New perspectives after the storms

16. February 2020 by Isabelle Van Groeningen
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Flagge Deutschland für deutsche Übersetzung – Zum deutschen Text – We have all seen images of devastation caused by the storms that ravaged across Europe these past few days. Trees toppled over, flooded towns and swollen rivers, houses damaged. Every storm that blows our way, we worry about our Garden Academy buildings, our plants and in particular the beautiful Weymouth pine tree that dominates the lawn by the café. Fortunately, tree specialists reduced its crown a few years ago, and wired some of the branches in order to ensure no major limbs can break off. Ever since we had this work carried out, the tree has withstood every storm without any damage. The same could be said for the rest of the garden Academy. We were lucky. Some of the neighbouring gardens were less lucky, but quite a few of the trees that were damaged were not in a fit state.

Hedera helix with berries © Isabelle van Groeningen

Hedera helix with berries

Diseased trees

The stress caused by the drought and heat of these past few summers have not helped weakened trees. They normally have a good way of dealing with damage, by producing new callous growth to cover over wounds. However, sometimes the wound is so large that it takes years to cover, and rot sets to work in the inner wood. With time the outer bark closes again, but within the tree invisible problems slowly develop. It is worth checking older trees occasionally, especially when fungus appear like the bracket fungus.

Storm damage in our garden

Although the chestnut and the oak tree that adjoin our little garden survived well, we were less fortunate in our own garden. I am saddened to see a big part of the ivy that covered an ugly wall and provided a welcome green backdrop to the garden, collapsed in a sorry heap. It is not so much the sight of the dreary bare wall that upsets me, but the dozens of homeless sparrows that live in it. They have become an integral part of our life. Twice a day we are entertained by their cheerful chatter as they wake up and when come home for the evening and bicker as to whom gets which branch to sleep on that night. Today the gossiping started at 7.09. A very civilized time. As spring progresses, this will get louder and earlier… And still I love it.

Collapsed Ivy © Isabelle van Groeningen

Collapsed Ivy © Isabelle van Groeningen


Das neue Bambus Zuhause © Isabelle van Groeningen


Luckily, our feathered friends have not disappeared. The have relocated into the bamboos. Their dense foliage is no doubt fine for hiding for the night, but I cannot imagine how they can build a nest in there. Sleeping in this very mobile environment must be a serious balancing act. We shall see what happens – maybe they will relocate into the hedges of the front gardens in the surrounding streets. I will be sad to miss the cheerful chatter, but hope they will keep coming for their morning bathing rituals.

How to move on?

Wurzeln der Efeu © Isabelle van Groeningen

Ivy Aerial roots

There is little we can do about our naked wall, other than be patient. About one third of the ivy remains and it will grow back, in time. The positive side to this small drama is that the magnolias growing at the foot of the wall will benefit from the increased light levels, and we may find they flower better. From past storm damage I have learnt to see the positive side of any unexpected devastation. At first, I am appalled at the loss and disturbance in my familiar landscape. Once one gets used to the change, and the chaos has been cleaned up, it can be very refreshing to have a new perspective, which opens up new possibilities. The great storm of October 1987 that felled 15 million trees in Southern England, virtually destroyed several famous historic gardens and entire sections of landscape. Today one has to guess where a tree went missing, and people have learned how important it is to plant new ones that will replace older ones as they disappear.

Maybe you too are forced to think afresh?




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