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THE SEASON FOR LIME

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Lime blossom France reduce

Have you ever walked down a summer street or across an open space and wondered where that divine and illusive scent is coming from?  Chances are you have caught a whiff of the subtle and delicious lime flower perfume.  Lime, linden or Tilia July is their season.  Fully leafed-out and covered in blossom these mature ‘high forest’ trees are magnificent at the moment.

But limes have a bad name because they ‘drip’ on cars and cover everything beneath them with a sticky, often black substance.  Actually it’s not the lime itself that causes the problem.  The tree is very attractive to aphids that produce a sticky exudate or honeydew.  This in turn is attractive to a sooty mould so the aphids drop the honeydew onto surrounding surfaces and this becomes colonised by the mould.  Lime trees get the blame and many local councils have stopped planting them because of this problem even though as the season wears on lace wings, lady birds and other predators do their job and feast on the aphids, clearing up the sticky mess.

There are some lime species which are less prone to aphid attack such as Tilia x euchlora, but this species along with Tilia petiolaris are less planted because of their narcotic effect on bees.  Their scent and nectar is addictive to bees causing them to satiate themselves until they die.  The silver leaved Tilia petiolaris is particularly attractive and narcotic to bees.  Sometimes it may be the intense drone of the bees which first alerts you to a lime tree in flower, looking up you realise that the tree is alive with bees gorging on the lime pollen.

We should make greater use of the lime, in the South of France Tilia × europaea L. (synonym Tilia × vulgaris Hayne) is used for making tea and honey and the young leaves can be eaten in salads.

Planted in an open situation mature lime trees form great, blousy specimens with graceful stems and heart shaped leaves.  The pale, creamy-yellow flowers are unobtrusive but hang between pale green bracts giving the tree a kind of shaggy appearance in full flower.  But the most beautiful thing about a lime in flower is the intoxicating fragrance which is an unexpected delight on a summer evening.

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Old Orchards

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This time of year the structure and form of trees is readily apparent and none more so than the gnarled skeletons of old orchard trees.   These fabulous old specimens have a character and texture which is unique within the pattern of the British landscape.  Remnant orchards still exist in unlikely places, close to urban centres and amongst gardens on the village fringe, they provide places for contemplation, a refuge for wildlife and form part of the history of our countryside and the English lexicon.

Orchards were once widespread in Britain with a plethora of apple varieties, many special to individual parishes, the trees dispersed between cottage gardens, farms and manor houses.  Local apples were commonplace but the advent of cheap imported fruit and pressure on land to provide housing meant that orchards were seen as redundant and grubbed out to make way for development.  Commercial orchards declined from the 1970s onwards and, by 1997, 64% of all British orchards had been lost. 

The satisfying glimpse of a densely planted, twiggy orchard grid is now a rarity except in discrete areas still important for commercial fruit production.  Though much reduced, there are still perry orchards in Hereford and Worcestershire; cider apples are grown in Somerset and Devon; Cambridgeshire, Essex and Kent still grow cooking and eating apples, pears, plums, cherries and cobnuts.  What is particularly sad about the loss of so many orchards is that the UK has such a great climate for growing fruit.  English apple types are more diverse in variety, their flesh sweeter than European or Antipodean counterparts and they thrive in our damp loamy soil.  With the loss of the fruit goes the rituals and skills of fruit husbandry; the ways of netting cherry trees; picking delicate, plump, short season plums or planting to cross pollinate gages.   And the transient beauty of a grid of trees drifted in blossom is no longer a common scene in our landscape.

Does the loss of the trees also mean we have lost the casual gift of fruit which our parents knew?  The neighbourly camaraderie of bartering fruit; the glut of greengages exchanged for Victoria plums, a surfeit of cookers, wrapped in newspaper and stored in cardboard boxes, the scrumped apples, stolen cherries hanging from a local tree or plums dripping over the garden wall; the pip spitting contests of youth.  We used to scour the autumn hedgerows for blue blushed damsons, food for free along with the blackberries and sloes to seep in gin.   Old hedgerows fat with bullace and damson, the rootstock of our cultivated plums.    

The charity Common Ground campaigns to raise awareness of local distinctiveness and  wants Britain to be a prominent fruit growing country once again for environmental, aesthetic, social, cultural and economic reasons, and believes that Community Orchards can help spearhead a revival.

http://www.england-in-particular.info/orchards/o-corch.html  http://www.commonground.org.uk/

At the 5 Islands School in St Marys, Isles of Scilly, in response to the islanders’ desire for horticultural heritage to be part of the school’s design and use, Novell Tullett planted a small orchard of fruit trees. Within the orchard are Scilly Pearls, apple species which are particular to the islands.

The school has won a Civic Trust Award 2013.

http://www.fiveislands.scilly.sch.uk

 

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Winter scent

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During the dull days of winter seek out some surprising but subtle contributors which add to the enjoyment of landscape.  Plants which add another dimension, lifting the spirits through gloomy months with a waft of ephemeral scent on still, damp air.

An unassuming and overlooked shrub most of the year Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is rather stiff and unremarkable.   Its young leaves come through bronze tinted and, with age, the plant gains more spreading and arching growth.   But after leaf fall the shrub comes into its own, flowering from late autumn through winter.  When frost knocks back the pale pink blossom new flowers come through quickly dispersing their sweet scent on calm air.  The tiny trumpet shaped flowers are borne in clusters on the bare stems which give a Japanese quality to the form.  Picked stems are spare, with long lasting flowers which rapidly scent a room.  Massed plantings of the shrub should be fronted by other more shapely species, but the impact of the scent caught whilst walking through the landscape should not be underestimated.

As landscape architects we have a strong predilection for the visual environment but scent conjures memories like no other sense jerking one back to a forgotten moment; the coconut whiff of gorse on a summer’s cliff top walk; or the touch of Cytisus battandieri trained around a doorway its pineapple scented flowers and softly furred leaves make a deliciously sensuous entrance.

http://www.tendercare.co.uk/

http://www.wyevalenurseries.co.uk/

http://www.woottensplants.com

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