Friday, 1 June 2007


Photo: Windswept apple tree.

I missed the monthly meeting of the Swilly Gardening Club again last Monday. But all was not lost as the group held a midweek meeting where John from Mac’s landscaping did a very interesting presentation in his polytunnel on planting up baskets and containers. It’s the first time that I have been inside a tunnel this season and the smell of the bedding plants, soil and humidity brought back memories of how much work is involved in growing annual plants. John had a wonderful selection of fine looking plants. There were pansies, violas, busy lizzies, surfinias, dahlias and fuchsias to name but a few. John is like myself when it comes to planting up, he likes a riot of colour and will try and get as many plants into the container as possible to give a grand display.

After John’s demonstration I talked to some of the members of the club to see what I missed at the Monday meeting. There was a quiz, which went down very well and a question and answer session for people to get advice about all things horticultural.

Before I start with the questions from the club, I had a question that I needed answering myself. On the estate where we live there are two trees. One is an old Hawthorne, which was here before the estate. Hawthorne trees such as this are the fairy trees that are cherished and steeped in folklore history. The other tree is equally as fine and is the tree that represents Ireland, the Oak. This oak tree is again quite old and was here before we were. Some over zealous lads on the estate had fun one evening peeling the bark off some branches for a bit of fun. The branches were about the radius of dinner plate and the lads peeled off the bark all around the branches and up to a length of about three feet. I asked Colm Grant from the club about whether we could protect the branches in some way to stop disease getting into the tree.

Once the bark is peeled off a tree the affected trunk will die. The main activity of the growth of a tree is just underneath the bark. All of the layers of bark don’t have to be removed to kill the affected area either. There is nothing that can be put over the affected area and within a few years the branches will die back. Thankfully the lads didn’t peel the bark off the main trunk. This would have killed the tree entirely. As it is the branches will die back to the main trunk and then the tree will seal the area up to protect itself from further infection. I have passed this information on to the lads concerned but they are interested in another sort of wood now, wood for the coming bonfire in June!

Q. When should you start to prune back broom?

A. Broom can be cut back after flowering. It is important to cut back these shrubs when they are very young to encourage bushy growth. Broom can get very leggy and the branches are very brittle similar to the buddleia bush. Both of these shrubs suffer damage if not pruned back when the wind whips up on the peninsula.

Q. I have fruit trees that have red growths on the bark, what is this?

A. The trees have developed canker. The bark is probably shrinking in concentric circles, which will lead to further infection. This is a serious disease of apples and pears, and is especially bad in poorly drained soil. Cut off the damaged twigs and cut out the canker from the stems and branches. Check at the local garden centre to see what organic sprays are available to control the problem.


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