The Countess and the birch tree

It is wet, and cold, and windy, and it starts getting dark at 3.30pm, so there is not much going on in the garden. Besides, my mind has been on crime.

But today I was cleaning the garage doors when I remembered the countess who went to visit her slightly-less aristocratic friend and produced the ultimate in garden put-downs. Looking out of her friend’s window, she remarked: “I see you don’t bother to wash your birch trees, Betty.”

My betula jacquemonte grows a lot of algae on its bark, and it somewhat spoils the pure white of its trunk (note the slug trails where they have been browsing the algae)So, not wishing to  suffer scorn from any visiting countesses, I heaved over the power-washer from where I had been using it.Since it was raining, a little more water made no difference to my morale. But the effect was most pleasing:I didn’t use a ladder (and don’t much fancy using one either) so I now have a tree that is nicely clean to about eight feet, but still green and mossy above that:Since the bark of b.jacquemonte peels very easily, and the loose bits were blasted off by the water, I now have grass covered in litter. At least it’s biodegradeable.

Being Scottish, and therefore mean,  I don’t start feeding the wild birds until about now, as it’s a waste of good money while there is still plenty of stuff they can eat in the garden.  Also, since my wild birds refuse point blank to eat wheat, barley, or niger seeds (not even the goldfinches),  I am forced to buy ultra-expensive bird food, complete with mealworms and other unheard-of delicacies. If I give them the cheap stuff, they just throw it around, and I then have a crop of wheat growing in my herbaceous border the following summer.
I was pleased to receive a visit from a great spotted woodpecker today. As the winter deepens, I hope I’ll have more.


16 thoughts on “The Countess and the birch tree

  1. What do you mean they don’t eat niger seed? I got it from the wildllife trust at the Montrose Basin specially, complete with bag! I got fed up with the wheat crop in the border too. Sunflower seeds seem to go down well, however.

    • Hello Janet,
      Maybe your finches will be less picky than mine! But at least niger seed doesn’t seem to germinate in spring. There is always custom for sunflower seeds, but they too have doubled in price of late. The second strongest woman in West Lothian, who sells them to me, says this is because they are in demand for biofuel

      • The sunflower seeds are now getting dropped in the border and guess what? They’re sprouting. I don’t think I want a crop of sunflowers right there!
        Ps I live in hope of seeing a great spotted woodpecker in our garden.

        • I’m surprised you have no woodpeckers. There are quite a lot of them here, and they don’t seem shy to come to bird feeders. But maybe there aren’t so many dead trees for them near Montrose?

  2. Mealworms? Well please define ‘delicacies’.
    Your betula jacquemontii is wonderful. I have the more common pebdula form. I didn’t know those imperfections on the bark was algae. Interesting. Power-washing a tree sounds pretty sick though. 🙂
    The pictures of the woodpecker are fantastic. That bird is beautiful. I have some around here too, mine seem bigger to me though.

    • The power washing was an experiment. It did work though. I am not, however going to wash any other trees. Life is too short. Did you like the slug trails? And have you identified your woodpecker?

      • I didn’t identify the woodpecker yet but I identified a jay: her name is Raimunda (so she said).
        I liked so much your slug trails that I’ve collected some slugs and I freed them near my birches… 🙂

  3. I love to see groves of pure white birch trees – they look really spooky. I agree with you about the cheap seeds and niger, I think the birds are getting a bit more choosey these days, ours only eat sunflower hearts and fat balls.

  4. What a beautiful & ghostly tree. (I can’t type out ‘and’ now because of Twitter.) I’m glad the tree roots held against the power washer storm. You are dangerous. But not mean. Gourmet birds? You must have taught them. Birds here will eat anything.

    ps– you could have tracked those slugs– they were probably up to something…

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