I took a photo of an oak in the field next to our house one misty autumnal day back in November and this sparked an idea to photograph it every month for a year to see how it changed with the seasons. Nine months later and I am loving this monthly ritual of taking the photos and seeing the changes, noticing what is going on around it as well as to the tree itself. It has coincided recently with an email from The Society of Garden Designers highlighting the current threat of the Oak Prosessionary moth that is spreading across the country, brought in on imported trees from the continent. We have been asked to check recently planted trees for any signs of the caterpillars which can strip whole oak trees bare and leave them vulnerable to other pests and diseases and stresses such as drought. The caterpillars are also, unfortunately, a threat to people and pets as their tiny hairs can cause skin rashes or allergic reactions. It has further instilled in me the need for a more ecological approach to gardens and landscapes – one that is concerned with the relation of living organisms to one another and their physical surroundings. Yes, we can get larger specimens of oak from the continent at cheaper prices than those grown in the UK – but at what cost to our native oaks? Our majestic oaks, that support more wildlife that any other native tree, that live for 300 years, stand for 300 years and die for 300 years, whose latin name, Quercus robur means ‘strength’, that are arguably the best known and most loved of the British native trees – what a tragedy it would be if these succumbed to the threats they face.
Time to stop, slow down, think before we buy, do our research and only then buy with the knowledge that we are not going to cause unknown harm to our native trees, plants and wildlife.