Tuesday, 14 February 2017

developing the birch border

Bracket fungus on fallen birch
February filldyke.

Sticky Baltic rain mixed with sleet, horizontal from the north east. All-pervading dampness evokes the isle of Skye on its less hospitable days. Raw. The air source heat pump outside has trunks of ice awaiting its' defrost cycle. A hardy blackbird splashes
in a chilly puddle by the road. Yesterday, the prehistoric silhouette of a heron perched high in a fir tree overlooking George's Pond, snake necked. Ravens pass overhead each day.

The weather has temporarily halted our stop-go development of the birch border; but we are now close to finishing the work.  Silver birch (Betula pendula) are short-lived, native trees: fifty years is said to be their tenure. We inherited a dual line of them, planted after WWII,  now with upright dead trunks among the remaining trees - standing deadwood sporting bracket fungus. As boughs slough off we stack them in piles that become crumbling and moss fleeced. Stumps, laced with fungal mycelia, rot. Rotting wood is at the very heart of biodiversity in this garden.

Cleared ground - and Big Bazza photobombing
Our ground is said to be over-fertile due to the use of spent mushroom compost through many years. Eutrophication. Brambles and nettles thrive at the expense of all else and must be hacked out of the soil with an azada to give a wider range of plants a chance. Black, weed surpressing plastic is peeled away. With ground clear, shrubs from other parts of the garden can be re-used: hydrangeas, box and mahonias. New plants will be bought. In time, the trees will be hung with climbers - the varieties of honeysuckle being my favourite for sweet scent, moth nectar and generous berries. In addition to providing food, climbers give shelter for invertebrates, birds and small mammals.

A nest box (number 39) is tied to a tree and we mark out the area for the birch border pond.

I slosh down to the hen run. It is an unlovely place at this time of year made worse by the need to keep the hens in due to the restrictions brought about by avian flu. The girls sound so sad.  Now the ground seems full of rain, so Big Bazza and I can wheel chippings that will be spread as a mulch on the sopping soil to conserve moisture during dry times on our sandy hilltop and to suppress weeds. Bazza is my monster equestrian wheelbarrow bought to improve my productivity by my wife, the Head Gardener, for my birthday this time last year. It contains the volume of around three ordinary wheelbarrows and so speeds my work.

Living the dream.

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