|The Clinton-Baker Pinetum||
Over the past two years, which have been difficult for everyone, our work in the Pinetum has had to slow down. During this time work has continued on Wednesdays by a small group of stalwart volunteers who have done a marvellous job keeping things under control and tidy. We cannot thank them enough for their efforts. It is now hoped that it will not be too long before we can restart Saturday work parties and will be able to make a larger effort clearing new areas and planting new trees. We are looking forward to going forward with this project.
ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2019
Perhaps the overriding theme of our work in the Pinetum this year was “Back To Basics”. Some of our major projects were on hiatus and our resourcing meant we concentrated on the regular tasks and smaller projects that also enhance the Pinetum but that sometimes get overshadowed by the big ones.
So, for instance, we cleared the bank behind the Entrance Hut that had become overgrown with brambles, grass, sedge and tree of heaven suckers and planted snowdrops, primroses and ferns.
Other repairs have included renewing the posts and pallets surrounding our compost heap and replacing a gate post on our picket gate into the Woodland Garden. The Woodland Garden is becoming a nice tranquil spot but needs regular maintenance: grass cutting, weeding, bracken putting on the paths. This year, we have planted a good many new ferns and seem to be winning in our battle to establish snowdrops.
The main path round the first Giant Redwood had become a bit narrow for our tractor and trailer – partly because we put some attractive edging round the base of the tree, so we dug further into the bank to widen it. Brambles were encroaching badly on the open grassy area above the summer house base. These have been removed, giving a more spacious feel to the area.
Perhaps the part of the Pinetum on which we spent the most project time this year was The Annexe, the area opposite the main entrance. Many years ago, we cleared it of sycamore and ash and laid the trunks around the perimeter. We did try to sell the wood but without great success and the wood was deteriorating.
So, we cut much of it up into lengths and the rest that was too far gone, we gathered into habitat piles in the surrounding woodland. We already had a demonstration cord of wood (a standard cubic measure of firewood), so we thought another one, with a difference, would be a good idea. After levelling the ground for the new cord, the cut logs were placed between retaining posts and built up in tightly packed layers to its full size. A job well done!
Felling trees also means bonfires. We only burn the smaller branches; anything we can’t use, is put in habitat piles to rot down.
The main reason for all this felling is to create space to plant new trees. And after a bit of a gap, we have planted some new trees this year.
After a cold and wet spring, the Pinetum has romped away and the fresh greens of new growth are beginning to tone down into their regular hues. There are lots of foxgloves growing in the Fungal Clock. They will soon be in flower and will look spectacular over the next few weeks. And then they will be gone for another 2 years, because the natural foxglove is biennial. Its seed germinates and produces roots and a basal rosette of leaves in the growing season of the first year. In the growing season of the second year, a stem and flowers form, seed is set and the plant dies.
The snow and rain this spring have led to the cancellation of a higher than usual number of work parties but we have soldiered on as best we can. With the late spring warmth, it has been a case of trying to keep up with all the lush growth!
The Annexe has been “cleaned up” by removing the brambles and nettles that had started to take over and the logs have been moved, either by restacking along the sides or by creating new habitat piles outside the periphery. This will permit regular mowing, initially to control the invasive plants and to keep the space open for planting more conifers in the autumn.
Some new conifers have been planted in the Pinetum, as well as additional ferns in the Grotto, primroses and a snowball tree (Viburnum opulus) along the middle path.
Construction of the small pond above the Leat fell behind schedule last year and as a result of the hard winter, we have re-dug the hole, making it deeper, so that it shouldn’t freeze entirely during cold weather.
How High Is That Tree?
Edward was busy last month because on Sunday 20th May, he held a masterclass on the many different ways the height of a tree can be determined. He then explained methods of measuring the diameter of a tree and by combining this with a height measurement, how foresters can work out the volume of usable timber in a given trunk.
Indoors, we covered 10 height measurement techniques, ranging from a laser (yes, understandable), to any old stick (mm, OK) to a bucket of water (what, really?) Then we went outside to practice and test the accuracy of these techniques by measuring the (known) height of the main building and finally walked down to the Pinetum to try some of the techniques on real trees.
This was a very enjoyable day, full of insights and hands on practice. We hope to offer the masterclass again in the autumn. Do sign up for it, if you can.
My last Newsletter included formal notice of our 18th AGM, which passed off successfully on 9th November 2017. Thank you if you attended.
Our Post Christmas social on Friday 11th January was well attended and a lovely supper was had by all.
The star attraction was our very own Curator, Edward Eastwood, who gave a practical demonstration on tying knots and explained in what circumstances a particular knot might be useful and why. I didn’t know there were so many variants on the bowline!
Things were rounded off with a refreshingly challenging quiz.
It’s been a fairly cold and wet winter so far but, more unusually, a very windy one too. The wind puts some of our more veteran specimens under stress and although no tree has been brought down so far, one or two have lost large limbs, for example the deodar cedar at the south western end of White Pine Triangle.
Lots of trees have lost smaller twigs. These have been scattered all over the place and we have been trying to clear them away from the snowdrops and paths but more just keep coming down! Winter is also the time for felling trees. Some of the older larches have begun to lean in an alarming way and are being felled. More clearing up!
The brook that runs the length of the Annexe and Pinetum proper has been behaving as a bourne should i.e. flowing intermittently but most strongly in winter when there is higher rainfall. This has been useful in helping us to decide where to place a weir to create a head of water to drive our ram pump. This project has been long in the gestation but we have had the ram pump installers visit us to confirm requirements and we intend to push forward this year.
At this time of year, I usually write something about the snowdrop to tie in with our snowdrop walk. If you look at our Articles section, you will find one with lots of facts about snowdrops.
Recently, I did hear something new to me at a talk given by the curator of a university botanic garden. He suggested that the reason the snowdrop’s flower is pointed downwards is to keep its pollen dry. The plant invests a lot of energy in producing pollen and seeks to keep it available for pollinators, although there aren’t many of those around in January and February in Britain.
This year, I thought a poem about snowdrops would be a bit different, so here is “The Snowdrop” by Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Many, many welcomes, February fair maid!
Even as of old time, solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time, prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time, prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes, February fair maid!