Spring cleaning the birch tree

How much greener life would be, were it not for Herr Kärcher, supplier of power washers to the universe! Moss would infest every concrete slab, grass seedlings would flourish in cracks, and algae would turn my beautiful silver Himalayan birch – betula jacquemontii – entirely green.P1010462 It is time for the annual ceremony of cleaning the tree.

It’s a still, cold day, perfect for the hydraulic blasting away of all the algae and strips of loose bark to reveal the shining trunk beneath. At first, the colour is a milky tan, but exposure to the light will turn it glistening silver within weeks.P1010466

As usual, though, nothing is perfect. Something has been digging into the bark in a perfectly spaced series of little holes, to which the tree reacts by forming a black scab, thus upsetting the flawless silver, and upsetting me too.P1010463

I used to think the claws of grey squirrels were responsible (I’ll blame everything I can on those pests). But now I wonder if it isn’t a woodpecker doing a little investigation in the hope of a meal? If so, I trust it will go elsewhere.  Anyway, the job is done, and the birch is clean for another year. As I wind up the hose and stow the washer, it starts to snow. I emerged from hibernation too early – that is clear.P1010464


19 thoughts on “Spring cleaning the birch tree

  1. Yes, I would definitely say a woodpecker! Your tree look so pristine, I just have to do mine with a scrubbing brush, obviously I will have to put a power washer on my wish list!

    • I only got mine a year or two ago – but it has turned out to be a really versatile garden tool. Saves hours of trying to dig out weeds from cracks in stonework. It would clean up your sculptures a treat. Just don’t stint on the power – the cheapest ones are too feeble to be useful!

    • No, no, Minety – just the one. And only that, because it is right in front of the house, and because it transforms the look of the tree for a whole year. Anyway, I’m not alone. Pauline scrubs hers and Dave wipes his….. I just use power because I’m too lazy for these gentle methods!

  2. Oooooo!!!! Most definitely woodpecker markings! They love working methodically like this! I think it makes the tree interesting! It has a story!

  3. Your jacquemontii makes a grand statement, its only in recent times that I have heard this white bark form referred to as Silver Birch. Looks like I can forget about my bucket of soapy water.

    • You are right as usual, Alistair. It’s not really a silver birch, which is officially betula pendula. But ‘jacquemontii’ or ‘utilis var jacquemontii’ if we are being correct is rather better at being silver….

  4. Spring cleaning, uh? I love that birch of yours and sometimes I watch my two betula nigra in the grass garden and sigh, if I only had bought a betula jacquemontii… But hey, everyone’s got what he deserves. I’ve been too hasty that time.
    All this just to confess that at the very bottom of my heart I feel joy for seeing those black scars in your milky bark.

  5. Every once in a while, Mr K, the Priory Owner will buy a power washer (for Priory Owner reasons). And after he has gone, I’ll store it away in an outbuilding. Then on his return, thinking he doesn’t own a power washer, he’ll buy another one. And after he’s gone I’ll store the new one away as well. We now have three or four in my hidden power washer collection (the Priory Owner probably thinks I sell them at car boot sales) but I still haven’t used them for my B. ‘jacquemontii’ ablutions. Indeed (and I tell you this in strictest confidence) I didn’t even wipe mine down this year. The shame of it, Mr K. The greenish shame. (Might have to do it on Monday now). Dave

    • And here was I using you as an example to all and sundry of a dedicated wiper. I’m fascinated by your treasure trove of power washers. Can you not link them all together in some crafty way and use them to create a fountain, or wash grey squirrels out of their trees, or at least clean up your birches….?

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