December is a time for rituals and festivities and, as we come to the end of the year, it’s also a time for reflection and thinking about the future. Like the Roman god, Janus, the deity with two faces – looking backwards as well as forward we should think about what we have achieved and what we hope for the new year ahead. We have achieved much this year as a department as part of the continual plan for improvement for the course and grounds. Many of the programmes we have in place are long-term strategies that take time to pay back dividends down the line. For example, top-dressing fairways has been continual for the past six years. In this winter’s weather conditions these efforts have paid off in creating a firmer surface to play from. Greens improvements, overseeding surfaces, irrigation infrastructure, woodland management and ecology projects are all parts of the jigsaw that we (as a team) are actively progressing year on year.
As a sports club, the 2020’s will bring a chance for transformation and the introduction of new concepts for sports using technology and smart design. Through the Roehampton Club Masterplan, there is the possibility to adapt the Clubhouse to cater for the needs of today’s Members and not just to be a statement preserved piece of 1960’s design. The marriage between tradition and modernity is a fine balance of taking forward the best from the past and the future for the benefit of all Members. From the team and myself I wish Members the very best during the festive time and hope that the New Year brings prosperity and health to one and all.
Throwing caution to the wind and straying into territory I would usually avoid, let’s talk about politics, being so current. All the political parties have said that they will increase tree planting once achieving their goal of gaining office in post-election Britain. The figures banded around are staggering from a conservative (note small ‘c’) 30 million trees, to 60 million to a gigantic figure of 100 million trees. Planting billions of trees across the world is one of the most effective and cheapest ways of taking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere. Through the process of photosynthesis, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating, making them natural carbon sinks. By chance I arranged a meeting with one of the UK’s largest tree nurseries that specialize in suppling trees for every possible usage in landscaping this week. With an eye to discuss tree selection for the estate given the prospect of climate change and the effects on our own tree population we strayed head on into the planting debate. There are several stumbling blocks in what has been promised by the political masses. First, the supply of the quantities of trees being dreamt up are probably not available at the current time. There would not be sufficient stocks available immediately as the UK’s nursery production methods are not gear up for a mass plant exercise of this type. Even if this is in the form of whip (juvenile stock) planting, it would need a number of years to gain momentum to get to the figures required. The second factor to consider is where to plant the trees? Thought should be given to urban landscaping as well as National Park planting. Even so, new schemes would be needed to entice farmers to induce them to place land into tree forestry zoning. With any planting scheme, you should expect losses after planting where some trees will not flourish and survive, again this ups the ante in terms of the requirement. Are these figures achievable? Well for the 100 million tree target it would mean that three trees are planted every second, day and night for the next 20 years. While this sounds incredible, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility. One man in Northumberland who has launched a private woodland has planted more than two million trees in twelve years. Looking through the data from expert bodies, for example the Woodland Trust, overshooting the planting target will be necessary given annual losses and threats to existing woodland and hedgerows. It will be a tall order but it is achievable if the will is there to make this happen.
December seems to be a quiet month in the garden, but there are more things to take care of than you might think. With limited daylight hours and this month’s swing between crisp wintery weather then showers does mean you need to pick your moments. Dig over empty borders and prepare your soil for next year’s planting. Turn over beds with a spade or fork and allow large clumps to break down naturally by frost action and rain. Mulch whenever possible with well-rotted compost to add body to poor draining, nutrient poor soils. Aerate around trees and shrubs whenever possible. Prune Japanese Maples (Acers) and vines if needed, as they will bleed sap if pruning is done any later. Now is the perfect time to prune fruit trees to maintain an open, balanced structure and encourage quality fruit production. The exception is plums, cherries and other stone fruits that should not be pruned until the summer to prevent silver leaf fungus. Use clean, sharp secateurs to avoid damaging your trees. Check tree ties and stakes to ensure that trees are still secure following strong autumn winds. Tighten or loosen ties as necessary.