Friday, 16 March 2012

Chocolate and Cherries

I am so two-faced. I force my family to sit down every day and eat a healthy breakfast, while I sneak off to do something outdoorsy and stuff my face with large quantities of chocolate. I blame lack of time (impossible to eat yoghurt on the hoof), or the packaging of chocolate eggs in multiples of three (impossible to eat just one). But the truth is, I can’t stop myself eating chocolate for breakfast, or at any other time of day for that matter.  

Life is full of shouldn’t but can’t help it moments and my personal list of shouldn’t but can’t help it weaknesses (over-indulgence in chocolate, cheese, chips and red wine; cheating at games; and procrastination) recently got longer with the arrival of three beautiful bare-root Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry trees). 

Bare-root plants have a habit of arriving when snow is forecast and these three were no exception. So they languished in our old threshing barn, where they were wrapped lovingly in hessian and watered until the snow had melted and I finally found the time to lavish on planting them (a task which, like filling out a tax return or washing up, looms large in your mind, but never takes as long as you expect it to).

Prunus serrula won a place in the garden, not only because bees enjoy its clusters of little white flowers which nestle among the emerging green leaves in Spring, but also because it ticks all the year-round interest boxes. Willow-shaped leaves turn yellow in Autumn; there may even be small fruits; then to cap it all, in Winter, after the leaves have fallen, the beautiful coppery-red bark of Prunus serrula gleams gloriously in the sunlight. It is this bark that is the cause of the extension to my 'shouldn’t, but can’t help it' list.

Of course you shouldn’t peel the old bark to reveal the gorgeous, glossy, shiny, smooth, almost burgundy, can’t-keep-my-hands-off-you new bark, because it slows down the natural shedding cycle of the tree and increases the risk of infection. If Prunus serrula could write gardening manuals, human bark-peelers would surely find themselves in the pest section. But anyone who has ever walked near a tree with peeling bark knows the dilemma. It’s like an annoying scab on your skin; not picking at it is more than flesh can stand.

The newly planted trees in the orchard also have bark issues. Not from human pests, but from our beautiful four-legged friends. I am not one to cast aspersions and I certainly don’t want to be sued for libel by deer, but I disturbed a gang which looked very similar to this one in the orchard just last week.

Typically, they ran off before I had time to find my camera, but I photographed this handsome group in my neighbour’s field yesterday. It may be circumstantial evidence, but for once it isn’t me who has been picking at tree bark (Prunus serrula might reasonably suggest otherwise). 

Thankfully, the bark-chewers haven’t tucked into every tree in the orchard and have left the  newly-planted ‘Peasgood’s Nonsuch’ apple untouched. It has to be one of my favourites with delicious, huge, juicy, dual-purpose fruit. The culprits have also avoided the plums and quince, so all is not lost. Time to do something outdoorsy like pruning away the damage. I'd better take a chocolate egg, or three.

The Gardening Shoe


  1. Nice to meet a fellow chocoholic. I've just bought someone some posh chocolates for their birthday, bought myself a box of them too. Well you have to sample them yourself, don't you ?
    Not so sure about the deer, they look pretty innocent to me.

  2. I like your style Crystal - you have to make sure the gift is of a suitable standard for the recipient. I do the same with red wine.