This lovely May morning I took a small sketchbook and a pen up to the Spinney to make some quick notes about the tree shapes. Most of the trees have their leaves now so I can identify which is which. I am looking for characteristics of each species which I can use for some prints. They are the trees I see, very possibly not typical of the species, but ones I know and can place along the route..a young beech, the tall alders and a cluster of limes etc.
It’s the week to sign in the Lucy’s Tree Following project.
The Chestnut Trees are developing so very quickly now.
There is a light green haze of leaves around them and some of the more advanced trees have a flower here and there.
The flower spikes are lengthening and the individual florets becoming more spaced out.
Florets coming into bloom from the base up.
I made one drawing of a more developed twig with a flower spike still in bud.
My flagging model after a couple of hours
The pencil drawing A3 And a couple of conkers I rescued from the verge mowing.
A loose sketch of the two sprouting conkers.
They only have long tap roots so far. They seem to grow upside down. To my great surprise the sad looking old black conkers that I optimistically planted in a pot outside are sprouting.
A new leaf is about the emerge. Spring!
The Height of a Tree On Saturday I co-opted Chris to help me try to calculate the height of the Church Field Horse Chestnut Tree. There are various ways, I had not realised so many. A handy guide from WikiHow gives some instructions. “Measure a Tree” I opted for a very simple one of asking a friend to stand by the tree.
So here is Chris standing next to the tree. With a bit of rough calculation we think the tree is about 58 ft high. It is also interesting to see a 6 ft figure by the tree. The human figure really gives an idea of the scale of these magnificent trees.
Two More Sticky Bud Developments
I’m trying to catch the bud development of the Horse Chestnut twig. I have two buds beginning to split, which I drew today. As the sticky scales develop, and open up, the first four leaves begin to show at the very tip. They are furry, covered in white fine downy hair and tightly curled up. It’s a fascinating contrast of smooth, sticky, shiny scales with the downy hairs of the emerging leaves .
Watercolour and pencil sketch: 8 x 5 inches
Watercolour and pencil sketch: 9 x4 inches
I am keeping all the Tree Following posts together on another blog: www.followingtrees.blogspot.com It’s going to be nice to see the continuity through the year.
Also it’s easier for the other tree followers to find. If you are taking part, this is the week to sign in with Lucy. There is an update box once a month on the 7th which will stay open for a week.
There are lots of people, not just from the UK, taking part. It will be fascinating.
My first post for Lucy’s Tree Following Project for which I will be looking at the Horse Chestnut Tree: Aesculus hippocastanum
I don’t know much about these lovely trees yet, except that they are a tree of childhood days; of conkers, sticky buds on nature tables, the magnificent “candles” when in full bloom. “Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree” the children’s chanting rhyme with the accompanying actions.
Shade from the summers heat and a nesting tree for big birds. Also a favourite subject in the much loved Ladybird “What to look For in….” books with the lovely illustrations by Tunnicliffe and in the Shell Guides with S. R. Badmin’s quintessentially English paintings. More of these artists in future Chestnut posts.
It’s not a native I know, but a magnificent specimen tree for stately homes, parklands and village greens. Although from an economic point of view they are not a very useful tree, they are none the less very beautiful.. so fall well within the “beautiful or useful” category of William Morris. I know that, like many other trees, the Horse Chestnuts are having some problems.
In this case they falling prey to the unsightly leaf miner and the more serious bleeding canker. I will learn more about all of this as I go. Initially I need to understand the basics and so I am starting with its shape. I made some quick sketches on my walk.
There are several scattered around the village from young to old which is useful. Trees look very different from different angles and are very complex things to draw, but for me sketching is the very best way to see and understand the basic shape.
This is perhaps the oldest in the village and the one I can see from the front room of the house. The street light gives some idea of its size.
There are two in Church field, in a group of four trees. A glimpse of the reservoir between the trees.
Two young trees down the lane one still with its plant stake. Sketches in A5 sketchbook
The Horse Chestnut is described as “ a native in the Balkan Peninsula A. hippocastanum grows to 36 metres (118 ft) tall, with a domed crown of stout branches; on old trees the outer branches often pendulous with curled-up tips”
I now see that the very long lower branches in the older trees hang elegantly down and curl up. The sticky buds on the ends of the upturning branches are just about to burst. Church Field Boundary Trees The two horse chestnuts in a group of four trees, one on the right of this sketch and one next to it. This view is with my back to the reservoir looking back to the church, which, minus dragon, is in the background.
Village Horse Chestnut
This is a huge tree which overhangs the road. Its lower branches hang down into the garden behind the fence while the roadside branches I think have been cut back. There were wonderful conkers this year.
The same tree as my No 1 sketch, Ugly Bungalow roof in the back ground.:)
Tree of Kiev
Coincidentally The Horse Chestnut is a symbol of Kiev. I can only hope that the beautiful flowers to come in the spring will also bring a time of peace and political freedom to its population. It seems the Chestnuts were planted in some respects to spite the poplar loving Russian Emperor Nicholas I..
“In 1842, botanical likings of Kiev citizens and Russian authorities got drastically different. By the second half of the 19th century Lombardy poplars with the support of royal power finally became a symbol of tsarism, autocracy and conservative «patriarchal» orthodox Kiev, while chestnut trees meant for Kiev citizens disobedience to the central authorities in St. Petersburg, a new urban development and municipal government. Chestnut tree was associated with constructive opposition to absolutism. Step by step, Kievans began to give advantage to attractive chestnut trees (which were also helpful in summer hit because they were shady) instead of «officiously» decorative poplars that had no practical usage.”
Read more from the Discovery Kiev website here Trees as subversive and defiant symbols. Wonderful.
I have three small sketches today. One is a drawing of the rooks in the village which I did quickly from the car when coming back from Lincoln 4th Feb. Its just felt tip pen in my sketch book with a bit of smudgy wash. The second one is the rook from the top of the Weeping Ash(See previous drawing) which I drew from the dining room window. This one is with a dip pen and ink on a piece of paper from a watercolour “experiment” that I had chopped up. It’s brown ink ..I think French Sepia. ( I always try to rescue something from failures.. I have lots of bits of failures! ) The bird was somewhat wind ruffled, but I think it looks a bit more like a blackbird in my drawing.
The last one is a tree experiment done mostly with a razor blade.. a neat trick I learnt on Nicholas’ course. Its interesting to see how the three different techniques work.
On an early morning mercy-dash to the chemists in the “mawl” across the road to get dental repair stuff I found this pretty leaf. Its tree is decidedly deciduous and has shed quite a few more leaves after the freeze. There are several of these dainty trees decorating the car park of the store and I would imagine they are ornamental oaks, not growing too big to uproot either the carpark, or the store. The leaf shape, without the indents, would be much rounder than my other oaks. Its a beautiful colour as it has its autumn tints still.. red gold green and yellow.. (colour will follow, its a promise)
image size 6 x 7″