Tree following – January, and a year of birch watching

So here we are, a new year, and almost a whole year since I started following my baby birch. It’s been wonderful; I have learned so much. It seems a good idea to have a round up, because next time I will be moving on to a different tree. Which one, though…

When I began, I didn’t even know what sort of birch I had, other than it was a free sapling given to me by the library as some sort of promotion with, I think, the Snowdonia National Park. Now I know it’s a downy birch, and that it’s growing up – its bark is changing colour.

birch trunksIt’s the little one at the back, and this time last year its trunk was really orange. It’s shedding all that now on the main trunk:


though the branches and growing tip are still orange, and will be for ever.  It will still have a slightly golden tint to the bark, and I don’t think it will ever be as white as the elegant left-hand birch, but who cares? This isn’t Anglesey Abbey, with a glorious grove of white birches – they’re Betula utilis var Jaquemontii, and, beautiful though they may be, they look rather artificial – or so I think. Lovely but deliberate.

So I thought I’d have a look back at a year – OK, almost a year – of my downy birch. To the setting it’s in – in the meadow and straight in line for the south-westerly gales off the sea – and to the changes, to the insects, to the weather. A quick photographic tour, before I move on to another tree for 2015. I wonder what that will be? One of my apples, perhaps? I was initially envious of people who chose trees with more obvious flowers and fruit, though as I came to understand more about the birch that feeling diminished. Not a native tree, perhaps my ginkgo? But I think I’ve found the answer, though I’m still doing reccies. Watch this space.

And in the meantime, here’s a year of a downy birch. Click on an image for a slideshow.

Thanks so much to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for organising this brilliant meme.


26 Comments Add yours

  1. Cathy says:

    And the moral is – keep observing and life becomes all the more richer…

    1. kate says:

      This needs writing on a placard right now!

  2. a nice round up Kate, it has been interesting to do, I intend to continue this year too, Frances

    1. kate says:

      Thanks Frances. It’s been really worth it – kept me going this year. Looking forwards to picking my new tree, though I’m a little worried about the weather and access (especially if it’s like today – vile – mind you, that depends on my choice)…

  3. wellywoman says:

    Loved your round up. Looking forward to hearing about your next subject.

    1. kate says:

      Thanks – and I’ve still not made my mind up! (Too much choice, I think. Narrowed down to four. Hm, and an entire wood.

  4. Lea says:

    Very interesting!
    Hope you are having a wonderful day!

    1. kate says:

      Good but very, very, very wet…. thanks, Lea

  5. Erika says:

    Hey, birches are cool trees that grow in places where most other trees cannot. I would love birches if I wasn’t allergic to their pollen.

    1. kate says:

      They are beautiful, aren’t they? I do get wheezy when they shed, but happily that all. So far…

  6. Hollis says:

    enjoyed the slide show — very cool!

    1. kate says:

      Thanks! It’s a great feature and so easy to do… plus, when you’re as addicted to photography as I am, it’s a great way of showing more shots.

  7. Anna says:

    I enjoyed your retrospective round up Kate. Your baby birch is certainly growing up – that shedding bark must denote its on its way to adolescence. Look forward to meeting its successor.

    1. kate says:

      I’m so pleased it decided to do its growing up this year!

      I found some photos of the the garden under 2010’s big snow in which this tiny sapling just appears on the edge of some shots. Can’t believe how much it’s grown in the last four years…

  8. What a very beautiful tree. Isn’t it amazing what we can learn about something if we just take the time and interest to study it? How many other things might there be in this world that would be so interesting if we’d just look and watch and listen! I’m looking forward to seeing what your next tree will be!

    1. kate says:

      Exactly! I’m still shaking myself when I think how I used to hardly notice this tree besides its bigger cousins – the reason why I picked it to focus on. Repaid that decision 100%, over and over.

  9. Enjoyed the post with such wonderful photos and great information.

    1. kate says:

      Thank you – but it’s easy to take good shots when your subject is so photogenic. And a reachable height!

  10. coastcard says:

    Great to see your downy birch, Kate! On the one hand I’m getting little flurries of last year’s Silver Birch seeds on my windowsill and on the other, the tree itself is busy shooting its new year growth … how the seasons roll! I was at Anglesey Abbey some weeks before Christmas … I know what you mean about the pristine nature, but somehow that birch grove never ceases to thrill me! I’m looking forward to going back soon now that the snowdrops are coming out.

    1. kate says:

      Ah – the downy is shedding all over the place too, or rather it was before last night when our winds got up to 81mph – so I’d be surprised of there was still much left to shed peacefully in the garden.

      I haven’t been to Anglesey Abbey for a while – reminds me that I must get over that side of the country pretty soon. They are lovely, of course, but — it’s not that they leave me cold; they could never do that. But they have the same sort of impact on me as a zen garden; they’re beautiful but almost unreal.

  11. Sara says:

    Hello, new tree follower here and I am visiting everyone on the Linky list. It has become obvious to me that I am going to learn a lot more than I ever knew about trees over the coming year! Your downy birch (what a lovely name) looks well loved and I appreciate the photo overview of the past months. As well, I am looking forward to the year ahead surrounded by this virtual forest of oh so many kinds of trees.

    1. kate says:

      Hello Sara! I hope you have fun with the meme, I’ve found it absolutely fascinating. It’s not just the range of trees, either, it’s the differing approaches too…

      (This year has really made me appreciate my birch. I’m sure it will have the same effect on you and your jacaranda!)

  12. Lucy Corrander says:

    This may be absurd – but I was quite moved as I went through the slideshow. One sees illustrations of what trees look like through the year from time to time (not often!) but they are generally impersonal. This is THE tree you have connected us with. (And I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Downy Birch till you introduced us to it.) Looking forward to the next choice!

    1. kate says:

      How lovely – and so was I, when I put it together, glad it wasn’t just me! (I didn’t know it was a downy birch when the year started, either; heard of them, didn’t know I had one.)

      I’ve quite fallen in love with that tree over the year – it’s gone from one I barely noticed to one I now stop and look at quite deliberately. For me the standout memory was of stopping by it to have yet another a close look, hearing a whizzing sound by my ear and then seeing the leaf I was looking at shake as a shield bug landed on it with a noticeable thwack. I’d never, ever have witnessed that otherwise. Everyone should follow trees!

  13. I never thought I’d find much to say about my hawthorn either Kate, but I loved being forced to be more observant, so I think we were clearly very wise in both selecting more modest, less show-offy trees for 2014! I look forward to seeing what you pick for this year. I hope I carry on taking some notice of my hawthorn, it would be a shame to let it slip into obscurity again now that I have “discovered” it. I love that first shot of your birch, with the wonderful view behind. Wonder if you will discover interesting insect life on your new choice?

    1. kate says:

      A hawthorn is one of my candidates – good access, slap next to a neolithic chambered tomb, good views, can walk round it without disappearing into bog / undergrowth / neolithic chambered tomb. Disadvantage: cows. Welsh Blacks (but of course), can be tricksy. But there are other possibilities, without cows.

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