Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So horrified right now...

As winter is fast setting in, it's getting easier to stick to my original, grand plan - which was to work from front to back; giving myself the time to learn the garden and get to know its nuances throughout the year. One thing I have learnt is just how sad the decimation of a Ginko tree can be and how thorough the remorse when you realise that you should have been seriously more proactive in halting the march of a very, hungry caterpillar*. On the left is the culprit and on the right is what my Ginko should look like...and I am so horrified right now...

...and this is what my Ginko does look like.

It is a hard image to publish because my shame is great and right now, my Ginko should be a towering column of gold. But in the interests of public education (ha!) and further self- flagellation, I post this as a reminder to self that there's no excuse for such a cavalier approach to the health of my garden. Ginkos are known as living fossils and some in China are over 50m tall, though mine would be pushing 5m at best. It think this small stature can be linked to a shaded, overcrowded position. I have recently snipped off a basal chi chi or lignotuber; I think the former sounds more fun which is ridiculous of me, as these shoots from the base of the plant indicates some degree of stress in the tree which is not in the least bit funny. Especially when your Ginko has barely survived the summer and now may not have absorbed enough chlorophyll to last through the winter.

You can see the leaves that have struggled valiantly against the invasion and it is not an over-exaggeration to say that perhaps only 5% of the leaves remained by the end of summer. Caterpillars have nibbled down to the stalk of each leaf, taking the fresh new growth but leaving what I imagine must be the tougher, less palatable stalks. Ginkos are meant to have extremely pest resistant bark, perhaps this makes the leaves especially tasty! For a long time, I dithered as to what could be the cause of this problem. I couldn't see any possum poo (and they do like to shit where they eat), I knew the cockatoos were busy in the Beech and I still I didn't do anything. And then one day I saw a lone caterpillar and then I did what I should have done all along, I marched up to the Nursery and started asking questions. I came home armed with a packet of Dipell, which is a bio-insecticide, meaning that is based on natural, low-toxic and organic ingredients. I am against pesticides in general and I'm not really sure how this differs (definitely a topic for me to research more fully) but I really can't take any more chances with my Ginko. It was probably too late to apply this season, but I've done it anyway and now all there is to do, is wait...and do it all over again next spring.

My first encounter with a Ginko in all its glory was at Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park Home and Studio in Chicago, Illinois. The windy city was freezing, though it was still officially autumn and in the courtyard between the two buildings was this magnificent specimen of a prehistoric plant. When plans leave paper and the steel wool trees of the model are left behind, I think it's fascinating to see what types of natural forms architects are prepared to commit to, in their own backyards. But who knows whether Lloyd Wright picked out a Ginko in particular or whether it happened to be in situ already, he chose to leave it they regardless and this can only be because there are such striking trees. With new leaf on board, there are a luminous green - I think it's best described as kermit green, not kelly or grass but the colour of Kermit the Frog's felted body. In the autumn, they become a true golden yellow and it's hard to decide when they look best. Their leaves are a unique fan shape that lend themselves to perfect fluttering and when the leaves decide to leave, it'll happen almost overnight. For my Ginko, that will probably take the best part of 5minutes.

*With apologies to Eric Carlye, whose book(s) I do very much like.

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