no female) catkins, unlike last winter when it had no catkins of any kind.

For comparison, this is the same tree a year ago on the 28th of December 2013. Perhaps it’s just the different angles the two photographs were taken from, but doesn’t there appear to have been a significant improvement in form over the last year?

It’s not all good news for No. 3, however. Just when all the old stem wounds had about sealed over, fresh damage has been dealt by those troublesome herbivores. Whether the culprit was a sheep, rabbit, or something else, I don’t ken.

A perfect branch-bark ridge and branch collar. I’ve grown some real trees!

Here’s grey alder No. 2 on the 5th of January, the second-tallest of the alders at approximately 4.6 metres. Like No. 3, which grows but a stone’s throw away, it too is thriving and has fine form. Its stem has a girth of 23 cm at the base, and a girth of 15 cm at 1.5 m.

And to compare – this is No. 2 on the 28th of December 2013 (sorry about the dark picture).

No. 2 currently sports a mixture of male and (both mature and immature) female catkins, just like it did the previous winter.

Unlike the rest of the grey alders, No. 2 had managed to avoid any stem damage… until now. This fresh wound near the base of the stem has ended its lucky streak, but it’s nothing serious.

Last and I’m afraid least, this terrible photo shows grey alder No. 1 on the 5th of January. The poor devil is easily the lowest quality alder these days. It is in quite a different location to its two old nursery-mates, and the elements appear to be giving it a far harder time of things. Not only is it the shortest alder at 3.8 metres tall (although the stem is longer than that if we disregard the tree’s pronounced lean), it also has a significantly thinner stem than the other two. I measured the stem circumference as 18 cm at its base and 10 cm at 1.5 m. This winter I only counted mature female catkins on No. 1, but last year it had both male and (mature and immature) female catkins.

For comparison, grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December 2013 with my father for scale – a much brighter picture!

As evident in this photo, No. 1 has the most wounded lower stem. It is also much slower in ‘healing’ these wounds than the other two alders, simply because it is growing that much more slowly and not laying down as much new wood – its annual rings will be closer together.

Stat attack!

I have spent some time going back through a lot of old Treeblog updates to ferret out all of the measurement data ever collected from the grey alders. This is now presented altogether - for the first time ever! - in three tables: one for the heights, one for the basal stem girths, and another for the stem girths at a height of 1.5 m from the ground. There’s hardly a wealth of data to show for almost eight years of growth, but I’ve only got myself to blame for that. I’ve even made a couple of graphs, so that the changes in the sizes of the alders can be better visualised.

Long-time followers will perhaps remember that there used to be a fourth grey alder, which in the early days was an absolute stonker of a young tree. After transplantation into the wild in spring 2010 however, it was soon tragically destroyed by sheep. No. 1, the current third-placed alder, grows just a few metres from where No. 4 met its untimely end. With hindsight, this is clearly a bad location for tree planting. I can’t help but wonder what might have been had I planted these poor souls in the same spot as Nos. 2 & 3… But I digress.

Table 1. The heights (in metres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
1st Oct. ‘07 0.04 0.02 0.03 0.01
2nd June ‘08 0.14 0.65 0.12 0.30
20th Apr. ‘09 0.75 0.55 0.65 0.91
27th Jun. ‘09 1.05 0.71 1.09 1.20
19th Aug. ‘09 1.96 1.50 1.70 1.86
28th Mar. ‘10 2.07 1.59 1.90 -
20th Jun. ‘10 2.40 1.80 2.25 1.80
25th Sep. ‘10 2.80 2.50 2.80 1.35
11th Feb. ‘11 - 2.45 2.75 X
13th Mar. ‘11 2.70 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 2.50 3.05 2.75 X
19th Oct. ‘12 3.10 3.50 3.60 X
9th Jun. ‘13 3.30 3.60 3.60 X
5th Jan. ‘15 3.80 4.60 5.00 X

Graph 1. The heights of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

The graph illustrates that No. 1 was actually the tallest alder in early 2010, when I transplanted them all into the wild – its poor location has clearly had an adverse affect on its growth, allowing it to be overtaken by both Nos. 2 & 3. No. 3 itself actually suffered a major setback in April 2011 when it somehow had its top broken off, allowing No. 2 to reign briefly as the tallest alder. It didn’t take long for No. 3 to recover, but a kink half-way up its stem (noticeable in the first photo in this update) still marks this breakage today. Graph 1 also shows the sorry end of No. 4, which gradually shrinks as it is destroyed by sheep.

Table 2. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at base height).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 9.0 9.0 9.5 9.0
25th Sep. ‘10 9.5 11.0 11.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 10.5 12.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 9.5 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 11.5 13.0 14.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 15.0 18.0 18.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 14.0 18.0 19.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 15.0 19.0 21.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 18.0 23.0 26.0 X

Table 3. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at 1.5 metres above the ground).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 4.0 2.0 4.0 2.0
25th Sep. ‘10 5.0 4.5 5.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 5.0 6.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 5.0 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 6.0 7.0 7.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 7.0 9.0 9.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 8.0 10.0 10.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 8.0 11.0 12.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 10.0 15.0 15.0 X

Graph 2. The girths of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

This graph shows two sets of data for each alder; the larger girths are the measurements taken at the base of the stem, and the smaller girths are the measurements taken at a height of 1.5 m from the ground (about breast height). The story is similar to the heights – Nos. 2 & 3 are performing well but No. 1 is lagging behind. No. 3 is pulling away from No. 2 in basal girth, but both are performing more or less equally in girth at 1.5 m.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make another visit to see the alders in June. It would be nice to see them in leaf again!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A update: grey alders (December 2013)

While I was back down in Yorkshire for Christmas my father and I went off to check up on the Treeblog Set A grey alders, which have now been fending for themselves in the wild since April 2010. I am pleased to report that on the day of our visit - the 28th of December (Set A Day 2467) - all three trees were alive and looking as healthy as they possibly could be for deciduous trees in the middle of winter. I last visited my alders in June with a couple of friends, when we filmed this video outlining their story so far…

So what has changed in the intervening six months?

Grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December with my father for scale. Despite being solidly stuck into the ground, No. 1 leans significantly to the north. I think this lean has become more pronounced since my last visit, presumably because of the lack of shelter from wind funnelling down the wee valley No. 1 calls home.

I’m not particularly bothered by the lean. Who knows? Perhaps it will correct itself. The neighbouring rowans hardly seem to have been bothered too much by the wind.

Mature female catkins on grey alder No. 1.

On this visit I counted two clusters of mixed immature male and female catkins and five clusters of mature female catkins, or ‘cones’. I first noticed catkins on No. 1 in March 2012 – back then it was a single cluster of immature female catkins (with the attached remains of a solitary flowering male catkin). On a visit in October 2012 these female catkins had progressed to near-enough full size but were still green; I also noticed a couple of clusters of immature male catkins (preparing to flower in spring 2013). On my last visit, in June 2013, I saw a few clusters of immature female catkins – these are now matured into the woody cones I saw a couple of weeks ago.

The nasty grazing wounds inflicted on No. 1’s lower stem soon after planting out are continuing to close up as more woundwood is laid down. It looks like a rabbit has left droppings here too, although why it needed to leave them so close up against my tree is unclear.

You may or may not know this but alder No. 1 stands about 2 km away from Nos. 2 & 3. A fortnight after planting Nos. 2 & 3, my father and I planted Nos. 1 & 4* on the 14th of April 2010 and afterwards, for whatever reason, we left a record of our passing by on my preferred route between the two spots. We scrawled a message on a piece of papery downy birch bark and hid it in a nook beside an ancient stream crossing point. Rather surprisingly, that piece of bark remains in a remarkably well-preserved state in that very nook to this day! Here it is on the 28th of December…

* Grey alder No. 4 was sadly eaten to death by sheep within a year of being planted out.

…and here it is on the day we left it there, almost four years ago!

Grey alder No. 2 on the 28th of December. Still the best of the alders - it has the straightest stem, no stem damage from sheep, and by far the most catkins.

Silhouetted against the sky at twilight, three woody cones (2013’s female catkins) take centre stage while multiple clusters of immature male catkins hang in the background, biding their time until spring arrives.* Besides the three cones in this photo there was another one on its own, three clusters of female-only immature catkins, and 18 clusters of mixed male/female immature catkins. No. 2 had no catkins at all in 2012, but on my visit in June 2013 I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (no male catkins though).

* Interestingly, while walking around Drummond Hill up near Loch Tay on the 3rd of January I noticed an alder (probably common alder, Alnus glutinosa) and a couple of hazels (Corylus avellana) that were already unfurling their male catkins into spring mode! A bit early, surely? And yesterday, in Edinburgh, I noticed a couple of hazels by the Water of Leith that were doing exactly the same thing. Is this because of an unusually mild winter? Back in Sheffield I wouldn’t expect to see alder or hazel catkins flowering until February.

This bark on the stem of alder No. 2 caught my eye – there’s something snakeish about it.

Grey alder No. 3 – very tall and sturdy.

No. 3 had its top broken out in April 2011. I don’t know what happened to cause that, but it recovered quickly and all that remains to tell of that distant event is a slight kink in the stem, plus a fragment of the old broken leader. The kink is apparent in the full-tree photo above and shows that No. 3 has roughly doubled in height over the last two-and-a-half years.

I couldn’t find any cones or catkins on No. 3 on this visit, nor could I find any in June 2012. In October 2011 however, I spotted at least six clusters of immature male catkins.

As you can see by this shot of its base, No. 3 is now almost totally ‘recovered’ from the early sheep damage. Hopefully 2014 will see all of the stem wounds nicely sealed up.

Now then, if you’re desperate for some stats I’m afraid I don’t have any up-to-date height measurements… but please feast your eyes on these stem girth measurements taken at both ground level and 1.5 metres from the ground:

Grey alder Stem circ. at base (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 15 14 15 0
No. 2 18 18 19 1
No. 3 18 19 21 3
Grey alder Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 7 8 8 1
No. 2 9 10 11 2
No. 3 9 10 12 3

No. 3 is doing well for itself, isn’t it? I’ll be back to visit the alders again in the summer, when I’ll try to get some height measurements. Will we be seeing a five metre tall Treeblog tree in 2014?

Posted in The treeblog trees

Treeblog Video #1. Set A update: grey alders (October 2012 & June 2013)

I have been very lax for a while now in keeping Treeblog updated with the development of the Treeblog trees. I intend to make amends in the coming weeks by posting updates on all the grey alders, Scots pines, downy birches, rowans and beeches in the Treeblog stable – starting now with the Set A grey alders, which last appeared on these pages over fifteen months ago in this update from March 2012. But before I go into an standard update, please take a couple of moments to watch Treeblog’s first ever video which provides a brief overview of the life of my grey alders so far!

So I’d just like to say, if it wasn’t obvious enough already, that this was my first time doing anything like this on film (and I apologise for my weird Yorkshire accent)! It would be great to get some feedback on the video as I am genuinely interested in what you thought, and Dave Clancy and Steve Young, who did all the filming and editing, would also really appreciate hearing your views. You can leave a comment at the end of the post or you can send an email to the address top right. If you enjoyed our little film then I politely encourage you to spread the Treeblog word by tweeting a link or something!

Right then, on to the update proper!

This is grey alder No. 1 on the 9th of June 2013 (Set A Day 2265), the same day as we filmed the video. The tree is alive and well; the sheep haven’t been back to finish it off.

This is grey alder No. 1 a few months earlier on the 19th of October 2012 (Set A Day 2032), back when I made a pre-winter tour of the alders with my father.

This is No. 1 on the 9th of June again, taken from a similar angle.

When I visited in October I noticed that alder No. 1 had a cluster of maturing female catkins…

…as well as a couple of clusters of immature male catkins, ready to open up and release pollen in spring.

I also visited the alders on the 30th of December 2012, minus my camera. My notes from that day record No. 1 having some mature female catkins and a few male catkins, No. 3 having many male catkins but no female catkins, and No. 2 having no catkins at all.

On my June visit, No. 1 again had two or three clusters of immature female catkins. I didn’t see any sign of last year’s catkins.

This is grey alder No. 2 in October with yours truly for scale...

…and here’s No. 2 again on the 9th of June. It is still the best of the three grey alders in my opinion.

No. 2 had no catkins at all last year, but on my June visit I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (but no male catkins).

Here’s grey alder No. 3 in October…

…and here it is again in June.

In October, No. 3 had at least six clusters of male catkins but I didn’t notice any catkins at all on my June visit.

Now for some tree stats. I made measurements of height, stem circumference at base, and stem circumference at breast height (approx. 1.5 m) on my October and June visits, but made no measurements in December. Previously I estimated height by hanging a tape measure off a stick held up to the height of the trees, but (as seen in the video!) in June I took my bespoke measuring stick, fashioned by my father in 2008 and originally used during my dissertation fieldwork! Heights are approximate to the nearest 0.1 m and circumferences are approximate to the nearest centimetre.

Grey alder Height (m)
Oct 2012
Height (m)
Jun 2013
Increase (m)
No. 1 3.1 3.3 0.2
No. 2 3.5 3.6 0.1
No. 3 3.6 3.6 0
Grey alder Stem circ. at base (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Jun 2013
Increase (cm)
No. 1 15 14 -1*
No. 2 18 18 0
No. 3 18 19 1
Grey alder Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Jun 2013
Increase (cm)
No. 1 7 8 1
No. 2 9 10 1
No. 3 9 10 1

* This only goes to show the potential errors hidden in these measurements!

And here is the base of alder No. 1. It has a much more slender stem than Nos. 2 and 3 and still shows severe wounding caused by grazing sheep. The tree seems to be struggling to compartmentalise this damage by growing ‘wound’ wood.

In stark contrast, the base of alder No. 2 is in pristine condition!

The base of No. 3 still shows sign of sheep damage but the wounds are rapidly being covered over with new wood and should hopefully be undetectable in a few years.

* * * * *

Coming soon: behind the scenes on the Treeblog shoot!

Posted in The treeblog trees

PSAUS defoliated by lesser willow sawfly (Nematus pavidus) larvae

It’s only the middle of July but the PSAUS, a willow (Salix) has already lost most of its leaves…

Nope, autumn hasn’t come early. It has been munched to destruction by these hungry fellas: lesser willow sawfly (Nematus pavidus) larvae.

I recognised them straightaway as sawfly larvae, rather than caterpillars, after the Set A grey alders played host a similar species a few years ago.

This photograph shows a birch sawfly aka hazel sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis) larva on grey alder No. 3 in October 2009...

…and on the same day I took this photograph of an alder sawfly (Eriocampa ovata) larva on grey alder No. 2.

Little wonder the PSAUS has been almost entirely defoliated – there are dozens and dozens of larvae! I’ve decided to leave them to do what they do best, and wait and see whether or not the PSAUS can weather the storm.

In this photo the second-right larva is caught in a classic pose while the furthest-right larva has an injury halfway along its body.

Posted in Pests and diseases + The treeblog trees

treeblog update: the Set A Scots pines, the PSAUS, & the Set D(b) beeches (May/June 2012)

Get set for the latest update on the development of the two Set A Scots pines, the post-Set A unknown seedling (PSAUS), and the two Set D(b) European beeches! In the intervening two-and-a-half months since the previous Set A update, Scots pine Alpha has produced 2012’s candles, Scots pine Gamma has been struck by pests, and the PSAUS has come fully into leaf. The last Set D(b) update was in October 2011; since then the two beeches have lost their last autumn leaves and regrown a whole new set.

I photographed the Scots pines and the PSAUS on Sunday (Day 1901, or just over five years and two months since I planted the Set A trees as seeds). I photographed the two beeches a fortnight earlier on the 29th of May (Day 972, or two years and eight months since I planted the Set D(b) beeches as nuts).

Behold ye fine Scots pine Alpha with this season’s growth so far strikingly manifested as candles sprouting from the tip of every branch. You may perhaps have noticed a skinny foxglove growing through the tree to the right of the stem; this is a self-set which I do not have the heart to pull up. (The tent in the background was there to dry out, having just got back from walking the Rob Roy Way!)

A close-up view from the candles at the very top of my pine. The candles will get even longer and then sprout needles, transforming into ordinary branches.

A close-up of a branch rosette on the sturdy main stem.

Scots pine Gamma, sadly looking nowhere near as perky as Alpha. The candles are barely grown! Why?

This is why – Gamma is under attack from a pest, perhaps some kind of aphid. The poor tree is infested with these tiny, dark grey insects and they are definitely having an adverse effect.

The PSAUS is looking slender but healthy.

PSAUS detail.

Beech Alpha looks great with its fresh, new leaves!

Beech Beta looks lovely too. I can’t wait to see how these two develop this year!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A update: grey alders & Scots pines (March 2012)

Grey alder No. 1 on Saturday.

Five years ago today, on the 28th of March 2007, I planted three kinds of seeds: grey alder (Alnus incana), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), and cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) as treeblog’s Set A. Today, all of the cider gums are dead, but on the fifth anniversary of their planting, three grey alders and two Scots pines are alive and well. On Saturday (March 24th – Day 1823) I paid the surviving grey alders a visit.

Grey alder No. 1 looks rather spindly and the sheep damage at the base of the stem is still nasty. Ne’ertheless, it still lives and what’s more…

…there are catkins! Only one clump, but No. 1 actually has catkins and it’s only five years old! The yellowish part is the top of a male catkin (not sure where the rest is); the fuzzy, reddish (out-of-focus) parts are the female flowers, which will develop into woody seed-bearing ‘cones’. I do not know if grey alders are able to self-pollinate; if not then it is extremely unlikely to produce fertile seed.

Grey alder No. 2: the best of the bunch, despite being the worst performer for a long time. No. 2 and No. 3 grow close together, while No. 1 (and the dead No. 4) are at a different location.

No. 2 and the late afternoon sun.

Grey alder No. 3. While not quite as strong as No. 2, it is far sturdier than No. 1.

The stem could hardly be called spindly, and good progress is being made in sealing the old sheep grazing wounds.

No. 3 was the most advanced of the three in terms of bud-burst or flushing. Lots of the buds were already showing green, with tiny leaves just starting to unfurl from some.

No. 3 from a different angle.

My last visit to the alders was in September. While they have now been in the wild since April 2010, the Scots pines remain in our garden for the time being. I took their picture yesterday (Day 1826):

Scots pine Alpha. It can’t be long now before its buds begin stretching out into candles.

Scots pine Gamma.

And finally, even though I didn’t plant it (it’s a self-set), here’s honorary Set A member PSAUS - some kind of willow, perhaps a goat willow (Salix caprea).

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update: the Set A Scots pines; PSAUS; the Set D beeches (October 2011)

Scots pine Alpha.

For the first time since April (!), here’s an update on the progress of the two Set A Scots pines; I took the photos yesterday, 1,677 days or 4 years & 7 months since I planted them as seeds.

Scots pine Gamma.

Well aren’t they both doing well? Absolutely spiffingly, even if I do say so myself.

A closer look at the centrepiece of S.p. Alpha’s highest branch whorl. All of this has grown this year. One whorl a year with Scots pine saplings!

Here’s something novel for you: a bird’s eye view of Scots pine Alpha…

…and Scots pine Gamma. The size difference is just as apparent from above.

The PSAUS. It doesn’t look very healthy here, but that’s because autumn has removed most of its leaves. Its actually doing rather well, but could do with a bigger pot as a matter of some urgency.

The two Set D(b) European beeches are also making their first appearance since April. I planted these as nuts 760 days or 2 years & 1 month ago.

Beech Alpha. This seedling is the offspring of a cut- or fern-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica var. Aspleniifolia) but it appears not to have inherited the cut-leaf characteristic. Booo!

Beech Beta. This seedling is the offspring of a normal European beech – as you can see it is identical to its nurserymate. Its mother is a fine specimen of a beech – a ‘plus tree’ – so I have high hopes for this fella.

* * * * *

Now for some quantification... The following table shows the approximate heights in centimetres for all five trees, measured yesterday. The heights of the Scots pines and PSAUS as recorded on the 19th of August 2009 are also included, along with respective height growth in the intervening period (expressed as percentages).

Tree Height
Aug 2009
Oct 2011
Height Increase
Scots pine Alpha 50 108 116%
Scots pine Gamma 30 73 143%
PSAUS 33 71 115%
European beech Alpha - 20 -
European beech Beta - 27 -

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A grey alders update (April & September 2011)

Grey alder No. 1 last week.

On Thursday I visited the grey alders (Alnus incana) with my father (Day 1646 – 4 years, 6 months since I planted them as seeds). The weather was the epitome of perfection. This autumn heatwave / Indian summer we are having is incredible. All three surviving alders are doing well, and I’d say that Nos. 2 & 3 are actually thriving despite their past hardships.

No. 1 again from a different angle, showing how leant over it has become in its exposed location. Taking account of the lean it is now 2.5 metres tall but the full length of the tree from base to tip is 3.3 m. No new sheep damage, but the stem is an ugly, scaly mess to 85 cm from the ground thanks to past injuries.

Here’s No. 1 back on the 27th of April (Day 1491 – 4 years, 1 month since planting). Apparently I never put the photos from that visit on Treeblog and I’m not sure why. Back then it was just coming into leaf and retained a more upright posture.

Here’s a look at some of that sheep damage to the lower stem. Nasty.

This is grey alder No. 2 on Thursday, looking shorter than it really is because of the bracken. I reckon it’s the best of the three at the moment, which is quite a departure from the early days when No. 2 was always the smallest. (No. 4 was always the biggest, R.I.P.)

No new sheep damage; excellent condition.

No. 2 in April, before this year’s crop of bracken had grown up.

There had been a little bit of fresh sheep damage in April, but I don’t think there’s been any since.

Grey alder No. 3 last week. It sure has put on a lot of crown growth since my last visit, when it had just suffered a catastrophe – the top had broken out!

A new leader is now growing from 2 inches below the stump.

No. 3 in April. The top must have broken only just before my visit, but I have no idea how it could have happened. Surely wind wouldn’t have been able to snap the top of a supple little sapling, but a couple of pieces of bracken hanging from its branches maybe do point to a powerful wind. Bizarre.

What a shame.

Now then you lot, I’ve prepared thee a treat of three tables containing height and girth measurements of the three alders collected on various visits. The trees were planted out at the beginning of April 2010, so the first height measurements were made when they were still in the back garden. These figures are not super-accurate, but we do our best!

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
28/03/10 2.07 1.59 1.90
25/09/10 2.80 2.50 2.75
11/02/11 - 2.45 2.75
13/03/11 2.70 - -
29/09/11 2.50 3.05 2.75

Table 1. The approximate heights of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in metres.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
20/06/10 4.0 2.0 4.0
25/09/10 5.0 4.5 5.5
11/02/11 - 5.0 6.0
13/03/11 5.0 - -
29/09/11 6.0 7.0 7.0

Table 2. The approximate girths at breast height of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
20/06/10 9.0 9.0 9.5
25/09/10 9.5 11.0 11.5
11/02/11 - 10.5 12.0
13/03/11 9.5 - -
29/09/11 11.5 13.0 14.0

Table 3. The approximate girths at ground level of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update: Set A Scots pines & cider gum; PSAUS; Set D(b) beeches

As a follow-up to Saturday’s treeblog census, here’s an update on the two Set A Scots pines, the sole remaining Set A cider gum, the PSAUS, and the two Set D(b) European beeches. I took the photos yesterday (Set A Day 1,483 / Set D(b) Day 566).

Scots pine Alpha, tied to a cane for straightening treatment. Last seen (along with SP Gamma, PSAUS & the beeches) on treeblog last June looking decidedly smaller. It’s now gearing up for this year’s growth spurt…

Behold! - new candles on the top of Alpha. They will develop into the third whorl of branches.

Scots pine Gamma. Only half the size of Alpha, but still looking good.

Cider gum No. 14 (last seen on treeblog in May, looking much better) – the only cider gum to survive the harsh winter of 2010/2011. It isn’t in good shape.

The top of No. 14 is the only part with any vitality. New growth has been put on here already this year.

The PSAUS a.ka. the post-Set A unknown seedling a.k.a. the post-Set A willow. I think it’s probably a goat willow.

Admire those tender, young, willowy leaves.

treeblog’s only cut- or fern-leaved beech* a.k.a. the Alpha beech [*may just be an ordinary old European beech]. Still bare, but beech is always one of the last trees into leaf along with ash and oak. Those buds surely can’t be far from bursting now.

The Beta beech a.k.a. the only beech that grew from the nuts I collected at Wigtwizzle in 2009. Definitely just an ordinary European beech, but it has one hell of a parent!

And look - its cotyledons are still attached!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog census: April 2011

I’m afraid I have been rather lax of late in sticking to this blog’s original purpose of charting the development of the treeblog trees. There have been some pretty important developments over the winter, yet I’ve hardly mentioned a thing. I badly needed to turn over a new leaf, so I have carried out a full census of the trees to provide a snapshot overview of the treeblog population as it is today. It may send you to sleep. Here goes :

Set A
Set A was planted on the 28th of March 2007 (1,480 days ago)

The two Scots pines (Alpha & Gamma) are alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June. (Nearly a whole year ago?? Can that be right??)

Of the four grey alders, No. 4 is now dead but Nos. 1, 2 & 3 were alive the last time I saw them (I last visited Nos. 1 & 4 on the 12th of March and Nos. 2 & 3 on the 12th of February). They last appeared in an update last month.

In the last cider gum update (in May 2010!!), Nos. 1 & 15 were reported dead, but Nos. 2 – 14 were all alive. Alas, after the very harsh winter of 2010/2011, only one cider gum now remains alive: No. 14. Terrible news!

post-Set A willow

The PSAUS is alive and coming nicely into leaf.

Set C
Set C was planted on the 11th of March 2009 (766 days ago)

Fifteen of the downy birches are alive and coming into leaf: Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27 & 30. Since the last update in August, No. 28 has gone missing from its pot (possibly squirrel-related).

Set C(r)
Set C(r) was planted/replanted on the 12th of May 2009 (704 days ago)

I’ve cocked up big-time with the Set C(r) rowans. At the end of June I planted the nineteen ‘Whitwell Moor’ seedlings (Nos. W1 – W15 & W17 – W20) and twenty ‘Upper Midhope’ seedlings (Nos. U1 – U20) out in individual pots. Each seedling was identified with a little flag made out of sellotape and a cocktail stick. Disastrously, during the winter many of the cocktails sticks have rotted through and these flags have blown away. Which means I have a large number of seedlings that could have come from either the Whitwell Moor rowan or the Upper Midhope rowan. Which kind of defeats the object. I think these identity-less rowans will have to be released from under the treeblog umbrella. The remaining identifiable Set C(r) rowans are Nos. W2, W6, W7, W11, W12, W14, W15, W17, W18, W19, U2, U5, U7 & U14: ten Whitwell Moors and four Upper Midhopes. Doh! I think the Upper Midhope population will have to be topped up from the reserves still in the seed tray.

Also - the five Whitwell Moor tricot rowans (Nos. WT1 – WT5) are all alive, but they are still in the plug tray. They need putting in pots.

The Whitwell Moor rowans last appeared in an update in September; the Upper Midhope rowans appeared in a separate update at the same time. The tricots haven’t appeared in an update since May!

Set D(b)
Set D(b) was planted on the 30th of September 2009 (563 days ago)

Both the single normal beech and the single cut- or fern-leaved beech remain alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June.

Set D(r)
Set D(r) was planted/replanted on the 11th of April 2010 (371 days ago)

In the last update in May, there were nine Oaken Clough rowan seedlings (O1 – O9) and seven Whitwell Moor rowan seedlings (W1 – W7). Today all nine Oaken Clough seedlings are alive, but two of the Whitwell Moor seedlings have died (W3 & W4). There are plenty of reserves still in the seed trays, so these populations can be topped up.

* * * * *

OK… I think I’ve cleared all that up as best I can. Here’s a quick summary of what is currently alive and accounted for in the treeblog stables then: 3 grey alders (Alnus incana); 2 Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris); 1 cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii); 15 downy birches (Betula pubescens); 33 rowans (Sorbus aucuparia); & 2 European beeches (Fagus sylvatica)… which gives a grand total of 56 trees spread over 6 different species. [Plus the honorary treeblog tree, the PSAUS, which is a willow - possibly a goat willow (Salix caprea).]

This number will be bumped up when I draw on the rowan reserves, but as you may have noticed I haven’t planted a Set E this year. Maybe next year? Right now I’m going to try and photograph all of these trees and bring the series of updates bang up to date. It’s about time!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A grey alders update (Feb/March 2011)

I recently made a couple of trips with my father to the four grey alders (Alnus incana) in treeblog’s Set A. We visited Nos. 2 & 3 four weeks ago on the 12th of February (Day 1417) and Nos. 1 & 4 yesterday, the 12th of March (Day 1445). (I last visited them in September.)

Grey alder No. 1 on a gloomy, overcast Saturday afternoon.

It’s buds aren’t yet showing any signs of opening.

Here’s the base of No. 1’s trunk with its herbivore-inflicted wounds. I’m very worried by the absence of callus wood around these. The tree had most of last summer to start sealing these wounds – Nos. 2 & 3 have made good progress, so why hasn’t No. 1?

At a different time and location, here’s grey alder No. 2.

Here’s an old wound and the associated callus wood.

Again no sign of flushing, but this photo is a month old now.

Just a stone’s throw away stands grey alder No. 3: the best of the alders at present.

More callus wood growing around the sheep damage to its stem. This is what No. 1’s stem should be looking like.

And lastly, grey alder No. 4 (close to No. 1). I feared this would happen - grey alder No. 4 is dead.

As you can see, the bark is easily detached from the stem.

I’m really sad that No. 4 has died. For a few years this tree was much bigger than the other three alders. I fully expected it to grow into a superb tree and was looking forward to seeing it reach maturity. What a shame its life has come to a premature end.

This was No. 4 in better days, back in August 2009.

I planted all four of these alders as seeds on the 28th of March 2007 (the seeds I collected myself a few weeks earlier). I planted Nos. 2 & 3 out in the wild on the 2nd of April 2010; Nos. 1 & 4 were planted out a fortnight later on the 14th. The fourth and first anniversaries respectively of these dates are approaching but grey alder No. 4 won’t be around to witness them, and that’s a real shame.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A grey alders update (Day 1277)

I went to check on the progress of the Set A grey alders yesterday with my father. Five months have passed since we planted them out in the wild and three and a half years have gone by since I planted them as seeds in my back garden in March 2007. How they have grown (time flies).

Here’s grey alder No. 1 looking grand yesterday. Compare this with how it looked three months ago in the photo below (taken from the last update).

Grey alder No. 1 on the 20th of June (Day 1180).

Since then No. 1 has grown taller and leafier. It was (very roughly) 2.4 m tall at the end of June but yesterday it measured approximately 2.8 m. In June its main stem had a basal circumference (C1) of 9 cm and a circumference at breast height (C2) of 4 cm; yesterday it measured 9.5 cm at C1 and 5 cm at C2.

Unfortunately the lower part of No. 1’s stem has been heavily damaged by browsing sheep. The damage is pretty nasty and the tree doesn’t seem to be making any headway in sealing the wounds.

On my last visit in June, No. 1’s main stem had started to fork near the top, so I pruned off one of the co-dominant stems to force the tree into staying as a single-stemmer. Here’s the tiny pruning wound and the nice, straight stem three months on. Success!

Here’s alder No. 2 yesterday…

…and on the 20th of June.

Quite a difference, eh? It had barely any leaves back in June and the tip of its leader had just died. Then it was only about 1.8 m tall; yesterday we measured it as approx. 2.5 m – quite an improvement. On the 20th of June it measured up as C1 = 9 cm, C2 = 2 cm; it now has C1 = 11 cm, C2 = 4.5 cm.

Grey alder No. 3 yesterday.

No. 3 on the 20th of June.

This one has also markedly improved. Three months ago No. 3 was a scraggly mess but today it is a fine specimen of a sapling. I’d say it is now the best of the bunch. In June it was roughly 2.1–2.4 m tall; yesterday it stood at approx. 2.8 m. June’s stem measurements were C1 = 9.5 cm, C2 = 4 cm; yesterday’s were C1 = 11.5 cm, C2 = 5.5 cm.

The horrible gnawing damage inflicted on the lower stem is ‘healing’ nicely, although it doesn’t look pretty. The growth of the fourth wall of CODIT* - the new growth that grows around the wounds and will eventually seal them – is quite pronounced, something worryingly absent from alder No. 1’s stem damage.

CODIT stands for Compartmentalisation of Decay in Trees, a theory developed by the late, great Alex Shigo to explain how trees react to injury by compartmentalising areas of infection. It’s a fascinating subject, but it’d be one hell of a digression!

Looking up at the top of No. 3.

Grey alder No. 4 yesterday: all that remains is a battered stick without even a single leaf. Once the greatest of all the treeblog trees, it has been eaten almost to nothing by sheep. What a fall from grace!

Even back in June it had taken a complete battering and was already leafless, as this photo attests. Thank-you, sheep. Then it was approx. 1.8 m tall, but today it has been cut down to just 1.35 m.

But even in this pathetic state, No. 4’s stem is still green. It is still alive. There may still be a chance. On my next visit - maybe a couple of months away? - I’m going to dig it up and move it somewhere, perhaps to a ledge on a cliff face away from the sheep. There may still be some hope. I hope.

* * * * *

In other news, I repotted the two Set A Scots pines this afternoon.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A grey alders update (Day 1180)

Grey alder No. 1 – by far the best of the alders these days. Diameter of main stem at base (øα) = 9 cm. Diameter at breast height (øβ) = 4 cm.

Ye be warned: herein there be bad news... I went on a mission to check up on the grey alders (Alnus incana) on Sunday (Set A, Day 1180). It was a pretty warm day but it wasn’t a patch on yesterday and today (27 °C in Sheffield this afternoon!).

Alder No. 1 looks pretty fantastic. When I planted these four bad boys in April, No. 1 was the tallest of the bunch; I’d say it also ended up getting planted in the best position. It has not been slack in building on these advantages; even though its lower branches have been browsed by sheep, its upper branches are nice and leafy and it has a lovely, straight stem. This straightness was threatened by the development of a fork right at the top of the main stem, but I intervened with a wee prune to ensure a single leader.

Here’s the resulting (neat and tiny) wound at the top of No. 1’s main stem. I removed the left stem at the fork (only about 20 cm long), so the right stem can continue as the main stem, keeping the tree a single-stemmer. I think that’s the first instance of a treeblog tree being pruned!

Grey alder No. 2 – it was the shortest of the alders when I planted them in the wild, being about as tall as I am. It’s still the same height, and it doesn’t really have a whole lot of leaves, but at least the sheep haven’t inflicted any new damage. As with No. 1, No. 2’s lower branches are damaged and leafless, but most of this damage was inflicted in the first couple of weeks after planting. Unfortunately, the tip of its leader has died, but No. 2 has previously had to put up with having its leader nibbled off. øα = 9 cm. øβ = 2 cm.

Grey alder No. 3 – currently the second-tallest of the four, but looking distinctly scraggly. øα = 9.5 cm. øβ = 4 cm. Like Nos. 2 and 4, it is having to compete with quite a bit of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). It’s also taken quite a mauling from the marauding sheeps:

Here’s a selection of some of the damage inflicted to No. 3’s stem by our ovine friends. The end photos show bark-stripping damage to the lower stem, while the centre photo shows a wound on the upper stem where a branch has been ripped off.

This sorry specimen is grey alder No. 4. Not so very long ago this was miles ahead of its fellow alders and treeblog’s flagship tree. Now it’s just a green stick, stripped of its leaves and dignity by a band of woolly bastards. What a tragedy to befall such a promising young sapling! Its leader is dead too. I have serious doubts that No. 4 will be able to survive in this state for much longer. øα = 9 cm. øβ = 2 cm.

Here’s the very top of No. 4, showing the dead leader on the right and two small and unhealthy leaves (arrowed).

The photo on the left shows bark-stripping damage, along with a few wisps of black wool (evidence). The centre photo shows one of the handful of tiny leaves yet remaining on the tree; as soon as these appear, the sheep must be eating them away. The photo on the right shows a horrible slash on the main stem near its base – could a sheep have done this too?

And there you have it: grey alder No. 4 is totally screwed. Nos. 2 and 3 aren’t doing as well as I hoped. No. 1 is doing fine, but the sheep could strike at any time. Bloody nuisances. I went out of my way to plant these four trees in places where they wouldn’t be touched by the hand of man, but ironically they’re suffering instead at the teeth of sheep. What makes it more frustrating is that Nos. 2 and 3 are in a supposedly sheep-proof enclosure, but I saw three sheep in there! Three sheep that seem to prefer the taste of alder over the abundant and plentiful supply of rowan and birch that’s on offer.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A Scots pines update (Days 1162 & 1172). Set D beeches update (Days 232 to 255).

Set A: the Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris)

Scots pine Alpha on Saturday (Day 1172). Look how the next generation of needles have begun to spring out from the new candles!

Here it is again ten days earlier, on Day 1162 (June 2nd); notice how the needles haven’t yet started growing in earnest.

Here’s Scots pine Gamma on Day 1162…

…and here it is ten days later, on Saturday. What a difference! You can check out both pines (and the PSAUS) as they were on Day 1149 in the last Scots pine update.

Set D(b): the beeches (Fagus sylvatica)

It’s the cut- or fern-leaved beech on Day 235 (May 23rd). But is it a cut-leaved beech? Its mother certainly is, but look at its leaves…

…they just look like normal European beech leaves (photo taken on Day 245 - June 2nd). Will future leaves be cut-leaved? Here’s the is it / isn’t it situation as I currently read it:

While there may exist actual wholly cut-leaved cultivars (where every cell contains the freak cut-leaved DNA), it seems that most cut-leaved beeches are ‘chimaeras’. In these chimaeras the inner tissues are identical to the normal European beech, but they are enveloped by the cells of the sport [a sport is defined as ‘a genetic freak’ by the Collins Tree Guide]. In other words, a cut-leaved beech is really a normal beech tree coated in a cut-leaved beech skin. That’s why branches with normal leaves will sometimes sprout, especially after an injury: the freakish skin has been removed and normality has been exposed to the outside world. I don’t know for sure one way or the other – I can’t find an answer anywhere – but I can imagine that the nuts of a cut-leaved beech tree are normal beech nuts wrapped (or not) in a cut-leaved skin. If that’s right, I assume these nuts would grow into perfectly normal beech trees free of a cut-leaved skin. If my assumptions are on the money, it would mean that treeblog’s Set D(b) cut-leaved beech is just a bog-standard Eurobeech. Bah.

The cut-leaved (?) beech on Saturday (Day 255). I think from now on it’ll have to be called the Alpha beech instead.

This little chap is the Set D(b) European beech – definitely just a bog-standard European beech, albeit the miracle offspring of a magnificent mature tree. I first noticed this seedling, the Beta beech, on the 18th of May (Day 230). Here it is rising above the soil two and three days later.

A few days later (the 26th and 30th of May) and this tiny beech was standing erect.

By the 2nd of June (Day 245) its cotyledons had opened…

…and by Saturday (Day 255) its first pair of proper leaves were forming. Bravo, Beta beech, bravo. The last Set D(b) update has photos of Alpha beech from Days 213 to 228 and the first photos of Beta beech along with the story of the ‘miracle’.

PSAUS: hopefully a goat willow (Salix caprea)

The PSAUS on Saturday.

Photos from May 30th and June 2nd taken by my father.

* * * * *

This month’s short but sweet Festival of the Trees, hosted by Casey of Wandering Owl Outside, has been up for a fortnight. Go read!

And as June is already half-spent, it’s probably a good time to think about your submission for July’s festival, which will be hosted by Yvonne of The Organic Writer.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A cider gums update (Day 1149): Nos. 8 to 15

(Photos taken on Thursday the 20th of May – Set A, Day 1149). Carrying on from where the first part of this update left off…

Cider gum No. 8: while the bud of its leading shoot has been killed by the frosts, more than half of the terminal buds on its branches are doing fine.

No. 8’s damaged leader, surrounded by new shoots.

Cider gum No. 9: must be particularly resilient to frost damage, as the terminal buds on all its upper branches are intact.

A healthy leader.

Cider gum No. 10: while it looks healthy from a distance, up close you can see that all terminal buds along with the leading shoot are dead, and – disturbingly - there is no new growth noticeable. Uh-oh.

No. 10’s dead leader. Notice the lack of replacement shoots.

Cider gum No. 11: I thought this one was stone dead in the last cider gum update, but I was wrong. Like No. 6, No. 11’s roots survived and two new shoots have now sprouted from the base of the stem. The rest of the tree is dead, however.

Shoots! From the roots!

Cider gum No. 12: while the terminal buds on the lower branches are dead, those on the upper ones are alive...

…as is the leader.

Cider gum No. 13: most of the terminal buds are dead, but those on the upper branches are OK.

No. 13’s leader is fine too.

Cider gum No. 14: a Class I gum. Again, most of the terminal buds are dead, apart from some on the upper branches. The leading shoot is alive and well.

No. 14’s leading shoot.

No. 14 also developed flower buds last July, but to date they’ve yet to bloom. I’m doubt they ever will.

And finally, another death: cider gum No. 15 is no more, destroyed by the harshest winter for many a year. Let us remember the life and times of one of treeblog’s smallest cider gums and pay our respects to the departed:

Cider gum No. 15 (2007 – 2010)

* * * * *

I’m off up to Scotland this afternoon to do the Skye Trail. No posts for a week!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A cider gums update (Day 1149): Nos. 1 to 7

(Photos taken last Thursday – Set A, Day 1149). Winter 2009/2010 was the harshest for years. It wreaked havoc upon the poor, poor cider gums…

Cider gum No. 1: it’s dead, a victim of the winter of doom. This is quite sad for treeblog - the first Set A death in three years. But instead of mourning, let us celebrate the life of No. 1 by looking back over its photo-timeline:

Cider gum No. 1 (2007 – 2010)… this is Goodbye

Cider gum No. 2: one of the tallest. A true Class I gum. Frost damage: the terminal buds at the tips of all its branches are missing, except for the leader at the top of the tree, which is happily intact!

No.2’s healthy leading shoot – most of the other cider gums weren’t this lucky.

Cider gum No. 3: one of the three Class III gums (the runts). Last Thursday I was 99 percent sure that No. 3 was a goner, but a green stem and that little bit of green remaining in those two leaves gave me hope.

Yesterday my optimism was rewarded! A bud! Cider gum No. 3 is alive! I tell you, it may only be tiny, but this is one stubborn tree. Last year it refused to give up the ghost after the winter of 2008/2009 killed most of it. Don’t write it off just yet! (Photo taken this evening.)

Cider gum No. 4: although appearing largely unscathed by the frosts, some of the terminal buds are missing, along with the leading shoot.

As you can see, while the leader has died, a new shoot is ready to take up the mantle and assume leadership.

Cider gum No. 5: suffered heavy frost damage. Most of its leaves are dead along with all its terminal buds, including the leader. In the last cider gum update, at the beginning of April, I wrote that I thought it could be dead.

Thankfully I was proven wrong; there is plenty of regrowth at the top of No. 5.

Cider gum No. 6: another of the Class III gums, and another of those that I thought had kicked the bucket. Virtually all of the tree is dead…

…apart from the root system, which means No. 6 has cling to life and squeezed out a couple of tiny buds right at the base of its stem. It’s alive!

Cider gum No. 7: the tallest of all the cider gums, but unfortunately struck hard by frost damage. All terminal buds including the leader are dead, but there are signs of new growth at the very top:

I spotted this impressive branch scar low down on the main stem of No. 7. Is it big enough to call a trunk yet? I guess not, but it looks a lot like one in miniature here.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A Scots pines update (Day 1149)

Scots pine Alpha on Thursday evening (Set A, Day 1149). Those candles are getting pretty long now…

…but back on the 24th of April they weren’t really candles at all; more glorified buds.

A week later, on the 1st of May, and good progress had already been made.

Here they are again on the 11th of May…

…and this is an almost up-to-date view from Thursday (the 20th of May). Not be long until the needles appear now!

In addition to the candles on top of Scots pine Alpha, each of its three little branches has a candle on the tip (seen here on Tuesday).

With less candles than its stablemate, here’s Scots pine Gamma. It currently shares its pot with an ash and a sycamore seedling.

Not a Scots pine, but here’s the PSAUS a.k.a. the post-Set A unknown seedling a.k.a. a goat willow.

And last but not least, here’s the ash that germinated last year in grey alder No. 3’s pot: a real tree in minature.

Speaking of the grey alders, I wonder how they’re getting on. I think we’re due another visit soon, you & I. But first things first: the next two updates will deal with the cider gums. Yes, there have been deaths. But there has also been reincarnation!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set D(b) cut-leaved beech update (Days 206-209). Set A grey alders update (Day 1123).

The Set D(b) cut-leaved beech has appeared above ground! Here it is on Saturday (Day 206), the first time I’d seen it poking up through the soil. A couple of Saturdays previously I was searching through the Set D beech seed trays when I noticed that this wee tree had sprouted a long root – that was Day 193.

Beech seedlings don’t hang around. Here it is a day later, on Sunday….

…here it is yesterday…

…and here it is this evening. Its cotyledons should open up over the next few days. This is the first beech I’ve ever managed to grow!

* * * * *

As well as discovering this young beech, Saturday also saw me off on a long walk to check up on the recently released Set A grey alders – 1123 days after I planted them as seeds. The good news is that they are all still in situ and doing well. The bad news is that three of them have been munched on by sheep! (I planted Nos. 2 and 3 out in the wild on the 2nd of April (Day 1101); Nos. 1 and 4 were planted out on the 14th of April (Day 1113) – see this post for the details.)

Grey alder No. 1 – this one lives next door to No. 4. Some of the lower branches have been cut back by browsing sheep – I know who the culprits are because they left some wool behind. Nevermind. Those lower branches wouldn’t be kept by the tree for long anyway, and I’d already given thought to pruning them off.

Grey alder No. 2 – this one lives next door to No. 3. No. 2 is the only one of the alders to remain unscathed by sheep.

Here’re some of No. 2’s brand spanking new leaves (all of the alders have them now!). They’re perfect.

Grey alder No. 3. (Sorry about the photos of the alders – I couldn’t get any good ones with their superb camouflage for blending in with the background).

Here’s the tip of one of No. 3’s branches after being nibbled down to size by an ovine fiend. Disgraceful.

Grey alder No. 4 – leading the competition in the leaf department.

Taken back home in the garden on Saturday evening, this photo shows how another Set A tree – Scots pine Alpha – has begun expanding its buds. These little brown columns are lengthening noticeably with each passing day; soon they will be great, long candles. Then it won’t be long until they blast out 2010’s needles!

Posted in The treeblog trees

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?

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set A, Day 1102): cider gums. Set C(r) rowans are sprouting!

On parade today are all fifteen Set A cider gums, lined up and ready to be inspected for the first time since August! These poor young eucalypts have been ravaged by the harshest winter for many a year, and it looks as though six of our comrades have fallen (and most of the survivors have frost-damaged tips) – yet there may be still be hope. The previous winter (2008-2009) looked to have dealt fatal blows to cider gums Nos. 3 and 15, but they somehow managed to crawl back from the precipice of the grave. Hardy buggers. Can this miracle be repeated in 2010? (Photographs taken yesterday, 1102 days since I planted Set A.)

Cider gum No. 1 – looking very dead. Has it fallen into the endless abyss?

Cider gum No. 2 – one of the tall Class I gums.

Cider gum No. 3 - one of the three Class III runty gums. The dead upper part of No. 3 was killed off by the previous winter, but the winter-just-gone looks to have put paid to its recovery efforts.

Cider gum No. 4.

Cider gum No. 5 – another one of those that may now be At Rest.

Cider gum No. 6 – another Class III, another cadaver?

Cider gum No. 7 – the tallest of all the cider gums. A real Class I über-gum. It now shares its pot with a brassy young sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) that has recently sprouted.

Cider gum No. 7’s new roomie.

Cider gum No. 8.

Cider gum No. 9 also has a new roomie: a wee clump of what look to be rushes.

I hope it’s Juncus effusus!

Cider gum No. 10.

Cider gum No. 11 – another victim of winter.

Cider gum No. 12 - Class I.

Cider gum No. 13 – the only treeblog tree still on crutches. Some of the other gums are looking a bit leany or loose in the soil, so support canes will probably be making a comeback.

Cider gum No. 14 - Class I.

Cider gum No. 15 - Class III. Has this winter managed what the previous one couldn’t? Poor things looks dead as a door-post.

* * * * *

Set C news: There are Set C(r) rowans sprouting by the bucketload! These beauties will be the subject of the next post, but I’ll tell you right here and now that yesterday I counted thirty-three seedlings in the Whitwell Moor section and two in the Upper Midhope section. I photographed them this afternoon, along with the Set C birches, which are just beginning to put out their first leaves of the new year. treeblog is in a good place!

Posted in The treeblog trees

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