Brambles and other thorny subjects


On this mild day it feels so nice to be out and about tackling  thorny issues such as the strangling habits of brambles. I have always been attracted to these plants. Some of the most amazing plants on this planet of ours are ferocious. My all time favorite is the rose. Today I released one such dainty one from overgrown grass and such. A Ballerina rose planted many years ago, still going, albeit not so strong. Then the Queen Elizabeth almost long forgotten. It was originally sited at the far end of the polytunnel where it took pride of place. The tunnel, long since blown away by January storms,  has not since been replaced and the rose  back staged. Lost but not forgotten, I am planning to move it this winter to a location close to the cottage. It is a very tall pink hybrid tea rose.

Queen Elizabeth Rose bud



Recently I came across a question on a plant identification page on face book.  I thought I might go into a little more detail here on this page. The enquiry was about how to recognize bramble and rose  stems in the dormant season.

If a picture says a thousand words how many does a video say? In any case you can easily see the smooth green stems of the dog rose and it’s lethal thorns here. The stems of the bramble are matt and covered in many small thorns. Did you ever try to take a bramble out of a collie dog? Colours are not a great identifier  alone, as parts of the the stem may vary. Age, exposure to daylight and the fertility of the soil all affect growing conditions. The oldest  stems of the bramble disintegrate, they have to reproduce and create new stems in order to survive, they are not as strong as the rose, whose stems stay tough for a very  long time.

Reproduction – The gardener as midwife

On the subject of proliferation brambles are very good at it. In a few short years brambles have reduced the acreage of my field by expanding the boundary to about 15 to 20 feet in some places. This is a stage to be observed in organic natural land management systems.The unplanned natural species willow trees will  get bigger and shade out the gorse and the bramble. It is already happening. My job now is simply to assist in the creation of pathways and tidy up the growing natural forest. I did plant a few deliberately.  A chestnut grown from the seed of a fine tree up the lane. A fruiting Cydonia oblonga, aka quince, unheard of in these parts , originally planted inside the 60 foot polytunnel before it’s demise. 3 oaks grown from seed we picked up 20 years ago on a walk in a natural oak forest in Wicklow. Some more oaks, birch and alder given me for my birthday. And down the end, a few carpinus betula (hornbeam) and spindle trees, bought from the nurseryman down the lane before it closed. One willow seedling rescued from the gravel path of  garden center where I was working. Propagation is fun.

Now, back to the bramble. Nobody does it better than David Attenborough

yep they are just like that but slower. I wanted to show you the video of how they propagate but here is a picture instead.

dsc_0074Stolon of bramble

yes when the tip of the plant heads off it searches for grip and a bit of ground in which to attach itself and grow roots for a new plant. Ingenious. Brambles also spread by root and seed but this is their clever and  effective way of colonising a large area of ground (like my field, sigh)

This is lovely

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