A different kind of Horse Chestnut – Kildare Post Gardening Column

Below is my gardening column which appeared in the Kildare Post on 14 May 2014. I have had a bit more time recently to spend admiring my surroundings and was I happy to do this!

I made myself slow down and really appreciate the plants and nature around me and acknowledge the changing seasons. I picked such a great time to do it to as I got to admire the fantastic Horse Chestnut trees dotted around the country come into flower. They have to be one of my top flowering trees but unfortunately not every garden is big enough to have one but at least there are some great ones dotted around Dublin and Kildare to enjoy.

A different kind of horse chestnut By David Corscadden

When it comes to trees I am a big fan of nearly every kind of tree that is out there. Especially at this time of the year I always marvel at how these great giants of the gardening world awake from their winter slumber and come back with, in many cases, an explosion of colour and excitement thanks to a show of blossom.

Around this time of the year is a very exciting time in the garden for gardeners with so much happening in the borders and in greenhouses. However I feel that often the trees in our gardens can get over looked if they are not as showy or put on a vibrant floral display. Often trees will come in to leaf and no one will really notices until well after it has happened.

horsechestnut2

I know myself I often overlook the transition of beech trees from copper to green as I am too busy admiring the tulips in my garden or some other floral delight. It is only in the middle of summer that I realise that all the trees are in leaf and that I missed one of the great moments in the garden.

This week though I shunned the flower borders and colourful spring plans to spend some time looking at the trees around me while I went about my daily jobs and was I glad I did! One of the trees that really caught my attention this week was horse chestnut trees. I think I picked a great time to become aware of the trees around me as I got to marvel at the wonder that a horse chestnut tree in flower.

When you think about horse chestnut there are a few things that pop in to your head. First are the conkers and the hours spent as a child searching out the biggest ones to compete with your friends in conker matches. The second is the sheer size of the tree, I have been always in awe of the size these trees can reach and their impact on the landscape. On average a horse chestnut tree can grow to 36 meters tall with a great domed crown that makes them look even bigger.

Horsechestnut

But often the flowers are overlooked when we think of these trees. Which I feel is a shame as they are some of the more exotic looking flowers that we find on trees in Ireland. The flowers are usually white with small red or pinkish coloured dots on them and are produced in erect panicles that can be 10–30 cm tall with anywhere between 20 and 40 flowers on each panicle.

For me though one horse chestnut stole the show this week and that was the red flowering one , Aesculus x carnea. I only discovered this tree a few years ago and have been a fan of it since then. This one grows slightly smaller than the common horse chestnut and has these fantastic red flowers which almost look like ornaments on a Christmas tree when they are in full bloom.

Make sure to keep an eye on the trees around you this week so you don’t miss out on any of the wonders of nature.

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