Sunday, 2 February 2014

Pottering in the garden (2)

Dry conditions with lovely sunshine! Chris and I seized the chance to begin the job of putting the garden into some kind of order.

The old apple tree needed some pruning. Lichens such as Evernia prunastri (see blog for 30 January) and Xanthoria parietina were present on the branches. These do no harm.

The lichen, Xanthoria parietina, on our
apple tree. 2 February, 2014

Our apple tree only supports very common lichens. Some old orchards form a superb habitat for these organisms and is one reason why there is concern over the loss of these sites.

Of more concern was a fungus which threatened to start killing off branches if not, ultimately, the whole tree. I believe it is Skeletocutis nivea but my expertise in this field is quite limited.
?Hazel Bracket, Skeletocutis nivea. Apple tree in our
garden. Byfield, 2 February, 2014

This is a rather common fungus throughout Britain and I have previously noted it at the edge of our village playing fields in a similar situation. Its common name is Hazel Bracket but is clearly not confined to hazels.

Having lopped off redundant or diseased material I moved on down the garden. I have a number of logs distributed around and use them as stands for pots. One of these logs was also sporting a fungus.

A Honey Fungus, Armillaria species in my garden at
Byfield. 2 February, 2014
It was Honey Fungus, Armillaria melea or one of its close relatives. In a situation like this it appears harmless, but root-like structures (rhizomorphs) could spread out from this log to begin an attack on nearby healthy trees. Treatment is very difficult and all I can do for now is monitor the situation. Honey Fungus is unfortunately very common and the fact that it is edible does not confer on it any real esteem.

On a more cheerful note the Korean Fir, Abies koreana, which I planted some five years ago, is looking very well.
Korean Fir, Abies koreana in my garden
2 February, 2014

Four months ago these cones were a lovely violet colour; they have now ripened and shed most of their seeds. A resinous exudate now appears as white blobs on the cones, not, imo, detracting from their appearance but adding to the interest. A slow-growing tree, it is deservedly popular in gardens.

Not quite as welcome, popping up in awkward places, was Arum italicum. Its pretty marbled leaves are rather attractive but the seed from its scarlet berries are apparently bird-sown and I keep having to grub out unwanted plants. My plant is subspecies italicum. It is probably native in the Channel Islands but elsewhere it is a common escapee from gardens. Some forty years ago I read Cecil Prime's monologue on Lords and Ladies and his research showed that starch made from its tubers was used to stiffen ruffs in Elizabethan times. These wading birds must have found the treatment annoying (Just stop it!). Anyway, with the arrival of potatoes a more convenient source of starch became available - just too late, as ruffs became unfashionable.

Moving on, there was time to remove unwanted dead leaves from the pond. Bubbles of pungent methane rose to the surface as I cleared them out; once settled the water should be far healthier and the pond may attract some amphibians over March and April. Watch this space.

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