Today I am joining other bloggers via Lucy`s Loose and Leafy blog, http://looseandleafy.blogspot.co.uk to begin the year of Tree Following. On the edge of a New Forest village in Hampshire, Southern England, I am watching the deciduous trees now for signs of spring growth.
My tree is not the oldest, the tallest or the most striking tree. All around our village there are native British trees in New Forest woodlands and fine ornamental trees brought home from the other side of the world by long-ago plant hunters.
My tree for 2014 is a familiar friend. Easy to take for granted but there every day, changing with the seasons. It is the first tree that I see as I open the curtains each morning and the last tree I see as I close them again at dusk.
This Ornamental Crab Apple is, I believe, Malus domestica John Downie. The ornamental crab apples have been developed from the native wild crab apple, Malus sylvestris, examples of which grow just outside in the Forest hedgerows. Dobies of Devon Nursery describes "John Downie" as an excellent pollinator for other apples.
My tree grows on the edge of the garden, beside the field fence. Beyond it is a view of green paddocks, bordered by an ancient hedgerow of overgrown trees.
Today, daffodils beneath the tree are almost ready to burst into flower.
As a variety of apple, the tree belongs to the Rosaceae family. The tangled winter branches remind me of a rose bush bare of leaves and flowers.
On the tips of twigs, new growth from last summer is waiting to break bud.
This tree must be thirty years old, as that was the time that a strip of the field was enclosed into garden by previous owners. Behind the new fence, a line of ornamental trees was planted.
The bark of trunk, branches and smaller twigs plays host to mosses and lichens. A sign of clean air that blows in across the Forest on prevailing south westerly winds.
The tattered flag is not a sign of patriotic fervour! When we were training the young grey pony to get used to unusual flapping things, we tied a line of bunting and made a clothes line between the tree and a post. Tea towels and plastic bags were pegged to the line. Gradually the pony realised that these flapping monsters were not there to hurt him and now he will munch a pile of hay not far from a washing line. Somehow, one of the flags was left behind.......
The crab apple`s neighbouring tree is a horse chestnut.
Their branches almost touch.
The elegant sweep of horse chestnut branches contrasts with the shorter, stubbier branches of the crab apple.
To the east of the crab apple is a small strip of daffodils, planted years before we moved here.
A mole has been active over the winter!
Over the fence, the ponies have walked a track along the boundary.
......moss and daffodils.
When the tree dripped with fruit last summer, some branches overhanging the field were pruned. The ponies were reaching up for unripe crab apples and were shaking them off the tree, so we had to trim the tree. Too many acidic crab apples are a recipe for colic.
When I first saw the tree this morning, a pair of collared doves were perched in its branches. Today the tree still stands bare and wintery, but the daffodils beneath it are waking up and grass is beginning to grow. Spring is coming at last.