Listening to Nature

By Liz Nicholson

As I gaze at the climate change graph in the National Geographic, I realise how miniscule and irrelevant man’s time on the planet is. The planet has a rhythm …. a beat that man can disrupt with the ensuing environmental issues that we all see today, but when all is said and done and man has exhausted his time, planet Earth will endure.

In this context we should be less fearful of responding to change. 

As horticulturalists, our art is fairly new. A testament to the surviving characteristics of nature is witnessed by the many species garnered by Victorian plant collectors and placed in gardens from Land’s End to John o‘Groats. Horticulture is an experimental art and we are the first to trial new varieties and take risks in our planting. And yet, when disease hits, we lament and gaze backwards. We miss our favourites and can imagine no other plants taking their place.

Listening to Nature

As a commercial nursery and garden design business, we have embraced the challenges presented by climate change. The Ash bed sits empty and Buxus – once the largest crop in our Oxfordshire nursery – has been taken off the menu in favour of more robust options like Euonymous microphyllus, Teuchrium lucidrys and a favourite, Lonicera nitida ‘Elegantissima’When disease hits as aggressively as Box Blight and Ash Dieback then I firmly believe that our energies should be put into developing alternatives and not lamenting the loss of a loved one.

Listening to Nature
Listening to Nature

We appear to be in a ‘Brexit-like’ stasis over Ash Dieback. Those of us practicing forestry will report that the impact is already established and the most pessimistic predictions are real. Our energies should be invested in tackling the inevitable Ash felling that will be required on our nation’s roadsides, trialling new species for timber use and employing biosecurity principles across our industry to avoid similar disasters striking other species.

My fear is that the voice that fears change will resist the very necessary measures we as an industry need to embrace. Let’s not allow the moment pass without respecting the Ash tree, its real value so eloquently portrayed in Lady Congreve’s poem, written in 1922.

Listening to Nature

The Firewood Poem 

“Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut’s only good they say,
If for logs ’tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold”

“Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.”

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.”

For our next biosecurity workshop, please RSVP to

Chimonanthus praecox

Listening to Nature