Ash trees

by James Alexander-Sinclair

The woods around us consist mostly of ash trees, and every autumn we have a few weekends of frantic leaf collecting (particularly frantic around the chicken run).

Fallen ash seed podsThe woods around us consist mostly of ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), and every autumn we have a few weekends of frantic leaf collecting (particularly frantic around the chicken run). The trees seem to shed leaves at random – one tree will be completely starkers, while another is just turning, so the chore of collection seems endless. Any leaves that fall on borders are left there, but we rake leaves from the paths and lawn (they smother the grass), adding them to the compost heap.

Finally, by the end of November the work is done and the trees settle back into a period of winter hibernation.

Or do they? No, they do not because, come January and February, the trees start shedding again. Not leaves this time but something far less useful: seeds. Do you know how many seeds an ash tree can produce? Neither do I, but it seems like a limitless supply.

We sweep up barrow loads of the blighters and then are rather stuck with what on earth we should do with them. I don’t want to put them on the compost heap lest they just snuggle down and wait to ambush me next year. They are too wet for burning and I feel oddly guilty if I put them in the council recycling bin as I may just be passing the problem on to somebody else. My cunning solution is to leave them in a bin with some water in the hope that they will drown.

In spite of all this sweeping I know that soon there will be baby ash seedlings popping up all over the garden. They are fine if you get them early enough but they don’t half grow fast when they get going. I have a few which are so embedded in the roots of other plants that all I can do is cut them down each year.

However, they are a constant reminder of the impermanence of man (if you would excuse me for getting a bit philosophical for a moment). I know that if we stopped gardening here then within a very few years the trees would reclaim the garden and we would sink back into the arms of nature.

I find that strangely comforting.

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Gardeners' World Web User 28/02/2011 at 14:53

A similar thing happens with acers. I would be a millionaire if I could have sold all the ornamental acers I have "weeded" out. But we do have indigenous rare ash trees in the Avon Gorge in Bristol, and it is my hope they will spread via their seeds and entice waxwings in good numbers to us. I have just been working among my bluebell plantations which have spread wherever they find a suitable corner and hope they will survive if there is no gardener after me. I agree , James, it is very comforting to realise how powerful nature is and our attempts to tame it( which is what Shakespeare said we gardeners do) are quite puny.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/03/2011 at 19:23

How lovely, James (the impermanence of man bit, not the having to sweep barrow loads of blighters). I have the same thing with sycamore. My garden is full of little green seedlings with telltale spinning jennies nearby. I don't mind them so much - they're about the only thing growing in the garden!

Gardeners' World Web User 04/03/2011 at 16:48

Enjoy and nurture your Ash trees. We have been hit over here (Ontario, Canada) in the last 2 years or so with the Emerald Ash Beetle and all our ash will be dead in a few years, if not already. The bug is beautiful, but deadly. A wandering migrant from abroad with no enemies here.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/03/2011 at 16:57

I know all too well about Ash trees coming up everywhere! They can be a real pest. I currently have to meter high sapling sitting in a bucket of water... debating as to wether or not to bother planting them in the fence around my horses' paddocks. See, the horses absolutely love them and will strip bark off the mature trees, but oh the leaves... they do smother the precious grass... Glad to know I'm not the only one fighting a demanding battle against the hardy Ash!

Gardeners' World Web User 04/03/2011 at 18:47

I didn't appreciate the 10cm plus roots of an Ash tree when I was trying to put 3 metre concrete fence posts in last summer. Considering the tree was at least 40feet away from where I was digging, I hadn't expected quite so much resistance. No wonder they make excellent cricket bats! Having said that this mature tree supports a lot of bird life including the odd Greater Spotted Woodpecker from time to time so although the seedlings are a pain in the garden the overall benefit far outwighs the nuisance factor

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