The Dartmouth Gardener - December 2012
Wild Wood - Dartmouth Gardener: December 2012
I‘ve just returned home after walking over Gallants Bower, the earthworks fort above Dartmouth Castle. I approached the summit from behind the old potterry site climbing through the majestic trees up a new pathway constructed from felled sycamore trees. I do feel that this ‘Disneyfying’ takes the wild out of our woodland, but I suppose it makes the site more accessible to the not so fleet of foot.
From the top of the hill, the view, if you don’t know it, stretches from the twin beacons on the old Berry Pomeroy road to the Daymark atop of Kingswear. Out across the bay below are the local crabbers returning on a choppy sea.
One can just make out the World War II gun emplacements on the foreshore of the estuary standing cold and grey, but it’s a more canny invader that is besieging our shores nowadays.
As I write it has just been announced by the Forestry Commission that the Chalara Fraxinea Fungus or Ash Dieback had been found at a site west of Exeter. This follows three weeks of this devastating disease in the national news headlines.
DEFRA are also attempting to trace several thousand Ash whips supplied to gardeners and contractors across the region.
Ash Dieback has already been found in 200 sites across Britain and it’s widespread in Europe. Experts believe the spores can spread as an airborne fungus but it is thought the main reason for its rapid march across Europe is the fact that the disease has been brought in on imported trees.
The nation’s parks and gardens such as Kew already have strict controls over new plants coming into their grounds and gardens, with anything imported from abroad held in quarantine to check for new diseases.
Already more than 100,000 young trees have been destroyed but where the disease is found in the wild, experts are more likely to advise a strategy of “watching and waiting”.
What defence is there against this insidious disease? It would appear few - but there is hope that some trees may be resistant and new trees could be replanted with the help of eugenics.
Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew said it will be the “same scenario” as Dutch Elm disease which killed off all but a few specimens of Elm in the Gardens. He goes on to say that the whole of the UK needs to tighten up the laws around imports with more inspections and quarantines of any species that is at risk of carrying new diseases. He explained there is no fungicide to get rid of the disease so the best solution is to breed new resistant species. He said that some trees in Scandinavia have already shown signs of resistance.
Most of the new planting on Gallants Bower over recent years has been with Ash and some of the mightier, existing trees are Ash with one of the finest specimens crowning the earthworks fort at the Bowers peak.
So what can we humble gardeners do? Well my thought would be that if you are considering planting a tree this winter, do your best to research your plant’s origin, along with its habit and site requirements. Plant it well, help the tree establish a strong root system, stake it properly with a rubber strap and spacer and do not forget the rabbit guard.
Things to do this month
• Check your winter protection structures are still securely in place
• Check that greenhouse heaters are working OK
• Prevent ponds and stand pipes from freezing
• Prune open-grown apples and pears (but not those trained against walls)
• Prune Acers, birches and vines before Christmas to avoid bleeding
• Harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage, sprouts and remaining root crops
• Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted and transplanted
• Take hardwood cuttings
• Keep mice away from stored produce
• Reduce watering of houseplants
For more gardening tips and ideas go to
First Published December 2012 By The Dart