Sunday, 30 June 2013

'There is no greater poem than a tree'

Liriodendron tulipifera
The Tulip Tree has flowered. It seems not that long ago that it was planted, and some nine or ten years is very early for it to flower, but for six years it has been enclosed within the chicken run and has had a regular supply of high powered guano ever since. As the seasons came and went it changed from just looking handsome to looking magnificent and I have become immensely proud of it as I tell my neighbour on who's boarder it lives. Alas he seems less concerned with its beauty and more with the fact that it could reach a height of 36 metres. Ah, but I say, by then we will not be around and it will be someone else's problem.
Ginko biloba
Wisteria alba
Cercis siliquastrum
In the belief that squeezing a quart into a pint pot should never be a draw back to planting trees I have enthusiastically planted (and removed) a great many. Some for no greater reason than that I read  the three most common trees to be found in nurseries that are also found in fossil records, are the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides),Ginko biloba and Magnolia! Another for sentimental reasons is a Wisteria Alba, though since it has never flowered I have no idea if it is indeed white. It came home from Kew Gardens, with Rob, as a whip and then moved with us to Dorking and with nowhere in particular to put it, ended up in the middle of the shrub bed, and just grew, into a tree. The Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum) happened because of a lovely story of the old water mill near by. Many years ago the mill had a huge Judas tree that fell in a storm, so the Miller had it cut into boards and made into his dinning table. A new tree has grown from the base and from the size of its parents remains, it was indeed a big tree.

Cornus kousa chinensis
Newer plantings at the front are the Japanese strawberry tree (Cornus kousa chinensis), after seeing a truly beautiful specimen at Wisley gardens, and a Handkerchief or Dove tree (Davidia involucrata) in the gardens at Nymans. Last of the exotics is the Golden rain tree (Koelreutria paniculata var. fastigia) because being columnar it fitted in. At the side is a large (and getting larger) Copper Beech of dubious origin being self sown so perhaps should be labelled f. purpurea. Now that's one that will be a headache, and soon. 

Davidia involucrata
The house being called Cherry Trees has of course to have Cherry trees in it, so dotted around are the usual Champagne, Flagpole, Pendula and Serrula Cherries. We do have one great leveller here and that is honey fungus. Never a year goes by without losing a tree or shrub. One minute they look fine and dandy and next they are as dead as the proverbial dodo. Its loss is of course really an opportunity - to plant something new!

Araucaria arucana
All the houses here have been built on what was once the immense estates of the Hope family (they of the diamond fame) called Deepdene, and the road that runs along side us was once the coach drive to the Mansion. As with all great estate owners at the time it was a matter of great pride to have the latest introductions sent back by plant hunters, and when you walk around you can still see them. One house has two Sequoia, both the giganteum and the sempervirens, luckily it also has grounds large enough to take them. There are also several Monkey puzzles (Araucaria araucana) of good size and many more that have self seeded. Maybe I should plant a Wollemi pine since its the same family (maybe not).  Close by is a Douglas Fir which is now the largest in Surrey even if it has lost its top, and a grove of gnarled Sweet Chestnut of immense girth. I can only admire the people who planted these trees knowing that they would never see them grow to maturity. If you want to see magnificent trees still in original settings of the great estates there are several worth a visit in the South East. Wakehurst Place, Sheffield Park, Nymans and Borde Hill, all in Sussex, and of course Kew Gardens in Surrey.
Books to recommend are,
Collins Tree Guide (complete field guide) by Owen Johnson & David More.
Remarkable Trees of the World & Meetings with Remarkable Trees, both by Thomas Pakenham.
The Heritage Trees Britain & N. Ireland, by Jon Stokes & Donald Rodger.
Trees, by Hugh Jonson.
Trees of India, by Dr Subhadra Menon.
The Book of Leaves, by Allen J Coombes. and
Foliage, a collection of the most beautiful photographs I've ever seen by Harold Feinstein that I picked up in the bargain bin on a visit to Mount Vernon.


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Time for a rant

The allotment site has been raided again. Now there can not be an allotment site in the country that has not, and some could no doubt boast the number of times they have, but for us it is the 5th time in the 3 years since the site was reopened and it is beginning to feel like we are being harvested for our tools.

I have long since stopped leaving any tool that I would miss if stolen but unfortunately the newbies do, and fired with enthusiasm they leave some very nice shiny gear up there. The old cynic's amongst us will tell our bereft colleagues that they could buy them back if they go to the Sunday car boot sales, or if not theirs, someone else's.

Surrey has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and as a result the powers that be can show statistically that we no longer need so many police. The result is that Dorking's police station has closed along with its nearest neighbour in Leatherhead. We do however have a help desk in the Town Hall manned by Police Community Support Officers (PCSO's) who's role it is to provide a presence in order to reassure little old ladies they are safe and resolve issues on a local level. They do indeed look like the real thing and can issue a fine if your dog craps on the pavement but anything more serious a real policeman (they are the ones that race about in cars) is summoned. No use trying to report a crime to a PCSO as they will give you the number of a call centre to use and any way they have the rather disconcerting habit of referring to criminals as 'those naughty people'.

So how did all this come about? It seems Justice is rather an expensive commodity and it just happens that Surrey is one of the wealthiest counties in the country (22 millionaires in Leatherhead at the last count) who do not want to spend a penny more than they need to. Put another way, once you've got rich, you don't stay rich by paying taxes.

So they can up with a scheme called Restorative Justice. Straight forward enough it meant that the offender said sorry and compensated the victim. Trouble was that the offender usually cared little for the victim and even less about any loss or damage they had caused. It did not last long.

The next, and present, scheme is Effective resolution. With this one the offender needs only to admit to the offence (apparently it saves the police having to investigate and the courts having to prosecute) and the offender gets a telling off but no criminal record. The key is that the victim has to agree to this and so far has been so effective that Surrey Police have used it 3288 times in the last 12 months. Although how they managed to convince the two rape victims and the guy beaten unconscious in a Farnham pub that this was an OK outcome, I'm not sure.

They say a good rant is cathartic (A. adj. Med. cleansing (the bowels)) and that's pretty much what I think of the present state of affairs.