NUTS ABOUT TREES, BUT NOT BONKERS FOR CONKERS

Autumn post by Paul:

Tired of the usual tree? Prunus feeling passé? Field Maple lost its mojo? Then maybe you may be going nuts…..or just turning into a squirrel.

Fuelled by the annual harvest of blackberries, sloes and elderflower before autumn there is one other free delight you can rush for – not yet available but coming soon. Nuts.

Not only do they taste good pickled roasted or just stored for Christmas, there is also the game of cat and mouse to be played with the squirrels and the delicate balance between picking too early or losing the lot to the tree rats. Unfortunately the squirrels know when they are just right for picked and you don’t.

So maybe instead of the usual it’s time for a change. Not only do the trees provide food and wood, but they look nice too.

First up is Hazel, a native (hooray!) tree that will generally grow anywhere and will reach dizzying heights in next to no time. Will survive the toughest treatment and seems to thrive on being chopped down to ground level on a regular basis. If left to its own devices it will grow into a tall spreading tree with bright green leaves and if you are lucky plenty of hazelnuts. Traditionally cut for poles, for charcoal production and has magical properties.

Forget using bamboo; use hazel instead.

Next the Walnut, a non-native tree introduced by the Romans for food (and kept them marching half way across England) that will tolerate most well drained soils in a sunny spot. Best planted in autumn or winter, with 12-18m spacing – this is a large tree. Walnuts secrete chemicals into the soil which inhibit other plants, so don’t plant near your prize dahlias. The nuts can be pickled or dried. You can spot a seasoned walnut pickler by their black stained hands.

Another useful tree is the Sweet Chestnut, a honorary native tree, again probably introduced by the Romans. Known to most for its ability to explode when heated, sending pieces of red hot shrapnel across a room, it is a large tree with many uses including food and wood; it is more durable than Oak when used externally. Miniature hedgehogs carpeting the forest floor are the best indication that you are beneath a Sweet Chestnut tree.

So go nuts, drop the usual species and sneak these into your scheme this autumn.

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