Tuesday 2 December 2014

The forage garden

Behind the Model Fruit Garden and on one's way to the orchard, there's an area that's left wilder, with some tall trees and some brash, whose redevelopment has been undergoing for the last few years into a forage garden. Some edibles I find rather intriguing already grow in there: Arbutus unedo, Hyppophae rhamnoides, Lonicera caerulea, Aronia melanocarpa, a range of Rubus...

One of the hollies that we removed
... but the area still needs some improvement, and I am glad my colleague thought of me to work on removing some hollies (Ilex aquifolium) and sloes (Prunus spinosa), as I have missed brash clearing from my days as a volunteer with the National Trust on Ashridge Estate.

Holly layering itself

It was hard work, and I really enjoyed the sawing away, and the digging out of stumps as we removed two hollies (they do layer themselves under leaf litter, as I learnt!),
three sloes and a hazel stump.

Sloes halfway through the clearingHazel stump

There was one more reason why I was particularly keen to work on holly at this particular time of the year: Christmas wreaths. Since my days at school when we were thought by our German teacher how to make them, I have enjoyed this festive activity.

One of the wreaths at home
So I asked permission to keep some of the branches, and, armed with those metal hangers they give you in drycleaners (which are easily turned into a round frame on which to work), some colourful ties and baubles, I have since made two for home, one for my student accomodation and one for the office.

While we were busy hacking away, we received an unexpected visit from a colleague with a surprise: he had found a flatworm, and he know I might be interested to see one.

There are two species of flatworm that are not natives of the UK: the New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus), and the Australian flatworm (Australoplana sanguinea) and it is an offence under Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to release any of those in the wild once they have been found. It is not exceedingly good news to find these two flatworms anyway, because they feed on earthworms, one of the soil's best aerators.

We identified our find as the Australian 'offender' so we boxed it up for sending to our P&D lab for further action. It is important not to touch the flatworms as their mucus can be irritating, so here it is in its full glory on my glove (and then again in its box), for anyone that might be interested to see one.

Australian flatworm (Australoplana sanguinea)

Australian flatworm (Australoplana sanguinea)

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