Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Plane tree on the move

Most every weekday I walk past 'my' Plane tree twice a day, sometimes more often. It seems like an age ago since I first singled the tree out for following, and if you're interested in finding out what tree following is all about then do look to the links following the post. Basically, the tree is a towering London Plane, positioned centrally in a lovely English estate/parkland position, beside a pretty 18th Century bridge. What follows is my update of the tree and its progress through the season, its intricate and bold features, and the changing environment around its portly trunk.
Compton Verney London Plane. Gary Webb
We're in mid' April, and at last the buds are beginning to break. Luckily, some of the arching branches help with my close up scrutiny, having trailed their branches nicely to eye level - my eye level at least. I suppose this may seem like an all too simple comment, but when you consider the scale of the tree - a few low branches are very welcome for some close up examination! 

The scale covered trunk is a patchwork of greens, browns and greys that spread out and along the hefty branches. Twisted and contorted, smoothly arched and sharply turned, the oddly shaped stems give rise to a lightening effect branch network. That same network has supported, all through winter, fruiting bodies the size and shape of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, mind you - I wouldn't try eating these Plane tree sweets! Even now they dangle from the ends of tiny twiggy stems, hanging as if placed individually, and despite those tiny stems being stripped and shredded, they seem focused on staying put for the duration.
 The tree must hold hundreds of these spherical seed balls, and as they swing around and become damaged, I see they are beginning to break apart, gradually releasing their seeds to be taken away on the wind. A gradual form of seed dispersal to ensure the best chance of each seed reaching a good seed bed, for self propagation and survival. Of course, the odd passing animal, or gardener is also likely to spread the seed!                                                                                               
London Plane and its home grown decoration.
The buds have remained tightly shut, even during the warm early spring weather but now the days are lengthening out, the leaves are making their presence felt and are starting to push those buds open. Moisture is working its way up that trunk, out through the branches and along the twigs towards those buds. Spotting the buds bursting, at various times around a garden is one of the joys of gardening, and can be a statisticians dream, recording what opens and when. Personally, I like to let the seasons do their thing, watch with fascination whilst the plants react accordingly, and let nature take its own course. Yes there is the odd worry moment, and some un-seasonal weather can cause harm, but gardening, to me, is all about working 'with' nature. Plants are, on the whole very resilient. 
London Plane buds bursting - early April...

Before the tree gains its covering of summer foliage again, the plants around its base have been busy revelling in the spring sunlight. Mahonia, which hides away in the shade for the rest of the year, is presently hogging the limelight yet there's still room for Lords and Ladies, Ground Ivy, and farther out across the grass Daffodils, which follow on from an earlier mat of snowdrops.
The tree may have been dormant for months, with little going on to shout about, but things are now stirring as the growth season advances. With my new found focus, brought about via TREE FOLLOWING, I have improved my usual distant admiration to include much closer and regular inspection. I'm a long way from being a tree hugger, but my new focus is opening up the fascinating story, features, and interest that this single plant holds. I'm hooked on plants anyway, but I'm now seeing Plane trees everywhere in a new light - they're amazing!


Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

It's a beautiful post.
Interesting point about tree hugging. It hadn't come into my mind in relation to 'tree following'. They really are different. I'm not sure Tree Following is the best description for what we are doing though. I wish I could think of a better one. Any ideas?
About seed dispersal and London Planes. A friend has tried to get the seed to grow and has had absolutely no success. I read something somewhere which suggested London Planes are a kind of hybrid and infertile. Do you know anything about this? Do you find plane seedlings in your grounds?
I have a great affection for these trees. Not only is the bark fascinating, as you say in your post, but we had one in our garden when I was a growing up. We children used to chase each other with 'itchy balls' when we were supposed to be raking leaves so we could stuff them down each other's necks. Very uncomfortable!

Gardener Gary said...

Thanks for the comments, glad you liked the post.
I too find the Tree Following title a little unusual, it does raise interest in a descriptive way, but it’s more of a tree appreciation opportunity really isn’t it?! I’ll have to ponder the title a liitle longer I think..
The short answer to Planes seeding around is, unfortunately no; I haven’t personally found their seedlings growing in any of the gardens I have experienced. The information about seed fertility also seems vague, but this subject has rattled around in my head for a while and I do have some seed I’ve collected recently which I shall trial. It’s worth a try – unless anyone knows otherwise?
Mentioning the seed collected, it has sat on a tray in my cool workshop for a while, and of course I’ve given in and broken them up for inspection. I can see how irritating the fine hairs could be as they have got everywhere! Fingers crossed, the seeds are viable, germinate and I do get a seedling or two, but nothing ventured etc!
I'll keep you posted.