A Monkey Puzzle is a conifer right? Just a rather ancient and peculiar one. I've blogged about this before I am sure, but at the bottom of my garden there is a Monkey Puzzle tree, and is the main reason I live in this house. Really. Look, here, I'll save you the trouble. That post is well over ten years old, and I've lived here for nearly 20, but the tree is still alive and well. Well, it's alive and mostly well. I am afraid that the increasingly dry and warm climate is doing my Araucaria no favours at all, and the lower branches are dying at an alarming rate. Weeks of no rain and temperatures approaching and in some cases exceeding 30 degrees are not what it likes. All Monkey Puzzles, no matter where they grow, will eventually shed their lower branches and become rather mushroom-like, but this is expected on larger trees whereas mine is a mere pup. There is a tree close to my parents that is larger than mine and yet has retained its beautiful candelabra shape to this day. I look wistfully at it every time I drive past and harbour unbecoming feelings of jealously as my tree was once like this. No longer though, and I should probably get ready for the day when it looks a proper mess. The climate in Scotland remains benign for these trees. London, not so much.
However the next generation, indeed many generations, are mostly alive and well. I have lost count of the number of trees that I have grown, seeds that I have sent people. Despite the fact there are no male trees nearby to contribute pollen, each year a few grains somehow arrive and produce a handful of viable seeds. Every year I gather these up and plant them in pots with just the tops sticking out. One year a Squirrel ate the whole lot in one sitting, so I now put mesh over them or put them in the greenhouse. The first year I put them in the greenhouse a family of Wood Mice continued where the Squirrel had left off. I was enraged and set traps - I think I got the whole family and have felt guilty ever since, and so now I put fine mesh over the greenhouse ones too so that I don't have to kill anything. Barring those two years I have saplings going back to probably the year after we moved in, except for 2021, where about 80% of crop has died two years later. I either underwatered or overwatered, I am not sure, and I am also a little confused as as far as I am aware I have treated these no differently to any other crop.
|The sad tale of 2021|
For those that have survived some are now enormous. Seedlings that I planted in the ground in Scotland some years ago are now far taller than I am, and each year I dutifully plant more. From time to time I sell a few as once larger they are worth a fair amount of cash. Mostly I give them away though, my hope being that these magnificent plants can spread far and wide. There are a large group that are probably about 8 years old that I keep up in Fife and that are literally bursting out of their pots. One of my jobs this summer is to go up and repot them into larger pots that will last for a few more years. The bulk are in London though, and so each year I have to assess whether to move them up a size or not. I guess I won't have much to do for the 2021 vintage...
|I had two black pots like this, and then a mcuh larger rectangular tray.|
In 2022 I had a bumper crop, more seeds than I've ever had before. Most years I get around 40-50 (which as a percentage of the total cones is miniscule), but for whatever reason in 2022 I harvested over 200 and was forced to plant the seeds at a high density. Some were in the greenhouse over winter, others outside, but it seemed to make little difference, and earlier this year I was pleased to see the first green shoots start to emerge. Time to pot them up! Or some of them at least as I have now run out of soil and pots. A number of them, upwards of 100 I estimate, remain bunched up in their communal pots. I did what I could though and have managed to sort out about 60 which are now in tall seedling pots. I'll do the rest later, they can happily continue for another year in these communal pots though some will inevitably get squeezed out.
You can just see the seedlings above in a in a big tray under the Leylandii in the photo accompanying the last post I wrote. I suppose that if grass simply won't grow there I could just cover the whole of the brown circle in Monkey Puzzle trees. That would be cool. Or I would think it was cool at any rate, I expect Mrs L would be unimpressed. Anyway, that's the story of a different type of conifer labour. I don't think I'll be able to manage the hatrick. Might have to move onto beans.....Alternatively some Waders could arrive on the patch and then birding would be exciting again. Cross your fingers.