The Bad Blogger’s Birch – tree following, October 2014

Oh dear, I am bad. So much has been going on in the garden, and have I been blogging about it? No. In between working, coping with a crap hand (not of cards, crappy tendon problems, again, boooo-ring) and actually gardening, blogging has been left behind. But so has my birch…

It’s most odd. I was anticipating significant change between August and September, and again between September and October, but it’s not really happened.


The downy birch is just not colouring up, but then neither are my other birches, like the big thug in front of my baby birch here. The area around it has changed, and significantly too: the meadow has been cut. This has allowed other things to appear, like these crocuses


and a rather miscellaneous array of fungi, none of which I can identify as they mostly go brown and slimy before I can get to them with Roger Phillips wonderful photographic guide, Mushrooms.

But apart from that very little has altered. The odd leaf is going brown and one or two are even yellow, but there are still scale insects

scale insect

sunning themselves when the weather permits. Mind you, there are definitely fewer of these than there were last time.

One thing I have noticed, though, is that the bark of my baby downy birch is most definitely changing colour. When I started following my as-then-unidentified tree, the trunk was still very orange. The majority of the branches (like this one) and the higher parts of the trunk still are a warm orangey brown in colour. But the base of the trunk, right up to the level of the first branches, now has a distinct silvery tone. I’d not realised quite how silvery until I looked again at that top shot – silver with a hint of marmalade, instead of the other way round.

The leaves may not be changing colour dramatically, but they are definitely thinning out:


They are also beginning to dry out and are starting to feel quite crispy when they’re crushed, so maybe there won’t be any left at all by next month.

The grass isn’t covered in fallen leaves, however – a fact I can only ascribe to the gales and storms we’ve been having. I snatched these pictures on a good day. This is why I waited:


…allegedly, a colour photograph. It’s been a bit on the wild side. Already. The birches are fine with that, though. They bend dramatically, flexing with the force of the gales, and then they ping back upright. Occasionally I might lose a minor branch (the big thug has a small one which is brown and dangling, but totally out of reach), but that’s it. They are ideal for my garden, and I clearly need to plant more (I always fancied a grove of perfect white birches, rather like Anglesey Abbey)…


22 Comments Add yours

  1. VP says:

    Karen and I had our annual conversation about how your part of the world doesn’t do Autumn colour. Perhaps your birch is proving the point? When we went over to The Dingle it was noticeable how the tree colour was much more dramatic once you got past Dolgellau.

    1. kate says:

      It is quite marked, isn’t it? You could well be right, but the other two birches are usually reliable, and they’re not doing much either.

  2. Cathy says:

    VP’s observations are intriguing, aren’t they, as you would think it is mostly weather related – although geographically I suppose it is weather in relation to elevation, wind direction, etc. Even so, the annual lack of autumn colour does seem a bit odd – but doing our own monthly observations (late or otherwise) are making us aware of other things too. Hope your tendons are behaving better now 😉

    1. kate says:

      It is a curious feature round here. Yes, the trees do colour up (providing storms don’t rip the leaves off first), but usually late and it’s usually very subtle. There’s the odd tree that is almost fluorescent and quite noticeable for that reason – I know a house near here that is often described as being ‘the one next to the yellow tree’, fine for locals but a bit confusing for non-residents outside autumn. Maybe I’ll be posting something different in November!

      Thanks for the tendon good wishes – I’ve told them firmly no more nonsense…

      1. Cathy says:

        Love that ‘house next to the yellow tree’ description!

        1. kate says:

          Quite common sort of thing round here. I wonder, sometimes, how my house is described (heads down)…

          Actually, I know. It’s quite boring. The house on the hill behind the chapel. Sigh, all that effort in the garden.

        2. Cathy says:

          But it will sound better in Welsh, I am sure – in fact I think you might have mentioned it on your blog in the past. Our house is probably descibed as ‘the pink house’, or more probably ‘that strange pink house’ – and anyone passing wouldn’t have a clue there was any garden at all

        3. kate says:

          Love the ‘strange pink house’!

          Before I even thought of living here, I’d tentatively tried to see if there was a garden, but the walls were too high. Now it’s a bit more obvious as that’s only true on the road side – the garden is higher and is held up by the walls (eek) and some things hang over the top. But I can still hear some of the summer walkers speculating…

  3. Oh yes, a grove of birches would be stunning, they do waft beautifully, and there is much wafting to be done in our neck of the unchanging woods. I must carve out some time to go up the river and see if there are any signs of autumn in the shelter if the valley. Very exciting to see that distinctly silver sheen to the bark, I think I have another couple of years to wait for mine to follow in its footsteps. Except that they aren’t Ents…

    1. kate says:

      Wouldn’t they, though? Sigh… however, I expect that the Anglesey birches are washed down regularly, and life is most emphatically too short! (Unless you have a team of gardeners, that is.)

      How about autumn colour near you? Anything yet? Do you have the same phenomenon of late and subtle?

  4. Lucy Corrander says:

    How interesting it is that some trees shrivel their leaves rather than shed them while supple. Now I’m wondering what Shield Bugs do in the winter, whether they hide or hibernate or die. More to find out!

    1. kate says:

      I was standing by the burch yesterday, admiring a shield bug (there are definitely fewer of them), when there was a loud whirring sound and another one zoomed onto a leaf right just past my face – quite an impact which shook the leaf and its neighbours. I’d not thought about how they flew – and now I’m thinking about how they overwinter. I too need to know more!

  5. wellywoman says:

    We’ve just come back from Scotland and leaves are on the turn there but back in Wales there’s still very little. My liquidamabar looks like it’s on fire but it has looked like that since mid-August. Think the nights haven’t been cold enough yet. I have relatives who live in Cornwall and they say they get very little autumn colour at all because it’s so mild. Hope the hand gets better soon.

    1. kate says:

      I’ve got two things which have coloured up (well, the rosa rugosa hedges always do) – the big amelanchier which is largely blocked by the beautifully windbreaky Portugal Laurel, and a blueberry. The latter is stunning – and that’s it. I’m sure you’re right about the temperature…

  6. Amanda says:

    The weather is playing a big part on our tree observations, we need a good frost to get the colour.

    1. kate says:

      We certainly do – maybe that’s one reason why our colours over here on the west coast aren’t so good? I don’t think we had one decent frost last winter…

  7. interesting Kate that your downy birch is still green, being further north mine are yellow and green just now, with all the constant rain here the leaves are mostly still pliable though there is some brown wind burn from last weeks storms, I like the autumn crocus under planting,
    sorry your hand is playing up again I hope it clears up soon for you, Frances

    1. kate says:

      interesting – still no sign of much yellow here, though I have found ONE leaf. We have had more wild storms, so I reckon that’ll be it: they’ll all get blown off before they colour up.

      I think – just think – that my big brute birch is about to go, though. When it does, it’s like a pillar of gold, so let’s hope.

  8. Well you are a better tree blogger than I am Kate. I seem to have left mine for a few months, a shame really! There might be something in the difference between coast and not in relation to leaf colour. We have a lot of good colour round here just now. In fact we came back from a few days in Italy on Tuesday and, lovely though Italy was, one of the good things about coming home was the leaf colour!

    1. kate says:

      You’ve had good reason, and Tuscany sounds fabulous; I’ve no excuses except for work (and my creepy online stalker person putting me off somewhat, but *!!***65££@1 to them, that’s what I say).

      I wonder if it is being on the coast? I had to take a friend to Chester the other day and it was noticeably more autumnal inland. I’m working in Dolgellau today, and I’ll try and be objective about colour changes up the Mawddach estuary, and on the lee side of Cadair Idris above the town. Hmm.

  9. hoehoegrow says:

    It’s funny isn’t it, sometimes autumn comes , not with a bang, but with a whimper. My birches are definitely whimpering , as the leaves are just shrivelling and then dropping. Personally, by the time we get to this bit of the season, it doesn’t really bother me, as we only need one windy day to strip them bare.
    (Have just reread this post and it sounds really miserable , but I didn’t feel that way, honest!)

    1. kate says:

      I’m so glad about the last sentence, because I was about to go on and on about the need for SAD lamps!
      Autumn had almost sneaked up on us here, but it’s still ridiculously mild. P keeps looking at the lawn and saying ‘this will be the last cut’ and then revising it; it’s still growing. Mushrooms, largely, but definitely still growing.

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