The last couple of weeks have been busy for us as volunteers. We transformed a small piece of land along the canal into an orchard. Planted lots of whips and made a start with the planting of native black poplars.
Along the canal, on the East-side of St Margaret’s field, we created a new, small orchard. With the help of one of the Ealing park rangers, we planted 5 trees -one Mulberry and 4 varieties of apple-. This orchard is very special to us, as we planted it to commemorate one of our founding members; Bernd Gauweiler.
For the last two years, we have been able to apply for free whips from The conservation volunteers . The whips received are a variety of native, fruit bearing, hedge whips, like dog-rose (rosa canina), blackthorn (prunus Spinoza) and hawthorn (crataegus) . This year we used most of the whips to fill up gaps in existing hedges in St. Margaret’s, The Piggeries and in Blackberry Corner.
Black poplar and buckthorn whips.
Special mention is deserved for a couple of other whips we planted along the orchard trail. First special mention is for the 4 black-poplars we planted. This tree is native to north-west Europe and a declining species in the UK. According to the Forestry Commission, black poplar is the most endangered native timber tree in Britain. It is the food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the hornet, wood leopard, poplar hawk and figure of eight. The catkins provide an early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and the seeds are eaten by birds. ‘Our’ whips have been propagated from cuttings from a poplar on Horsenden Hill. One of our volunteers has kindly cared for them for a year and a half. We will plant some more later in the year.
Second special mention is for some buckthorn whips that were gifted to us. Purging buckthorn is the main food plant of the brimstone butterfly, whose caterpillars eat the leaves. Its flowers provide a source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, while its dense growth makes it a valuable nesting site for birds. By adding these plants to our orchards we are hoping to give the brimstones, that are visiting from the Chilterns, a place to stay and breed.