Monday, 12 January 2009

Seven Sisters

There are seven large (though by no means fully mature) Beeches on Durdham down, all in a row, each with a very different character. I photographed these at between 07:45 and 08:05 a week ago, it was -5C and very beautiful. I hope in the future to emulate simmilar forms though bonsai with the same species. Fagus sylvatica make excellent subjects for bonsai and Walter Pall, a German bonsai inovator whose excellent blog I regularly visit, has had excellent sucess with recreating the natural habit of this species.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Winter protection for bonsai

Without a greenhouse or garage protecting bonsai from the extremes of winter cold can be tricky. Having only a small courtyard garden this is a problem that I have encountered, all of my bonsai are relatively hardy particularly as I am most interested in native trees, but last night the temperature droped to -7C though and this gave me cause for concern regarding my shohin trees (less than 25cm tall from the rim of the pot). Due to their small root masses they are most vunerable to freeze and thaw and the associated drying that can occur (small pots dry out quickly by evaporation from the soil surface and it is impossible to water when it's this cold). Two of these trees are Acer burgerianum and have fleshy roots said to be vunerable to freeze and thaw.

They can't be brought inside as the heated house would bring them out of dormancy (certain death at this time of year) and though they are sheltered from the worst of the cold by the walls of house and courtyard this might not be enough. The answer? Well, it's an experiment but I have carefully lined a box with polystyrine tiles (a good insulator) thawed the trees out on the cold windowsill of my bathroom, watered them as they were looking a little dry already and packed them up carefully. The box is back outside in a sheltered possition, I just hope that is enough! I am also concerned about my Cedrus brevifolia (a native of Cyprus) but I don't have a big enough box or enough polystyrine so it will have to take its chances... after years of warm winteres I have been caught off guard... I guess I'll find out in spring whether these trees can cope!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Hawthorn on the Downs

Crataegus monogyna, the common hawthorn, grows very slowly and is one of my favorite trees. The downs has a beautiful pair of gnarled old specimens, near the Avon Gorge, on the Clifton Down Plateau, which I suspect are several hundred years old (possibly they were growing there durring the English civil war). The trees have beautiful craggy bark and holowed dead wood scars. In spring I will photograph them in bloom.

This twin trunk tree has a beautifully elegant feminine form, I have photographed it here from two angles.

The twin trunks are wonderful in every detail, they are both about 30cm in diameter.

This second tree is more masculine but equally as splendid.

Its trunk is spectacular and I often stop to consider and appreciate it.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Old Sneed Park

Later me and my wife, Rhi, visted the Old Sneed Park Nature Reserve (not far from the Downs). Nice mixed woodland here; oak (three species), ash, lime, hazel, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, fir, hawthorn and yew to name but a few.

Rhi and I particularly appreciated this pair of smooth barked horse-chestnuts (probably Aesculus hippocastanum), which form one canopy and were highlighted by the sinking sun.

The misty Downs

Today I walked on Durdam Down and Clifton Down in Bristol. Situated on the edge of Avon Gorge, this park has a long history of common usage. There is archaeological evidence of Romano British field systems and in 883 A.D. there was an Anglo Saxon charter which established grazing rights for an area incorporating much of the current park and residential land. Throughout the middle ages the use of the land was controlled by the Manors of Clifton and Henbury, who permitted restricted grazing, felling and mining activity. Much more recently the Merchant Venturers and the Corporation of Bristol (a sort of local council) teamed up to protect the land that was being encroached by mining and building activity. They purchased land from the Manor holders and protected it by an act of Parliament: the Clifton and Durdham Downs Act received royal assent on 17 May 1861, making the downs an “open and unenclosed as a place of public resort for the citizens and inhabitants of Bristol”. A fuller account of its history can be found here.

There are some beautiful trees on the Downs, I photographed some during a misty thaw late this morning:

There are many Lindens or Limes (genus Tilia), I am not sure of the species of most of them, there seems to be a considerable variation within the population and the Small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata) commonly hybridizes with the Large-leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos) to make the Common Lime (Tilia x europaea or Tilia x vulgaris). Some of these trees have strikingly beautiful deep red leaf buds during the winter with brick red year old growth. The specimen habit of these trees is wonderful.

There are also some fantastic Common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) on the Downs; this is by far the largest.

Here is a smaller Common Ash. I used to regard ash as a bit of a weed with its seemingly untidy habit, coarse growth structure and tendency to set seed everywhere (producing vigorous and tenacious saplings). I have now grown to love its shabby elegance, particularly when allowed to grow as a single specimen. Ashes growing in the mountains or exposed coasts also take on the most magnificent contorted forms.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Winter walking

A few photographs of trees from a winter walk in Llantwitt Major, South Wales.

All the exposed trees on this stretch of coast tend to be wind sculpted to a greater or lesser extent, the canopy of this ash is extended in the direction of the prevailing wind direction.

This hawthorn is even more dramatically wind swept.

All the trees in the wooded field boundaries and combes of Llantwit have facinating forms.

Trees at dusk

Photographed in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, on December 21st , 2008. I walked through this field so many times durring my teenage years.

Majestic stand of pines over 120' tall.

Oak with a torn branch (this massive branch came off durring a storm about two years ago)

Pair of ivy clad oaks