Ad­mires the beau­ties of As­ton Clin­ton rag­pits

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREEN SPACES - STEPHEN­SON

NOW that au­tumn has set in, the wool­ly­coated four-legged vol­un­teers have ar­rived! The sheep are do­ing a great job of grazing down the grass­land. This is es­sen­tial to make sure the more com­pet­i­tive coarser grass and scrub species don’t get the up­per hand and smother the or­chids.

The air is filled with storm-tossed leaves with a bounc­ing flight, like some mi­grant but­ter­flies off to warmer climes; a soli­tary bum­ble bee is search­ing out a place to shel­ter from the tur­bu­lent gusts of wind.

Poet John Clare de­scribed our wild bees as ‘chil­dren of the sun’ and how they ‘pipe rus­tic bal­lads on busy wings’ a poetic de­scrip­tion for th­ese beau­ti­ful crea­tures we so of­ten take for granted.

After a few hours’ cut­ting back some of the scrub too big for the sheep to eat, I wan­dered into the wood­land, crunch­ing over dead sticks and beech mast un­der­foot. From within one of the nest boxes I no­ticed a keen eye star­ing at me. The slightly en­larged en­trance hole pointed to a home im­provem done not by a beak but some sharp teeth!

The fat or edi­ble dor­mouse is a famil denizen o houses and nest boxes. This par­tic­u­lar one stared out with an ir­re­sistibly cute face. A pink nose, grey ears and a pair of beady black eyes re­minded me of a minia­ture koala bear.

It looked cosy and at least it won’t dis­turb any­one while it’s on the re­serve.

Ear­lier in the year a grand old beech tree came down. This supine gi­ant will pro­vide a valu­able source of dead wood for many in­ver­te­brates and fungi. But now I can walk along its en­tire length to ap­pre­ci­ate fully the beauty of the mus­cu­lar boughs and car­bun­cled gun­metal-grey trunk, the tex­tures and shape of its el­e­gant branches right into the top­pled crown.

Sud­denly, win­ter blew in. Over­head a flock of redwings wheeled around sur­vey­ing their new rest­ing place. They seem to love each other’s company and have re­mained friends since em­bark­ing on their jour­ney from Scan­di­navia, and are look­ing for­ward to feast­ing upon the au­tumn har­vest of de­li­cious hedgerow berries!

no bet­ter time to plant trees and conifers, par­tic­u­larly bare-root ones, when the plants are dor­mant but the soil is still warm enough for the roots to be­come es­tab­lished be­fore spring.

So if you’re plant­ing a tree dur­ing Na­tional Tree Week, which runs from Novem­ber 29 to De­cem­ber 7, con­sider firstly your sit­u­a­tion and how much space you have.

Trees can cre­ate pri­vacy, shade, dra­matic im­pact, colour and fruit, as well as move­ment and ar­chi­tec­tural form. The height and struc­ture of the types you choose are as im­por­tant in a small gar­den as they are in a large one.

If you have a small space, con­sider choos­ing a nar­row tree with min­i­mal spread, which will pro­vide height and struc­ture. Al­ter­na­tively, you may pre­fer one land­mark spread­ing tree with a canopy which casts dap­pled shade but al­lows for some plant­ing un­der­neath. Com­pact ‘weep­ing’ trees, such as a weep­ing pear (Pyrus sali­ci­fo­lia) could be used as a fo­cal point. If your space is re­ally limited, you could plant a care­fully trimmed tree in a large pot.

Ex­cel­lent trees for small gar­dens in­clude Ame­lanchier lamar­ckii, whose grace­ful branches carry cop­per-hued new leaves in spring along with starry, white flow­ers. In au­tumn the leaves of­ten colour bril­liantly too.

If you have room for two trees, try to com­bine two trees which have a dif­fer­ent sea­son of in­ter­est, such as a pho­tinia - an ever­green with new red growth in late spring - and sor­bus, which has lovely au­tumn hues and daz­zling berries.

If you are look­ing for flow­ers, con­sider one of the crab ap­ple va­ri­eties, such as Malus flori­bunda, the Ja­panese crab, which is adorned with blush pink and white fra­grant flow­ers in spring and is slow grow­ing, or the Malus ‘Royal Beauty’, which bears deep red-pur­ple flow­ers and small dark red fruits.

Among the most suit­able flow­er­ing trees for a con­fined space is the Prunus ‘Amanogawa’, an up­right spec­i­men with as­cend­ing branches which pro­duces fra­grant pink flow­ers in mid-spring.

If you only have room for a pot, con­sider a Ja­panese maple, which will pro­duce fan­tas­tic fo­liage colour, or a trimmed bay, pho­tinia or olive tree.

Big­ger gar­dens of­fer more scope to house ma­jes­tic oaks, horse chest­nuts and lime trees. Just be aware of their im­pact on your views long-term be­cause you don’t want them to screen your vista of the coun­try­side.

Rec­om­mended RHS AGM va­ri­eties to plant in­clude Pho­tinia fraseri ‘Red Robin’, Acer free­manii ‘Au­tumn Blaze’, Quer­cus palus­tris, Malus ‘Ever­este’ and Sor­bus vil­morinii.

Trees planted in the au­tumn will ex­pe­ri­ence much less stress and will re­quire less wa­ter­ing and af­ter­care than trees planted in spring or sum­mer.

When plant­ing, dig out a hole much larger than the roots, at least 30cm (1ft) wider than the root­ball and 30cm (12in) deeper and mix in good gar­den com­post and a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of slow-re­lease fer­tiliser.

Stake your plant us­ing a stake as long as the dis­tance from the bot­tom of the hole to just be­low the first branch, plus 45cm (18in). It’s eas­ier to do it if the tree is re­moved, then once the stake has been driven in re­place the tree, teas­ing its roots around the stake and make sure that the tree is held away from the stake with a buf­fer to stop it rub­bing. Larger trees can be staked us­ing three stakes in a tri­an­gle shape in the hole about 50cm (18in) from the stem of the tree.

Add com­post to the soil you are go­ing to put back around the tree, firm­ing it against the roots, but avoid heel­ing in on top of the root­ball or you may dam­age the tree. Pile the soil around the tree to cre­ate a mound, so di­rect­ing the wa­ter into the root­ball.

HAN­NAH

Top, beech trees will pro­vide a good source of dead wood and, above, watch out for the edi­ble dor­mouse

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