My followed tree and the wind…

My poor birch, the tree I am ‘following’ once a month, is blowing all over the place. And that’s although the storm we are having at the moment scarcely merits the description compared to those we endured over the winter, with 108mph gusts and floods and railway lines being washed away. I am amazed at how resilient the three birches are proving to be, even though the bigger two are now substantial. They just bend and lash about and hang on in there. It helps that there’s no direct threat from the sea – happily I’m on the 100m contour line – but they do cope extremely well with being in the direct route of Irish Sea gales.

The contrast between them and the evergreen trees can be seen very clearly now the birches are in full leaf. This is my followed birch, the baby one, zoomed up against the Western Red Cedar which is diagonally behind it:

the state of that...

It’s probably just as well that the other WRC was taken down a couple of years ago; this poor thing does look embarrassed at the state it’s in, and the other was in a much more prominent position.

The birches, on the other hand, are downright perky.


Lots of lovely fresh growth, looking fresher than ever in the drizzle and wind – I’m taking shelter under the WRC here, and ‘my’ birch is the smaller one in the middle, the furthest from the camera. The meadow is growing up around it, and though I am managing to maintain a clear circle at the base, it’s getting more difficult to do so. Especially as I decided not to mow the path which ran beside it, almost in a straight line on from the central path here. It was bumpy and lumpy and there were too many fritillaries to avoid, so that path is history now. This can make photographing the Chosen Tree a little awkward, but that’s nothing to the problems some of the people blogging around  Loose and Leafy‘s tree-following meme are having.

And when I can get up close and personal, and when the tree isn’t lashing about like a demented Morris Dancer on speed, there have been changes. The catkins are now mostly over – thank heavens, I’ve been mainlining Ventolin – though there are still plenty of flowers:

catkin and flower

and though the majority of the leaves aren’t quite as sparkly and new as they were (dur, obviously), there are still some unfolding – much to my delight. I think the fresh green of new birch leaves is one of my all-time favourite  colours.

new leaves

This is the time of year when birch leaves were traditionally gathered, dried and eventually made into a decoction and drunk as a herb tea (not recommended, btw) or used as a skin wash for eczema. That was tried on me by my grandmother, and the spot of eczema did vanish, but then it was only a minor problem anyway; I was lucky. There’s more evidence for birches being used medicinally to treat arthritis, but I don’t think I was the only victim of skin-problem ‘solutions’. It seems to have been a rural French standby, judging by some other people I know.

The bark, of course, has traditionally had many more uses and, as I noted when I started ‘following’ this tree, this one’s bark is an appealing shade of burnt orange. However, it was suggested by several people that this would not last, and indeed… look what’s happening:

peel a tree

Beneath the burnt orange is a paler, more tawny shade, like a fine old sherry – and beneath that is a silvery colour. Maybe it will join its compatriots and shine in the evening sun. Oh, I suppose it does that anyway (when we get evening sun, that is); it’s just different.

Associated wildlife, I’m afraid, is not that evident. As yet; things will improve as the meadow grows up and the wind dies down. At present the tree’s only visitors seem to be the Upper Garden Robin, who uses it as one of his/her many shouting-at-other-robins posts, and some blackbirds. The crows and jackdaws avoid it – it’s probably not stable enough or high enough for them to use it as a lookout, or the robin is really threatening – and I haven’t seen much sign of insect life. Yet. Yet…


20 thoughts on “My followed tree and the wind…

  1. angiesgardendiaries

    I love your little meadow and the trees. I love how the bark on your selected tree is transforming – isn’t nature incredible! I’m sure the robin thinks your tree is his personal perch and indeed will defend it like billy oh!

    1. kate Post author

      The meadow grew out of laziness, and now I wouldn’t be without it – wildlife just loves it. Er, later on, especially – not today, when it’s pouring down. Grumble. You are definitely right about the robin, except he/she thinks the whole of the top garden is personal property. (There are middle garden and bottom garden robins as well; every so often we have trouble…)

  2. Jane@hoehoegrow

    I love the thought of your shouty robin reigning supreme in your birch! Sorry to hear you and your trees are being blown about, but as you say, birches just go with the flow and bend. They are the most beautiful trees. I have a Jacquemontii close to the house, and I have just discovered solar spotlights , so it is lit by those at night. It gives off the most ethereal glow and looks almost other- worldly.
    Must do my tree post – thanks for reminding me… trouble is, it is pouring down here !!

    1. kate Post author

      Wow, solar spotlights sound amazing – I remember being gobsmacked by seeing some in use on the TV, Countryfile I think it was. Extraordinary effects…

      Pouring down here too, now. Boring!

  3. Janet/Plantaliscious

    Its the robin, he’s very scary 😉 I like the idea of your WRC being embarrassed by its patchy coat, poor thing. I am with you on the magic of fresh birch leaves, I am so very glad I have my own three planted out, also blowing around madly, which is a little disconcerting. Hope this “stake them low and they will anchor themselves really well” thing works… Plus, I can be happily interested in your lovely birch rather than green with envy. Leave the green to the trees, I say…

    1. kate Post author

      He is indeed – he was shouting at P’s dog on Monday and she was just lying down quietly (for once). On the ‘stake em small’ thing, that’s how I approached this birch and it’s been fine. I never want to make any stakes too extreme here as things need to be able to move with the wind without falling over later on. The wind’s a 908!!@30948y87^^%%g….

  4. Lucy Corrander

    The evergreen trees round where I live are in a terrible mess – many a beautiful shade of copper or dull yellow instead of green. I imagine some deciduous trees will have had their roots rocked and may follow suit in time.
    Robins and doves must have very good PR people. Both are aggressive. I understand doves are the only birds prepared to fight to the death. On the other hand, blackbirds and thrushes seem to have worked on their reputation for singing – at the cost of robins who, I sometimes think, should really be the top of the choir.

    1. kate Post author

      The worst round here are the bamboos which are mostly pale beige and look like zombie plants – plus they rattle horribly in the wind. So glad I’ve not got any… though all our evergreens run them close. Seaward sides are blasted; landward sides look good. Well, better.

      Robins get by on being cute (doves too), but as I’ve been told repeatedly – and told others – just because someone is cute, it doesn’t mean they’re a nice person. Evidently it applies in the avian world as well, ;-).

  5. Alison

    I do love birches, they are messy tress and yes do not do much for my hay fever either, but they are so pretty they are worth it.

  6. wellywoman

    The wind hasn’t been too bad down here but it’s chilly and wet. Such a contrast to some lovely weather we’ve had recently. Everything looks so green and lush though so an upside to being stuck indoors today. I’m always impressed by trees and what they can cope with. The number of times I have been in bed listening to a storm raging wondering what scene of devastation will greet me in the morning . Then I open the curtains to find everything is where it should be. Remarkable! It was sparrows and tits which loved our birch. I actually felt guilty when we had to have it removed and wondered if the birds would miss it. Love the meadow. Have a fab weekend and I hope the storm has subsided 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      I think (and I’m whispering here) that we’re all due a burst of warm and settled weather – certainly could do with it here. Have already had one emergency trip to the builders’ merchants for stakes after the gales blew down my windbreaks – and yet the birches just do their thing. I was also lying in bed thinking ‘OMG…’ and all I find is a collapsed windbreak. Trees absolutely fine, huh, winds rubbish.

      I felt equally guilty when I had to have the big Western Red Cedar taken down. But the birds which used it just moved onto other trees. Phew…

  7. tjhavenith

    How cool that you have a meadow. I remember playing a robin call to a robin once – it flew directly at us! Just goes to show how territorial they are. It’s nice to meet your birch.

    1. kate Post author

      I love the meadow, which isn’t that big, just grew out of a desire not to mow a sloping lawn, and so does the wildlife.

      I’ve had a similar experience with a robin, but without me playing a call – I think it may have seen its reflection in my camera lens. It was quite unnerving; all sorts of Hitchcock visions played in my head and I got back in my car and left! Robin, 1; human, 0…

  8. islandthreads

    Kate, it will be extra interesting if your birch decides to change bark colour the year you are following it, love the scary robin king of the tree, I hope you will have calmer days, Frances

  9. alderandash

    Aren’t all Morris Dancers on speed…? I thought that was how they managed to keep up all the leaping and tinkling? (With apologies to any actual Morris Dancers reading this.) Lovely tree update…I’m wondering if I did the right thing with mine, picking such a tiny sapling – not much bark action to speak of!

    1. kate Post author

      Hee hee, the only one I veer knew was fuelled by beer! I’m not sure there’s going to be much bark action with mine; it seems to have decided to settle down now. Am watching it like a hawk for any signs of emerging whiteness.

    1. kate Post author

      It’s definitely coming on. Well spotted – I’ve had to allow one of the paths to grow up as the birches were getting too big, and you didn’t so much walk along it as crawl in oder to avoid being slapped in the face. You must come over soon – it’s getting there. Phew…


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