Gardens change over time

23 March 2013

You can make whatever plans you like for a garden – if half of them come to fruition you are doing well. Nature, plus sod’s law usually conspire to ensure the rest bite the dust or at least change radically.

One of the biggest – unintended – changes in our garden has been the loss of a mature willow tree, which was right in the middle of the garden, forming an unmissable focal point.

Garden with willow tree

Garden with willow tree

We hadn’t realised anything was wrong with it, but it didn’t come into leaf in spring, and it turned out to have been infected with honey fungus, so there was nothing to do but have it taken out. I thought long and hard about re-planting a tree, as honey fungus is inclined to linger, but it wasn’t the same without that focal point, so we not only had the top growth removed, but the roots taken out, and a large quantity of new top soil brought in.


Garden without willow tree

Garden without willow tree

The biggest advantage I found once it had gone was that I had a lot more space which enjoyed good levels of sunlight, and, as butterflies will usually only nectar in sunshine, this is important to me. It also used to be a challenge growing things under the willow, as anything of any height would meet up with the branches drooping down, looking messy,  and plants tended to grow lop-sided as they tried to get to the light. I had a rudbeckia which grew taller than me (OK, I’m short, but it shouldn’t have been that big), giving me considerable problems photographing the Red Admirals that nectared on it.

We’ve now planted a silver birch, which is taking a risk, as these are fairly prone to honey fungus, but it’s what I’ve always wanted.  So far it’s flourishing: it was 14′ (4.3m) when we planted it in 2009 – last year it had made it up to 16′ (4.8m), which is reasonable, given it would have spent its first years developing its root system. Being a native species, it is a good tree for wildlife, though so was the willow, which is a foodplant for many types of moth caterpillar.

Garden with silver birch 2013

Garden with silver birch 2013

So – a big unintended change, but one which has, in many ways, been positive. I just hope that future changes are not quite such big jobs to undertake!

Planting the silver birch in 2009

Planting the silver birch in 2009


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