Thursday, 21 May 2015

Beautiful Barnsley Birdwell bluebells on almost wordless Worsbrough Wednesday






Clematis montana grows in from a neighbour. I might call it borrowed landscape








Osteospermum ruber is completely hardy in Barnsley





No crowds like at Chelsea. I have it all to myself

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I would like to do no-dig but I have sticky Foggathorpe clay!

Oh yes you can. You don't have to dig your vegetable garden

Read last friday’s post about clay as homework and now read on.

This spade has woodworm. It won’t dig clay anymore

I am frequently told by gardeners that my ideas are quite interesting but they have heavy clay. It's a gooey mess when wet and rock hard when dry and surplus water just won't drain away. They just have to dig to do anything with it.
People just don't accept that their hard work digging which gives immediate short term gratification will in the long run destroy soil structure so that by the end of the season - or sooner - they must dig it again. Just junkies getting their fix. The very process of exposing delicate crumbs to wind and water separates out the fine clay particles to display them in tooth and claw. Ready to toast hard or puddle together when wet.

Soil structure is not just much loved crumbs in a handful of soil, it belongs to the whole soil profile.  A good soil is honeycombed with channels, cracks and connections through which air and water can move. Worms wriggle and spread organic fertility. Worm-casts accumulate on the surface to enable a fine tilth. A firm settled surface gives the gardener access in all kinds of weather without causing compaction. Most of the gardening world confuses a firm settled surface with compaction!

One of the problems with clay is that the broken up cultivated clay soil goes between transitions from acceptable loosened soil to horrible stickiness and hard rockiness over a very short period of time. By the end of the season just as the soil is starting to get closer to nature the wretched digger digs it again and returns to square one. 
He is correct to believe that his roughed up soil when exposed to winter freezing and drying will develop a nice frost mould in Spring. He is wrong to assume that an un-dug soil will not benefit in the same way.

The real benefits of not digging take a few years to come through. After the first season results start to show, but the real pay off takes several years. It is worth waiting a few years just to experience the pleasure of kicking out a lovely seedbed - although as you modify your growing techniques you will probably be doing more planting than sowing as you pop your plants into nicks from your spade. 

Oh the joy of no weeds! You of course eliminated the perennial weed at the very beginning. Weeds from seed eventually decline as a result of your new sense of purpose and extra available time and you now never let weeds seed. The hundred years-worth of buried weed seed is no more brought to the surface each year by cultivation.

Let your plants do the work to improve your soil when you grow your vegetables and flowers all the year round. No longer should allotments be abandoned for the winter. You will merely stroll round to kill the very few weeds, crop lovely winter vegetables and view beautiful spring flowers.     
I am a great believer in deep and wide-spreading winter brassica roots to improve the structure of clay soil. Early reader Grant Penner wrote in about clay-busting daikon radish to break up clay without any digging. He told all his friends but they never believed him. Brassica roots have recently had a very bad press: they do not make mycorrhizal associations. They might not accumulate wonderful glomalin but they are still fantastic soil improvers. 

Note that permanent roots grow in the cracks in the clay. Cracks in clay soils open and close in the same place with wetting and drying. Don’t disrupt air and water movement, root growth and worm action by digging!

What about no dig for growing vegetables?

I am more strident than usual to make my point today. I hope my earlier posts have given a more balanced view of the merits of cultivations. I am in truth quite ambivalent about what other vegetable growers do and fully recognise that many 'normal' gardeners grow better vegetables than I do.
What I do care about are those diggers who shred the roots of their plants when they dig borders in the rest of the garden.

What I learnt at Oxford. (On the local allotments, silly)
Why so few vegetable gardeners fail to use minimum cultivation.

Any volunteers to take on this allotment? Ironically the soil will be in better condition than when it was regularly dug

I have walked around several allotments recently. I am convinced that many gardeners just do not 'get' weeds. If you cannot control your weeds you need soil cultivation. When sixty years ago farmers started to use herbicides it was widely believed that soil needed to be stirred! Much research was carried out which showed that without regular cultivation yields of many plants, especially perennials, were higher than ever. It was concluded the only real need for cultivating soil was to control weeds. 

Clay soil dug in May is bad practice. This gardener has buried his ‘frost mould’. Look at the fleshy rhizomes of bindweed. What superb propagation!


Dave has a nice frost mould that can be knocked into a seedbed

When I saw on these allotments so many gardeners failing to have a rational weed control policy the horrible truth suddenly hit me. They are slaves to their weeds and have to chop them away or at the end of the season bury them to have a clean start.
Hardly a clean start with buried roots of couch, ground elder, convolvulus and much more!

Get the sprayer out Dave - this couch is quite receptive to glyphosate. Get rid of it for ever!
When I recently went down to brother-in-law's allotment he had several weedy areas well way from his vegetables. They were just right to spray. Dave has eliminated most of his own perennial weed with glyphosate but there was some couch grass very receptive to weed killing spray. You don't have to spray with Roundup to eliminate perennial weeds but it certainly helps. (I concede that there are many brilliant organic gardeners - who would not be seen dead with a sprayer - who don’t dig).

I am working on Dave to recycle his weeds.
Dave kindly dug down to his subsoil - and a worm popped out of its tunnel to say hello

The importance of bulky organic matter
Bulky organic matter is the secret ingredient to improve clay soil. Why dig weeds out and take this manna away when weed can be sprayed with glyphosate and desiccate and die in situ. 
Not only does digging out weeds take your best soil away, every time your soil is stirred lovely black organic matter is oxidised to carbon dioxide and water. I suggested to Dave if he could spray off weed in all crop-less places every three weeks as the very first job on his allotment visit, he would soon have good weed control. Kill the perennial weeds and never again let 'annual' weeds seed. Damn it, they even have a knapsack sprayer available in his communal allotment shed. It will only take ten minutes. 
This allotmenteer’s chickweed is winning and every time it is forked out the soil is damaged and a new seedbed is created for new weed seedlings. Prevent the weed seeding by frequent shallow hoeing. Leave it to dessicate and die on the surface

Weeds between growing crops should of course be regularly hoed. If you must take organic matter away it must go to the compost heap and when rotted returned as a mulch.

This heavy soil really lacks organic matter. Don’t waste any organic remains that nature provides

To speed up any conversion from organic-deficient cultivated soil to a no dig system do not be ashamed to gather all the bulky organic matter you can from wherever you can find it. Apply it as a mulch and for most gardeners this will be after composting. My own penchant is to recycle all organic matter directly but for most tidy folk this is a step too far!

I have been discussing with soil scientist friend Peter Williams how to improve damaged clay soil. He agrees that good clay soil structure is mainly about bulky organic matter. He personally might sometimes dig it in. I prefer to leave the job to the worms.

Would a no dig gardener ever dig to improve a damaged clay soil?

Say the soil had a hard plough pan, had been stripped of most of its topsoil to expose sticky xyz clay�� - ��apply your own description - and had been generally abused when wet. I might just consider digging. I have previously posted about incorporating newspaper, woody prunings, charcoal, imported soil and gritty materials. I am not as dogmatic as I might seem.
I do want to persuade gardeners that digging is not  the natural start of a new gardening project, but even I might be inclined to dig a site ruined by heavy machinery and cultivation. Just once!

Converting a soil that has been completely stripped of it's topsoil down to pure sticky clay is beyond the scope of my article today.
All the allotments on clay soil that I have recently observed, would, with an enlightened no digging policy become highly fertile.

There are wonderful characters on every allotment. Perhaps this gentleman knows that grassing down is an excellent way to improve soil structure


And good news for vegetables growers with heavy clay soils…..
Quote from a major technical site for farmers
Minimal cultivation or direct drilling is best carried out on stable soils that maintain their structure throughout the season. Clays, silty clay loams or clay loams are often the best soils for such techniques.

The soils that have most to gain by not digging are clay ones!

So what is so special about Foggathorpe clay?

A present from Foggathorpe
Michael announced himself as ‘anonymous’ when he claimed on one of my earlier ‘no dig posts’ that I must have never seen Foggathorpe clay. I soon learned that he cycles past my house every day. He would  banter that my methods would not work on his Foggathorpe garden.
When I wanted a picture of clay for today’s post I took the opportunity to ask him and he kindly invited me down. I had some difficulty because when I knocked at number four a lady peeped out of her window, came to the door and said she had never heard of him! After several conversations with local residents - I learnt a lot about Rhea Ferdinand and Manchester United - I discovered number four across the road from number four. Michael explained that there are actually four number fours. Fourggathorpe clay clearly affects the mind.

It had rained heavily the previous night. Michael in triumph showed me his flooded front garden! On the contrary to his supposition, if poor drainage is caused by an impermeable subsoil whether you dig or do not dig is entirely irrelevant. If I had been pugnacious I might have commented that his digging had not done much good.
His attractive back garden was un-flooded. His vegetable garden - the bone of contention - was slightly raised. A very good strategy if your drainage is poor. His dad had formerly used very generous quantities of horse manure and Michael had clearly continued. His black soil looked very fertile and the Kerria in his flower border was twice the height of mine. Clay soils grow wonderful plants!

Mike reduced his drainage problem by raising his levels - but not in a twee trendy raised bed

Cathi had warned Michael that I was a fragile old man and he insisted on digging the hole. To my amazement the clay was nearly two foot down. 
I always forget to ask the crucial questions. How often does he dig and how deep? In my opinion the more shallow, the more infrequent, so much the better! My guess was once a year and not very deeply (although he did have a very big big spade). It won’t apply to Michael but many gardeners who claim to dig just scratch the surface.
He has a very nice soil rich in organic matter. As he dug his hole deeper than he would normally go, the undisturbed soil had a beautiful honeycomb structure. And then we got to the clay!
My impression was that if Michael stopped digging his vegetable  garden and controlled his weeds by hoeing - and in any large gaps used glyphosate - that the conversion to the benefits of ‘no dig’ would be immediate.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Understanding clay soil


What you never knew about clay and never dared ask.

Clay particles are the smallest mineral particles in the soil. So light and small that if you disperse them in water the tiny grains float. Indeed without interference the smallest might float for ever. Clay particles are defined in soil science as the mineral component in soils less than 0.002mm. This crude definition distinguishes clay which is both chemically and physically different from the the larger mineral particles, silt and sand. 
All three minerals, sand, silt and clay, are unchanged in properties and size by anything the gardener might do. 

Notorious Foggathorpe clay! Genuine clay subsoil!  Blue tones in clay indicates  poor drainage and lack of oxygen when it is saturated. More rusty colours in clay  indicate the presence of oxygen which converts  blue/green ferrous iron compounds into the ferric condition.

Only on the smallest of sites is it possible to change the mineral make up of soil. This normally unchangeable characteristic is described as soil texture. To change the proportions of sand, silt and clay by incorporation of imported minerals is fraught with problems and is beyond the scope of my article today.

Clay is described as a secondary mineral. It has been produced over the millennia by physical and chemical geological change. It bares little resemblance to any obvious mineral bedrock as it has often been deposited from water over many thousands of years. There are hundreds of clays all subtly different - even within your own garden. There are of course well defined and classified broad clay categories each with significantly different characteristics. 
Ask any gardener and he will tell you that his is the worst clay in the country. On the contrary It is important to realise that when a soil contains a proportion of clay it is a very good thing!

Gardeners often imagine when they dig down to the subsoil it is pure clay. On this ‘heavy’ Oxford soil there is plenty of clay but sand and silt too.

Soils with plenty of clay are described as heavy. This is a traditional measure of a soil’s workability and nothing to do with its weight! My sandy soil here would have once been described as a ‘one horse soil’. A sticky clay might have needed four horses to pull the same plough!

Concentrated clay tends to occur in what gardeners and farmers call subsoil. Topsoil which descends gradually down to the subsoil is often the result of mixing of sand, silt and clay components by historic cultivation. The nearer the surface the darker and more fertile the topsoil will be. In my opinion it is usually a bad thing to bring sticky clay subsoil to the surface. 
It is important to recognise that subsoil is not usually just clay and will also contain silt and sand. Some subsoils are very similar in constitution to their topsoil and merely lack the magic of organic matter. 
Pity the poor gardener who inherits a sticky clay subsoil stripped of its topsoil!

A study of clay
Tiny particles of clay have a platelike composition. Water is absorbed within its volume as well as on its very large capillary surface. Most clays are expandable and swell  - but not all. Some clay soils expand several inches between dry summer and wet winter and the whole garden rises or sinks. 
Differential expansion and contraction induced by the presence of tree roots can cause considerable damage to buildings.  

The surfaces of clay particles have negative electrostatic charges. This enables clay to hold positively charged ions. These include plant nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium. On acid soils hydrogen ions displace some of these nutrients. Negatively charged nutrient ions such as nitrate are NOT held by clay and are liable to leach from a soil in winter Some negative nutrients such as phosphate are held in the soil by other mechanisms.
Clay does not hold its nutrients so tightly that they are unavailable to plants.

Clay particles stick together and its called flocculation. The significance of this is frequently confused when lime is claimed to improve soil structure. There is a classical schoolboy experiment when lime water is added to dispersed clay particles shaken up in a test tube of water. In a modern miracle the particles stick together and flocs of clay rapidly settle out.
In 1953 many square miles of Southern England were flooded by sea water.  Sodium displaced calcium on clay on large tracts of land. The clay became deflocculated and  became an absolute mash up. The soils were eventually restored by adding significant quantities of calcium sulphate that ‘knocked out’ the sodium. (Calcium sulphate is the only form of lime that does not make a soil alkaline). The soil was saved by re-flocculation!
Ever since then soil textbooks have been paranoid about deflocculation!
I argue that the ‘default position’ for clay in normal soil is flocculation. If it is flocculated, lime cannot flocculate soil even more. 
Even though I claim that this is not the reason why lime improves clay soil structure, secondary effects of lime might do so and gardeners will continue to add lime to clay soil to improve it’s condition. But don’t add too much and perhaps use calcium sulphate.

The wonderful thing about clay is that the particles do mix and stick together with the help of organic and mineral ‘glues’ such as glomalin, humus and iron compounds. Intimate mixtures with organic matter and sand and silt form soil crumbs. Crumbs in clay soils are much more stable than any in other soil types but are likely to be destroyed by heavy rain or irrigation and especially by excessive cultivation. The formation of crumbs and other loosely bound larger soil structures is called aggregation. It is rather confusing, as such aggregates are NOT what you buy at B&Q to make concrete!
It is a gardener’s ambition for his soil to be made up of ‘water stable aggregates’

Good things about clay soil

1. Assuming your soil to be some favourable mixture of sand, silt and clay then clay does many fine things to your soil. (Any pun is deliberate).

2. Clay holds many nutrients that are readily available to plants. Sand and silt do not although some gardeners do effectively add finely crushed granite as a slow release fertiliser. Mineral chalk and limestone also release soluble calcium and raise pH.

3. Clay is water retentive and significantly improves soil water holding capacity. En passant, I  might mention that the plant is unable to ‘suck out’ the last half of its fully wet content. Nevertheless that’s still a lot of available water.

4. Clay readily forms fairly stable aggregates with organic matter and contributes hugely to good soil structure.

5. The repeated expansion and contraction of clay as it freezes and thaws in Winter helps when making a ‘frost mould’ seedbed in Spring. This temporary improvement  is not exclusive to dug soil!
Farmers and gardeners recognise that there are very narrow ‘windows of opportunity’ after rain to make a conventional seedbed tilth in Spring. This window might be as short as 24 hours between being too wet and sticky, or lumpy hard dry.

A clay profile exposed to drying in a local wood. Note that it cracks in an approximate hexagonal pattern

Bad things about clay soil

1. Damage to buildings! My ‘lunatic’ friend Po Simpson used to be a house damage insurance assessor. He did not last long - he is too kind. He sent me this link. Apparently if  there was a tree on a clay soil it was always to blame. Even when it wasn’t!

2. Too much clay in a soil leads to a sticky plasticene structure when wet - and a hard impenetrable surface when dry. You get the same effect in a ‘normal’ clay soil when natural structure and aggregation is destroyed by excessive cultivation. (In ‘my book’ most cultivation qualifies to be excessive!).

3. Loosened clay soil is seriously damaged when walked on when wet.

4. If clay soil is ‘puddled’ by compression when wet it will impede drainage. I have even seen water stand on the soil surface when it is dry below!


You cannot change clay.

Clay will always be clay – well unless you wait thousands of years! I know this comment is insulting to the knowledge of most of my readers, but when I was a kid new to gardening I did not ‘get’ this fact. I think new gardeners sometimes think that by working the soil they will change the nature of the soil mineral particles. They won’t. 
Cultivation will change the overall soil condition – called structure: usually for bad, sometimes for good. It will not change the physical and chemical nature of the clay particles.
Clay soil is ‘improved’ when the particles stick together with each other and sand and silt. Organic matter and natural glues are fundamental in this weak  and intimate bonding together.
Soil is also ‘improved’ when natural channels, cracks and spaces are undisturbed
Where clay particles are torn apart from crumbs disaster follows.

A hundred and fifty year old clay spade. Perhaps it was used to dig out the clay at Brickyard Farm down the road?

I have puddled in clay before.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Hybridity’s contribution to evolution - featuring the Wollemi Pine

Part 5

This is the last in my series where I have attempted to argue the case for hybridisation as a significant force in evolution and also to describe interesting hybridised plants. 

In the last three posts of my series I attempt to explore some of the secrets of the three renowned ‘fossil trees’ Ginkgo, Taxodium and Wollemia.
Today I conclude with Wollemia

We all recognise the contribution of hybridisation to beauty and nourishment from the garden and food from the farm. Why do people think that somehow hybridisation is foreign to nature?  Our resistance may be as inconsistent as “it does not work in nature” or “hybrid plants don’t survive in the wild” to “the alien monsters will take over” or “its an unnatural abomination”. 

Which is it to be, it does not work or it is too successful? 

Certainly many of man’s creations by hybridisation, be it gaudy plants or flat faced dogs would not survive in the wild.
When the power of natural selection - rather than mans’s fickle choices - choses between success or failure when plants or animals hybridise the result is organisms that are honed for survival.

Some folk believe that hybridisation just does not happen in nature. In some people’s eyes hybridisation by definition is somehow unnatural! Even if they get over this hurdle they think that there is no way a hybrid can pass on its new gene combinations.
Documented cases of successful hybridisations in nature are legion and on an evolutionary timescale their number almost infinite.

It is beyond the scope of this post today to explain how hybrids in nature survive to pass on their genes. It is a real difficulty of comprehension. Read my inspiration Eugene McCarthy to understand stabilisation of a new life-form. You might take some time!

For almost two billion years cellular life on this planet was limited to single celled organisms. There were and still are two distinct forms, archeae and bacteria. So distinct that some scientists have hypothesised that they might even have had separate evolutionary geneses. Many scientists consider that multi-celled animals might have arisen by some kind of fusion between an archaeon and a bacteria. 

Another example of a game-changing fusion of two organisms, now a mainstream theory, is that chloroplasts and mitochondria were created when bacteria were subsumed by another organism.

The above two examples are not  hybridisation. Hybridisation requires the sexual sharing which came with multicellular life. However if these hypotheses are correct, that a process of joining together generated the genetic genesis of all multi-cellular life then this is very convincing  evidence indeed that sharing of distant genetic information helped power evolution.

Some people are repelled by the idea of genes moving across barriers when distinct species hybridise. Standard theory states that genes only pass down in a straight line from life’s very beginnings.
Yet now there are countless examples of ‘horizontal transfer’ of genes. Even in this week’s New Scientist it is suggested in a matter of fact and casual way, that through evolutionary time that 9% of our genome arrived via virus transfer!

The Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis
Found in an isolated canyon by climber David Noble in Australia in 1994 this was the last of my three featured fossil trees to be discovered. Just like the others it raises fascinating evolutionary questions not least in this case about its remarkable genetic uniformity. It might be that every single Wollemi in the world is genetically identical!

The Australian authorities seem to have done everything to both preserve and distribute the tree. Not least to secrete the exact location of where it resides in the wild. Conventional opinion is that genetically uniform material is particularly vulnerable to disturbance and invasion by introduced pathogens. The wollemis might be endangered by public exposure.

The wollemi pine is easily propagated and huge numbers have been propagated from cuttings and micropropagation. Many have also been raised from seed and several trees have now set seed in foreign places. Seeds have been collected for example in Bangor in Wales. 

The wollemi has several peculiar botanical features. It has strange ‘bubbly bark’ and distinct juvenile and adult leaves. The juvenile leaves are low on the tree and are able to photosynthesise in the extremely low light levels deep down in the shade of its Australian canyon. Seed is able to germinate in these low light conditions but in the absence of any forest clearings it was thought that there was little evidence of seed making new trees - but this is now disputed. The intense shade is made worse by the wollemi’s efficient vegetative propagation when several trees in a stand might be a coppice of a single plant.
The adult leaves higher on a tree extend on a single branch looking rather like thick arrowheads. It is described as ‘phased growth’. The life of a branch might be as little as ten years before restricted xylem at trunk connections fail.
There are about a hundred wollemi pines in the National Park forest They achieve forty metres high. Conditions are described as ‘rainforest’ and the soil is an extremely acid pH 4. Remarkably and in common with ginkgo and metasequoia it now grows very well in temperate conditions around the world.
It has been reported as frost hardy in the UK to -7C, in Japan to -10C. We might not be warm enough in the UK for long term survival other than in very warm places! It’s too soon to know.

This wollemi at Kew is outgrowing it’s prison. I wonder if the cage gave early frost protection to the young growth?

The genetic mystery surrounding Wollemi noblis 

The wollemi is know as a ‘fossil tree’ on the basis that fossils were already known before the ‘extinct tree’ was discovered.

The earliest fossils are about 90 million years old. Even that long ago they seem to have had juvenile and adult foliage identical to that of the modern tree. Until seen together on the newly discovered wollemis these variations were thought to be separate trees. Yet again a fossil tree shows remarkable lack of change from its fossil.

Wollemi nobilis is not the oldest tree in its lineage. It belongs to the ancient gymnosperm family Araucariaceae which includes the even older genera Agathis and Araucaria. Araucaria dates back 150 million years.

The mystery is that all Wollemi pines are genetically identical. They can be raised from seed yet every known plant is effectively a single clone. (Inbreeding which comes with self pollination within isolated populations leads to genetic similarity but nothing like this. We are familiar with seed of a cultivar such as an inbred tomato ‘Ailsa Craig’ giving for practical purposes seemingly identical young plants but such plants are not completely the same). 

Inbreeding and consequent uniformity is associated with ill health and lack of vigour. This is not always so as deleterious genes can be ‘selected away’ as in the case of the all conquering harlequin ladybird. The Wollemi pine too is remarkable for its health and vigour.

This fascinating piece in this New Scientist link is not entirely consistent with the above about the harlequin lady bird. Indeed the picture might show the first step to producing a hybrid

No one has an adequate explanation for wollemis seeming to be genetically a single entity. It is quite understandable that as a result of vegetative propagation wollemis growing together might be a single identical plant but not those several miles apart in the roughest terrains. Could it be that their seed is apomictic and propagates vegetatively? This phenomenon is almost unknown in conifers. Is this consistent with needing pollen for fertilisation? It is possible as variations of apomixis are known where fertilisation is needed to produce seed endosperm but leaves the clonal embryo intact.

Perhaps the Wollemi pine has always been a vegetatively propagated clone? Could it be a clone of an infertile hybrid?

Possible hybrid origin.
I don’t think my case for hybridity being the origin of new genera is much advanced by the Wollemi pine. 
Possible indications are that the viability of wollemi seed is a very low 11%. Sometimes seed from a hybrid is not very fertile. The original botanist who examined specimens brought to him by David Noble, said they looked a bit like a cycad or a fern. Straws in the wind.

If there is any evidence about hybridity coming out of my story it is provided by wollemi’s close relation, Araucaria. Members of the family Araucariaceae are known to have a genetic inheritance of low genetic diversity.  (Araucaria araucana our own monkey puzzle tree which was imported from Chile lacks genetic variability because of geographical isolation). 

A fine monkey puzzle tree at Dial Farm down our road 
Araucaria over it’s more than 100 million year history has diverged into several species. Ecologists are very concerned that with climate change plants lacking genetic diversity are particularly vulnerable. Genetic investigation of several araucaria species in South America showed introgression and probable hybrids. Recall that introgression occurs when different species with overlapping distribution create a hybrid which as a result of repeated backcrossing merges with one of the parents. 

If biodiversity is promoted by the extra genetic mixing brought about by hybridity we need to know. There is too much about preserving native species unsullied by hybridisation. Hybridisation apart from it’s past huge significance might be the way of the future.

Conclusion

The more I read about the work of ecologists and geneticists I realise that they do embrace hybridity. It is a recognised significant component of evolution. Why don’t they rock the boat a bit more and get it into the evolutionary text books?


This is an interesting but redacted article about the story of wollemia that you might not easily find in a routine google search. It is surprising what you can find on a high numbered search page. (You will need to scroll back to page 1 of the site)

To find my previous four articles on hybridity use the link ‘hybridity’ in ‘Themes’ in the right hand column

Monday, 27 April 2015

Garden Open Day, Saturday 9th May 2015: zero inflation at Weathervane House

Come to Seaton Ross in Sunny East Yorkshire!





If any of my posts have any credibility they bear the hand of Peter Williams who lives down in the village. 
Peter and Julie Williams did not open their garden last year so now is your chance to see their garden again. If you have never been before you will be amazed and enchanted!

Peter tells me that the entrance ticket is £3 the same as his first opening five years ago. Please note his opening is on a SATURDAY - which is less usual for the Open Garden Scheme. The time is eleven until four.
Apart from  Weathervane House being one of the best gardens in Yorkshire, Julie is renowned for her wonderful cakes. 
I am used to extolling Brenda’s culinary virtues  when my own garden is open. Peter tells me that at one of his recent lectures he was told how fantastic Brenda’s teas were. They were very sorry but they had no memory whatsoever of my garden! Julie has more competition - their garden is unforgettable!

Seaton Ross is one of very few places in the York region to have acid soil. Peter grows  wonderful rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias and very much more. Just come and look at and feel his wonderful soil. I have hitherto regarded the soil that we share as a very fine sand. Peter is a soil scientist and insists it’s a coarse silt! I have recently conceded to his superior knowledge.
In my defence he had published last week this fine article about rhododendrons in the journal of the Hardy Plant Society - which I recommend that you join. At the end of the article is a quote from the map of East Yorkshire. It characterises our local  soil as ‘very wet acid sand of low fertility’. His plants don’t agree

If you meet a talkative friendly diminutive Welshman as you walk round it will be Peter. Make yourself known. If anything pleases him more than talking about his garden it is explaining the science of how plants grow.

I am not sure how much of Peter’s five acres is open. Most of it will be and there is so much to see. Allow yourself plenty of time. Allow a little more time and walk round our lovely village. The village plot down the road will be blue with forget-me-nots!


2014 and 2015 pictures

Peter grafted most of his trees

Fingers crossed the rhododendrons will be looking like this  

Cornus florida is a beautiful shrub

Corylopsis sinensis will have gone over

Walk the grass paths and enjoy the ground cover that grows in the cool understory of fine shrubs


No doves in the dovecot.

Many bulbs are planted in drifts
Star wars will be over 

It’s always distressing to a garden owner that his best plants are finished by Open Day. But what joy when something overlooked makes a fantastic display!

There are sure to be plenty of cut leaf maples in the plant sale. They are one of the garden’s signatures

All the plants in the plant sale are grown to the best professional quality but are considerably cheaper. The large polythene tunnel is very useful if it rains

Whoops, I showed Julie’s cakes last year. They will be just as good this time! Indeed they are so famous the NGS link shows them too!

Advance information on another garden event

Seaton Ross gardens will be open on 7th of June. I will be giving it blatant publicity soon. 
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