So many questions

Happy New Year. And may this year be better than the past two.

I apologise for the lack of posts in recent months. The reasons are numerous and disparate. I often feel as though I am drowning in a tide of unanswerable questions and none have much to do with gardening  – and this is a gardening blog. I have been pondering about how to deal with these and, arguably, the best way is to ignore them. But I can’t. They are eating away at me. I am sure it is all down to the continuing disruption to our lives, which seems set to continue into the near future.

But, in my day job, I spend a lot of time answering questions, so perhaps I should concentrate on those. It is at least more positive. So, with the garden sodden and with little of interest, perhaps it is more helpful to tackle some garden questions, inspired by, though not necessarily exactly taken from, real questions I have had to answer recently. I feel a series coming on.

But I will start with a question of my own that I can’t answer to my satisfaction.

I have always summer-pruned my present and previous apple trees in August, shortening the current year’s growth to about four leaves, unless they needed to be left longer to enlarge the tree, to encourage flowering and fruiting. It is a process that is used regularly on cordon and espalier trees. I noticed, last year, that a few trees responded by bursting into growth almost immediately. The resultant growth was damaged by winter frost and I had to prune back again in spring. Only the top two buds grew prematurely so no great harm was done though I think that it resulted in fewer flowers last spring.

As a result I delayed the summer pruning till mid September last year. But, once again many burst into growth and many even flowered. The photo above was taken in late October but there are actually a few flowers open now. Though it is very mild (or should that be ‘warm’) now, we did have some frosts in autumn.

What is curious is that one of the concerns of global warming, and mild winters, is that tree fruits will not experience the required number of cold days, in winter, to stimulate flower bud formation. Many modern apples are being bred for warmer climates than Ireland and many of these are not very successful here – for example ‘Cripp’s Pink’ (Pink Lady) and ‘Braeburn’; both Australian.

But what I find odd, is that, among my collection, that includes apples old and new, it is not just the modern apples that are doing this. Although ‘Pinova’ (1986) has been flowering on and off, so has ‘Lady’s Finger of Offaly’ (1851) which is a traditional Irish apple that should know how to behave. It has had flowers trying to open for two months. It is very strange and I might have to rethink pruning this year.

I don’t think this is all down to the current unseasonably mild weather. It began while there were frosts, in October. At the moment night temperatures are well above 10c at night and well up to 15c during the day. The weather really is odd at the moment and it is starting to have bad effects on some plants; spiraeas are beginning to break bud and they will get damaged when the weather does turn cold, as it will.

Those other questions. Stop reading this post if you just want horticultural content, love Boris Johnson, are a member of the Chinese Communist Party, or are easily offended

Sometimes I feel the world has gone mad:

Why does the West impose sanctions on some countries and yet China gets away with murder – literally? Is it because we need to buy their plastic junk? They are ethnically cleansing Uyghurs, suppressing (eliminating) democracy in Hong Kong (shame on you UK) and don’t seem to be accountable for bringing the world Covid19. But don’t worry, we will still be able to buy unnecessary consumables from China made by people with few rights at prices that give Western companies huge profits (and have destroyed jobs in the West) and then chuck them in landfill or send them to the third world to ‘recycle’. One of the tiny advantages of not being able to go out and ‘browse’ in shops over the past two years has been the elimination of buying unnecessary ‘niceties’.

Why does a bag of peanuts to feed the birds state ‘packed in a factory that handles nuts’?

How is Boris Johnson still Prime Minister? (I apologise for being concerned about the UK but I am a dyed-in-the-wool remainer). He bends the truth, and is a self-obsessed buffoon. He lied when he said he would pay the £400 million the UK owes Iran (no one argues about that) so that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still being held hostage. I am not defending the Iranian powers for holding her hostage but the UK used to be (or considered itself) a shining light of dependability (perhaps) but is now not to be trusted, even by its ‘friends in Europe’ – how it makes me shudder when I hear them say ‘friends in Europe’. Never mind his parties and shambolic management of the Covid pandemic, what about the £350 million a week that he promised would go to the NHS after Brexit. LOL. All he is interested in is keeping his job and his party happy, (as was spineless David Cameron who brought us Brexit) which is why England has fewer restrictions on peoples’ movements (hooray- drinks all round) and higher Covid infection (who would have thought?) than most of Europe.

Why doesn’t the Queen celebrate her anniversary this year by being allowed to say what she really thinks for the first time during her monarchy and order a few executions. Perhaps the BBC, devoid of any new ideas can combine them with a reality show – ‘I’m a Tory MP, get me down from here’ – oops too late – or replace Pointless with Headless.

And then there was COP26 – what a cop-out! It has all gone quiet now but Australia and China did their best to scupper any phase out of coal. And why did no one notice the elephant in the room. If we want to reduce the impact of humans on the planet we must stop breeding. I am not advocating not looking after anyone. Indeed, we need to look after people from other nations who are seeking help. Especially if, as is the case with the USA and UK in Afghanistan, you are responsible (at least in part) for messing the place up. Of course there is the argument that we need more children because they will work to pay tax to pay my pension. But I have paid tax (for my pension) all my life so where is the money? If the government has spent it then there needs to be an investigation, just as there would be with a private pension scam.

And what is it with ‘like’. ‘Like’ is not punctuation. It seems to be an involuntary utterance whenever a breath is taken. I thought I was annoyed when ‘showcase’ became a verb but then ‘gifting’ became a leisure activity and I just despair.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

13 Comments on “So many questions”

  1. D Taylor
    January 1, 2022 at 9:06 am #

    Our current situation in a nutshell without holds! Brilliant! 😀. Gardening affords plenty of reasoning/sussing it all out time. Keep it coming.
    And thank you for somehow finding the time to comment on my olearia filled Mayo garden which overnight has come under violent attack from the unnamed storm battering us and taken the ESB power of over 4,000 households in this sparsely populated area! Storm unnamed of course because, sure it’s only the west coast so not worth wasting a name on 🙄

    • thebikinggardener
      January 1, 2022 at 9:34 am #

      We have had a battering from the wind over the past 24 hours too – a sleepless night again – and flooding in the past week. Had annoying half hour power cuts much of last night – just get all the clocks reset and the power goes again – not as bad as being without power for long periods though.

  2. Paddy Tobin
    January 1, 2022 at 10:19 am #

    To begin with the horticulture: I have four apple trees trained as espaliers and have experienced this regrowth after summer pruning for several years which has meant, as with you, that I have done summer pruning twice and have had some regrowth after the second. I am glad to read of your experience and your comments as I had doubted my timing and my method. Now, I realise that it is the whole world that is crazy and not I alone.

    I wouldn’t disagree with one point you have made regarding the general madness of the world and, not wishing to add to your upset, agree entirely that Britain (or is it just Tory England?) has lost the respect of much of the world.

    It is the craziness surrounding Coved which most provokes me for, in a time of medical emergency, health issues and safeguards are not given priority. This is more than government policy and actions in my view for I see people who, regardless of medical advice, simply wish to continue meeting with others in large groups, to continue partying and general socialising. It baffles and upsets me.

    But, hey!, the snowdrops are flowering and when the garden dries out a little, we can get out there again.

    Good to have you back!

    • thebikinggardener
      January 1, 2022 at 11:03 am #

      I too am reassured, though still puzzled, that your apples are behaving oddly. And thank you for conforming that I am not going mad – or at least am not alone in that too. As you say, it is actions as well as mixed messaging that is allowing the pandemic to roll on and on. I long to be able to go for a simple coffee let alone a pint, but I have been keeping myself to myself and feel that we would have beaten this if people had been more careful. I can only be grateful that Omicron is less severe than other variants. Where would we be now if it was more deadly?
      But as you say, it may be dry soon! No snowdrops here yet but the cat has been walked and I got a heat mat for Christmas so I am off to take viola cuttings. Thank you.

  3. Katherine
    January 1, 2022 at 12:29 pm #

    So nice to know there are other sane individuals who question these things.
    Happy New Year, I look forward to more of your garden posts, and also sane perspective, even as an American who doesn’t understand all of UK politics.

    • thebikinggardener
      January 1, 2022 at 12:32 pm #

      Thank you. I am sure UK politics are not unique. Anyway, I have it out of my system now and can assure you tomorrow’s post (and the following) will be pure horticulture.

  4. Laura Bloomsbury
    January 1, 2022 at 3:02 pm #

    I was interested in your apple tree pruning experience, having recently moved to a place with a couple of old apple trees.
    I rarely comment on politics especially these days of zero tolerance with alternate opinions and though I do not share your views would agree with some of your criticism but believe it goes much wider than Boris or the UK – look at Biden in the USA! So-called conspiracy theories seem to be much more valid than the uttering of a few paranoid nutters – covid restrictions and teflon China being just the tip of the iceberg, whatever the climate brings

    • thebikinggardener
      January 1, 2022 at 3:55 pm #

      Thank you for your comments. I too try to avoid politics and I gave examples but agree that they are only a representation of what bothers me. We need to adopt a global approach to our problems and the current ‘national selfishness’ for want of a better term, as exemplified by Brexit, is not going to help us find solutions. But it keeps politicians in power, for a while. Anyway, enough of that. And thank you for commenting. If you search for apple pruning on the blog you will find more. If you have old trees it may be worth taking out some large branches or boughs in winter to thin them. Just be aware that hard pruning in winter will encourage ‘water shoots’ – upright stems that will not bloom for a few years. These need to be thinned and pruned or it just soils the shape of the tree and makes the fruit out of reach.

  5. sporesmouldsandfungi
    January 2, 2022 at 4:38 am #

    I enjoyed your blog but one small correction 🙂 Braeburns are from Aotearoa New Zealand not Australia.

    • thebikinggardener
      January 2, 2022 at 9:11 am #

      Thank you for that. I almost checked to make sure I was correct but I was on a roll. My apologies and thank you for correcting me.

  6. offtheedgegardening
    January 2, 2022 at 10:52 am #

    I agree, I agree, I agree, I agree. These are questions that need answers but I am not sure they will be forthcoming. Just be comforted that there are like-minded people out here. Come the revolution! Take care and keep the faith. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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