tree following March 2019

afal (apple) trywn mochyn 4.00 pm 3 March 2019 Welsh borders

I don’t think my little trwyn mochyn apple tree looks much different to last month, but you can see that the Welsh onions growing nearby are taller and greener than they were then.

apple trwyn mochyn 3 March 2019

I tried to get a close up of a bud starting to swell and showing some green but storm Freya was starting to blow up and the twig just refused to keep still!

fuzzy close up of bud on trwyn mochyn 3 March 2019

(as yet) unknown tree 9.40 am 4 March 2019 Old St Chad’s Churchyard Shrewsbury

A bright, sunny, clear, breezy spring like morning.  The remnants of storm Freya were littered beneath some of the other trees but not this one.  Birds are singing and flying about but not near this tree – perhaps because I am here!  There are signs of spring on the ground – red deadnettles, celandine, daffodils and the council’s spring bedding plants are in flower as are some early blossom trees.

I had hoped to identify this tree by now, but forgot to bring my tree books to Shrewsbury with me.  I have looked at native trees on the Woodland Trust website and am wondering if it is a poplar tree.  The twigs and bark look similar to their pictures of black poplar and I think the overall shape may be right, but I need to see the leaves to have more certainty.

Is it a poplar tree? 4 March 2019

‘My’ tree too is showing signs of waking up from her winter slumber.  My camera is very basic and just about captured these twigs with their buds starting to swell and show some pale green and you can also see the light glinting on the buds in the background as well.

twigs with slightly swollen leaf buds 4 March 2019

She is not a tall tree, fitting in beside the old church and the edge of the churchyard.  Some branches have previously been pruned to keep her within the space, but I think perhaps she is older than I thought before.

base of tree 4 March 2019

trunk with patch of bark missing 4 March 2019

trunk with evidence of limbs removed in the past 4 March 2019

silver birch tree 12.30 pm 11 March 2019 woodland in Shropshire

Yesterday was fresh and sunny with a bit of a bite in the wind, but being in the wood was lovely.  The birds were calling and there are signs of spring with buds swelling on the trees I planted last year, brambles starting to sprout, wood sorrel popping up and the honeysuckle and wild rose sending out shoots.

The woodland silver birch is also waking up from its winter sleep.  The buds near the ground were starting to swell a bit and were tinged with green, but my attempt at a close up was too fuzzy to use!

woodland silver birch 11 March 2019

I noticed this time that the base of the tree is much wider than the main trunk and wonder if perhaps there was another trunk in the past.  There are a lot of silver birch in this woodland, including some multi stemmed ones.  Some of these have died and fallen to the ground where they can be seen gradually decaying.  However there is no evidence of an old fallen trunk nearby.

base of silver birch 11 March 2019

Looking more closely at the tree’s trunk I saw that it has a yellow lichen growing on it.

lichen on silver birch trunk 11 March 2019

I am finding it interesting to do this tree project.  It is certainly making me look more closely and take notice in a different way.  It will be interesting to see what I have learned by the end of the year.


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In time – after watching and waiting – comes doing the minimum.

The weather has been far warmer than ‘normal’ for February – last weekend was warm, sunny, sparkling spring like weather – the kind of days we would perhaps dare to hope would come by the end of March.  This untimely burst of loveliness pulled the plants and garden creatures forward with bumble bees and butterflies out and about, buds swelling on amelanchier, jostaberry, pears, plums and gages and early cowslips and forget me nots among the crocus and daffodils.  The warmth and sunshine also drew me outside sooner than in previous years to do some minimal untidy-ing-up.

general untidy-ing-up

This consisted of cutting back last year’s remaining fennel stems – the seeds having almost all been eaten by this point in time.  I have often seen blue tits feeding on them and this year the neighbours also saw goldfinches.  I also cut off more old dead stems from sweet cicely, alliums, mashua, marjoram, mint and some other plants.  In accordance with doing the minimum I literally move these materials the smallest distance I can and put them down round fruit trees as a twiggy mulch.  As there was quite a lot of twiggy bits and pieces the mulch piles ended up quite deep – hence the untidy-ing-up aspect.

twiggy mulch round young gage tree

However the last thing either nature or I want is a bare, clean, ‘tidy’ garden.  What we humans perceive as tidy, organised and orderly is, to nature and natural beings barren, bleak and inhospitable.  What nature wants is ‘lumpy texture’ with lots of niches and habitat for all sorts of creatures to live in or to eat from and with building materials for the birds’ nests.

up close and un-tidy

Even though I relish the practice of not controlling, of letting go and living with the uncertainty of how things will develop I have a lifetime’s cultural indoctrination of what gardens ‘should’ look like to contend with.  I can’t shake it off but in the bigger scheme of things it doesn’t matter at all and anyway in a few weeks’ time there will be such an explosion of growth that these twiggy piles will become invisible amongst the fronds of fennel and sweet cicely and the massed forget me not and honesty blooms; and all the while the creatures and fungi of the soil will be wearing them away from below ground transforming them into new beings and fresh growth.




Posted in Borderland Garden, Doing the minimum, Forest Gardening, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, Untidy-ing, Waiting, Watching | 4 Comments

tree following

I recently came across something new to be fascinated by – tree following!  As explained on The Squirrelbasket website:

“Each year, we choose a tree and see what it does:

  • when its leaves appear and when they fall
  • which twigs grow and which fall off
  • if it has seeds
  • and if any germinate and grow into new trees
  • what its bark looks like – when it’s wet and when it’s dry
  • whether anything grows on it – like lichen and mos
  • whether creatures sit on – insects, birds, butterflies
  • what plants grow round it and what they do, too

 And we invite others to join us – to choose a tree and to “follow” it.  There will be a linky box on the 7th of every month where you will be able to leave links to your tree following posts.  Each box will stay open for one week. That way we will be able to keep roughly in time with each other and compare the progress of “our” trees through the year.”

 I have missed the 7th of this month, but will link to the proper website next month.  But for a start here are a few pictures and a little background information about the trees I have chosen.

What particularly appeals to me is the watching.  Most of what I do in my garden is watching.  And waiting.  And watching some more.  And thereby I learn.  A lot.  I hope to learn a lot more about these trees and the places they are growing in.

Apple Trwyn Mochyn (Pig’s Snout in Welsh)


apple trwyn mochyn

I planted this tree five years ago.   She is on the right of the second picture down in the linked post – just a stick in the ground.  She is being grown as a ‘tiny tree’ which I have written about here.

apple trwyn mochyn

Silver birch in the woods

I was in the wood this week and as I was clearing brambles from around her trunk this tree seemed to stand out from the rest.

silver birch in woods February 2019

silver birch base of trunk

hole low down in the trunk

craggy and scarred bark

Unknown tree at old St Chad’s churchyard, Shrewsbury

Only a small part of the ancient church remains and it is surrounded by lovely trees which make this (in my opinion) one of the most lovely corners of a altogether very lovely town.  I went to look for a tree in and this one that I haven’t identified yet chose me.

unknown tree old St Chad’s Churchyard, Shrewsbury

bark of unknown tree


Posted in Borderland Garden, Tree following, Watching | 4 Comments


Winter can be an anxious time for gardeners as they contemplate the bad weather out of doors and wonder how well their precious plants will fare.  I have always tried to stick to plants that will cope with the conditions they are presented with but that doesn’t mean they will automatically live.  So it was reassuring to read about some of the benefits of winter online:

“winter does bring a few benefits to your garden if managed correctly.

 Snow has two major benefits for your garden. It is an excellent insulator against very cold weather – plants can sit snug under a layer of snow and emerge healthy, whereas a chill wind in higher air temperatures can do permanent damage. It also slowly releases moisture into the soil when it melts, without the run-off that the same volume of rain would inevitably entail.

 This slow release of moisture into your soil is extremely nourishing for plants and grass, as it slowly releases minerals and nourishment into the soil. Most notable is the amount of nitrogen released into the soil, which is great for plant growth when the weather warms up.

 When it comes to frost, there are also benefits from the garden reaching such low temperatures. Cultivated soil left in clods will break down and become lovely tilth, simply through being frosted. All the fungal problems that accompany warm, wet summers, such as black spot and canker, are blitzed by sustained cold weather. Overwintering aphids, slugs and snails die off, too.”

As well as being potentially a time for worrying winter is often a time for gardeners to plan, to hope and to dream, to order new seeds and plants, to assess what has gone before and even to harvest some early crops.  I have done all of these in the past and if I needed to I would be doing them this winter.

Out of doors winter is an enforced break from activity.  There is very little happening above ground and apart from planting dormant, bare root trees there is not much that can usefully be done.  So is that it?  Is that what the season and the garden are saying – ‘there’s nothing to usefully do – so don’t bother’.  Actually I don’t think so.

My primary focus at present is on my forest garden as an ecosystem and on learning what to do in it, when and why.  There is no pre ordained template for this – no annual tick list of jobs to do.  In the forest garden decision making is much more sensitive and subjective than that.  That is why this year I have set out to ‘listen’ to what winter is saying and to then take that to heart.

I think that winter is here to show us that in every cycle there is a time to pause, a time when most living things are either taking a break or going much slower than at other times and that winter invites the forest gardener to share in that pause.  This is different from just doing nothing.  It is entering into a caring and expectant hush, a recognition of the vulnerability of nature, a vulnerability that deserves respect and attention.  And, in time, it will be the season and the garden that will lead the forest gardener out of this extended pause and show them what it is that they can (usefully) do once more.

robin was starting to sing out on this particular cold February day in 2012






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Forest Wisdom from North America — HEALING FOREST

This is the kind of harmony that we also need to find with our gardens such that garden and gardener are inextricably linked to our mutual benefit:


Connections between the healing of our society and the healing of our land.

via Forest Wisdom from North America — HEALING FOREST

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gardens of delight

I have been blogging for eight years now – starting on 10 January 2011.  Since then there have been 191 posts!

thousands of flowers on the herbal edge

My original aim was to explore the world of perennial vegetables and to find out what I could about obtaining them, growing and eating them, hence the name for the blog – Annis perennial veggies.  It was always my aim to grow perennial vegetables in the context of a small forest garden as I explained in that first month of blogging.  In spring of 2014 my book Edible Perennial Gardening was published detailing what I had found out up to that point in time.

polyculture in summer

After this my focus changed from growing as many perennial vegetables as I could to the garden ecosystem as an integrated and functioning whole.  I had moved house and begun a new garden by then and had been presented with lots of different things to explore and understand.

fennel in rain

In time I gave my new garden the name ‘the garden of delights’ – for obvious reasons really – because there were so many things within it and about it that delighted me.

For the past two and a half years I have been concentrating on elucidating and describing principles that can be used as guidance for anyone with a forest garden, or indeed for anyone who would like to make their garden more of a functioning ecosystem.

elder in flower

I made an initial statement of these principles as they had then evolved in a blog post last spring. I have continued thinking and writing and am pleased to be able to say that last week I completed the manuscript of my second book which explores and explains these principles further.  There will be more news of this in due course.

bumble bees on germander

It feels like time for a change and today I am changing the name of this blog to ‘gardens of delight’ (although the name has changed the web address remains the same).  This is in recognition of both my gardens being ‘gardens of delight’ for me and in the hope of  many more gardens of delight in many more places in times to come.

ripening raspberries

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The Sacred Gardener

As a powerful alternative to the consumerist fantasy land that we are invited to inhabit at Christmas here is a video from Steven Martyn – The Sacred Gardener – from Canada and, more fundamentally, from Earth.  Sit down somewhere comfortable, take a deep breath and enjoy!

Posted in Relationship with nature, Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments