Spring at Hazelhurst

 I always find watching out for Spring is a bit like playing grandmother’s footsteps.  It won’t move forward while you’re watching for it, but turn your back a second and it’s springing all over the place.  As you can see the celandine on the towpath is bright and cheerful  right now, little fronds of  cow parsley leaves are already growing behind it.  But it wasn’t the first kid on the block.

Cheerful celandine

Stealing the show were the hazel catkins.  Hazels grow very happily here, and  the little hill (or hurst) on which we are perched takes it name from them.  I took this picture at the beginning of March, not long after all the snow had disappeared.  Sorry about the blurs, but catkins don’t say cheese they just tremble!  Trembling in the wind is quite important to hazels, this is how the pollen in the male catkin is transferred to the female buds.  Relying on a gust of wind strikes me as a fairly haphazard way to reproduce but at least unlike us they can also clone themselves through vegetative reproduction, spreading out in the same way perennials do.

hazel catkins I discovered four baby hazels had planted themselves at the foot of this particular hazel.  I’ve never actually hugged a tree and I would almost certainly crush these if I tried, but I was absurdly pleased to see them.  I’m probably still feeling guilty about the birch tree (see Wood Burners and Wood Management) and have resolved to plant these out at a more fortuitous spacing in the hope they will all survive.  (I’ll be basket weaving next!)  If you’re in the mood for a bit of DIY forestry here are the tips:

  • Make sure the tree you are planting is suitable for soil type and location.
  • Pot grown plants can be planted out at any time, it’s best to plant bare-root trees in the winter months while they are dormant.
  • The hole you dig need only be slightly wider than the pot, or the root spread if you have reasonably decent soil conditions.
  • It is very important to get depth right, take time and care with this, the pot or root collar (where root becomes stem) should be level with, or very slightly raised above, the ground.
  • When you back fill the hole you need to compact it really well to make the tree ‘wind firm’.  Don’t accidentally stomp on the roots with your big boots though! A little at a time is best.
  • Make sure the plants are kept weed free for a metre around them, this is important.  Use a light mulch.
  • Prune out any weak forks that may later split or decay to prevent disease entering the tree.
  • It is now thought using stakes encourages weak stems, if you do think the tree needs extra support make sure ties are not too tight and remove as soon as possible.
  • Depending on the pests your trees are likely to encounter – rabbits, deer, careless humans, vandals – you might decide on some form of protection around the tree while it is young and getting established.

Now sit back and enjoy watching your forest grow my tree-hugging, basket-weaving friends! 

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