Snow, moths and French orchards



Snow is forecast. At the moment, the sun is fighting thick grey clouds, and the wind has turned on its own edge. I am on the coast, by The Wash, and so I am more likely to get rain rather than snow, but you never know.
So it’s time to run around the garden making sure that everything is under some kind of protection. I try not to grow anything too fussy, but there’s a Senetti in a pot by the back door that is really only half hardy and should have been on the compost heap a couple of months ago, except that it insists on flowering.
Apple trees are very hardy, which means that even a young tree planted a couple of months ago will be fine in all normal winters. They are not so good at sitting in water for weeks at a time, so if your garden is prone to flooding (and as I look out at my garden I can see that the pond is starting to creep onto the patio) you will need to site your trees carefully.
Like other deciduous trees, apple trees look quiet in the winter, but there is a lot of activity going on in the orchard, even on these grey days. Apples need a spell of cold weather to encourage the buds to form in the spring, so the winter weather is a necessary part of their cycle. All sorts of invertebrates may find shelter in the nooks and cracks of an old apple tree, but some of these include the winter moth, which crawls up the trunk and lays eggs which overwinter before becoming caterpillars that feast on the tree’s young leaves. The greaseband that you can see tied around the trunk of apple trees is an old remedy to trap the female moth as she crawls upwards. In my experience she is just intelligent enough to work out how to get underneath the grease band or otherwise get round it. In any case unless you have a severe infestation the caterpillars do not eat enough leaves to cause damage. If you have not tied a greaseband round your trees by now, don’t rush out (in the snow) to fit one. Let the tree cope.
Camille Pissarro probably never fitted a greaseband but he enjoyed closely observing the orchards and apple trees around his home in France. These bare trees seem to be reaching up to make the most of the winter sunlight, drawing it down into the hidden buds.

Image from WikiArt

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