Category Archives: trees

Spring or still winter? Plants reveal all.

With the record warm spell last month and high sunshine totals you would think that the growing season is well under way. Spring bulbs have been out for weeks, trees are blossoming and many shrubs are on the verge of flushing.

But a look at the local temperature records over the last six years shows that things aren’t as advanced as previous seasons.

Considering the period from December 1st – in recent years a date when it is common to see bulb shoots beginning to emerge – to March 10th reveals the following table in terms of growing degree days.

growing degree days

The warm days of last month were cancelled out by cold, frosty nights, leading to little net warmth. And the last ‘growing degree-day’ was on March 2nd. Nevertheless growth is further on than last year that saw record cold in March. 

The season is a long way behind 2015-16, however, which saw a record-breaking mild December.

Looking at the list below, and the at best average outlook, we’ve still got a way to go before we’ll see most trees in full leaf…

plant development
This list courtesy of Wikipedia



The green lung of Wanstead

The tree canopy cover map on the Mayor of London’s website reveals just how blessed Wanstead’s inhabitants are in terms of clean air relative to the proximity of the City.

Those living closest to the junction of Wanstead Park Avenue and Northumberland Avenue benefit most from Wanstead Park, Wanstead Flats and Bushwood.

green lung

city green lung

The disappearing street trees of Wanstead

Street trees around Wanstead and the surrounding area have been disappearing at an alarming rate over the last few years. But it is not just the council’s technical policy of removing mature specimens that is to blame.

Changing rainfall patterns and poor husbandry have both contributed to the loss of some of the magnificent trees that once graced our roads and avenues.

A huge horse chestnut that once stood outside Wanstead High School first showed signs of distress in 2011. By 2017 it was completely dead and has since been chopped down.

One of the large limes on St Mary’s Avenue was a picture of health in 2015 but within two years it was completely dead and has also since been chopped down.

A huge old beech in the front garden of a property in Blake Hall Road was showing signs of distress in 2017 and came crashing down in 60mph winds from Storm Fion in January 2018.

Yet another huge old beech that stood proud in a front garden of St Mary’s Avenue has been dying since 2012. The second image reveals very thin foliage in summer 2017. The tree was chopped down a couple of weeks ago as it was clearly dead and posed an obvious safety risk, given what happened to the beech in Blake Hall Road in January this year.

The mature trees of Christchurch Green took a real hammering during the St Jude Storm in October 2013, among those lost were three gorgeous old limes. New trees have been planted but they will take decades to match the size of those lost.

Of course the loss of these trees and other could be attributed to bad luck and coincidence that many are reaching the end of their lives at the same time.

As a country we get a bit hung up on cutting trees down – in the near continent they are much more pragmatic and proactive through planning over a period of years in getting trees in the ground. So that when trees do die there’s not such a huge gap left in roads and parks.

On tree basesaying this there also needs to be more joined up thinking by councils in terms of looking after the existing tree stock. Far too many trees suffer because contractors are inconsistent with road and pavement repairs. Ideally the base of trees should have space for mulch to be applied but, too often, Tarmac is applied right up to the base.

Have you noticed mature trees dying suddenly recently? Please reply to this blog and I will add them.


If the oak before the ash…

…then we’ll only see a splash. If the ash before the oak then we’re sure to get a soak.

If this old weather saying carries any weight then this summer should be a corker…

This young ash on the corner of Montalt Road and Chingford Lane, Woodford Green, is much later into leaf than the adjacent oak
This young ash on the corner of Montalt Road and Chingford Lane, Woodford Green, is much later into leaf than the adjacent oak

Only I wonder how many of the ash trees I noticed on my ride back from Enfield this afternoon are struggling to survive let alone burst into leaf. The initial onset of chalara fraxinea (ash dieback) over the past couple of years now seems to be taking its toll in a much bigger way on ash specimens around the countryside.

The tell tale dead branches are becoming a lot more common.

Some have blamed the spread of Chalara on cheap imports of ash trees from Holland – the first cases were confirmed in a nursery in Bucks early in 2012. Efforts were made to find and contain affected specimens but, throughout East Anglia and the South East, the disease seems out of control.  It could be only a matter of time before the disease scars the landscape with dead trees in the same way that Dutch Elm Disease did in the 1970s.

From one poor management of trees to another – namely the ultra harsh pollarding of the London planes in Wanstead High Street. Whilst this style of management is nothing new and seems to be de rigeur among most London councils it does nothing for the scene of many roads and streets through the capital. What was once a rich canopy of green providing shady relief from the sun during high summer is just a few stumps. It takes a good few years for the canopies to regenerate – by which time it’s time for another visit from the tree surgeons…

Plane ugly: the harshly pollard planes in Wanstead High Street
Plane ugly: the harshly pollarded planes in Wanstead High Street

To blame, partly, is the spread of another tree pest – Massaria. This unseen pest ‘eats’ away the tops of branches – compromising the strength of the wood eventually to the point where, if unchecked, the whole limb comes crashing to the ground. London plane is very heavy wood – with branches weighing dozens of kilos there’s obviously safety issues with limbs dropping on peoples’ heads.

Though councils would argue otherwise I think the harsh pollarding is a cost saving measure – without this they would have the added cost of constant monitoring.

The fast-growing, non-native London plane was planted on the understanding that growth would be carefully managed and limited in height. But looking at some of the monster specimens around the capital that seems to have gone by the wayside a long time ago.

The City of London Corporation is well aware of the problem and is closely monitoring the capital’s stock.

If you have magnificent London plane near you make the most of it – the buzz of the tree surgeons’ chainsaws are getting closer.