Six on Saturday – Senescence and decay


This week the leaves fell off all the trees around here and the landscape is now looking shockingly bare. It has really changed the feel of things. The light has changed. The protective canopy has gone. This cycle is ending. So I am joining The Propagator for his Six On Saturday meme with a mixed bag of choices this week. There’s a lot of senescence and decay.

But I’ll start this post with a question.

1) Does anyone know what this shrub is?

This shrub at work has been looking good for a few weeks now with clusters of lovely, shiny red berries and last week the leaves joined the show. I’ve never noticed them before, but aren’t they just wonderful? They look like they’ve been dipped in chocolate or damson jam. Anyhow, I’ve looked and googled for the shrub, but nothing I’ve seen is quite right. The red berries are tiny (like callicarpa), yet translucent (like guelder rose). The leaves are all wrong for red elder and the berries are all wrong for amelanchier.


Unidentified shrub

Any ideas?

2) Moss green

This is the top of our front gate. I think that its days are numbered, ‘cos the moss is no longer just growing on top of the wood, but in a fairly deep trench down the middle. In fact, there is a whole ecosystem in there when you look along its length: moss, lichen, senecio, ladybirds, bugs etc. It’s turning itself into a linear green roof. I find this kind of moss hard to resist. Doesn’t it make you want to reach out and touch it? Plus, those fruiting heads will look great covered in dew/mist, so I must remember to take some macro photos when that happens.


Mossy gate

3) More decay

It is Shaggy ink cap season (Coprinus comatus, also know as Lawyer’s Wig mushroom). Each year we have an outbreak of these fungi down the driveway, with something of a colony developing. Unfortunately, before I could take a photo of them I found that they’d been kicked over by an enthusiastic ‘groundsman’, so this is a picture of one down the alley next door. It is fascinating to observe the fungi develop over a couple of days (see last year’s post on their lifecycle here). Already you can see the onset of the cap’s transformation to a puddle of black ‘ink’ with that thick oozing drip down the stalk. It has the feel of a horror movie.


Coprinus comatus dissolving away

4) More fungi – Pear Rust

Sadly both my Conference pears again showed signs of this disease on their leaves this year. The disease (Gymnosporangium sabinae) causes bright orange spots on the top of the leaves. I usual pick off affect leaves and destroy them. This year, for the first time, I noticed that there were still leaves in autumn showing signs of infection and that on the underside there was a gall-like growth and here is a shot of that.


Now that I’ve read up on the problem, I see that the good news is that in order to complete its lifecycle the fungus needs a juniper tree. The bad is that spores are airborne over quite long distances.

5) Spirals Restored

I am very late to clip the bay trees back into shape this year, but over the last two days have finally got on with the job. In fact, I enjoy doing it, because the smell is absolutely delicious and of course it’s fun seeing those coils tighten. My only reservation about the task is that it means working at the top of a ladder. With the mist damping everything yesterday I didn’t even bother getting the taller ladder out till today. This photo was taken half way through, showing the before and after appearance of the bays. They are both done now,  but you can bet I’ll be out there, with the shears, several times over the next couple of weeks as I decide to neaten a little bit here and a little bit there.


Topiarised bay trees on the patio

6) More lovely geometry

Melianthus major (giant honey flower) has wonderful leaf structure and an attractive glaucous colour. I’ve seen it in flower in the south of England and in protected gardens, but here it gets cut back by the weather and so never manages to get that far. I grow it for the leaves in any case. This is a shot of a new leaf emerging this week. I’d never really registered the flame-like sheath before. Beautiful.


Emerging leave on Melianthus major

Have a good weekend!

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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25 Responses to Six on Saturday – Senescence and decay

  1. Great photos. I wonder if there are tardigrades in the moss!

  2. janesmudgeegarden says:

    A fascinating six. I loved the colony on top of the gate and don’t think you should ever replace it! I was very interested in your bay trees. During our winter I released two from pots (against the advice of a couple of Sixers) and planted them in the garden with a view to training them into shapes- nothing as intricate as yours though. One has done very well, but the other is miserable and looks as though it’s eventually going to die. It has sent up one magnificent sucker which is growing so fast I can almost see it, but has leaves twice as big as any bay leaf I’ve seen anywhere. Very odd.

    • That’s a shame. Maybe that one got damaged in transition. You might have to bite the bullet on that one. 😦 They do grow quite quickly though so catch up is possible especially if you start training the other. My bays started as a pot of seedlings that some one passed to me. I planted two in the ground early on, but after 3/4 years found they were beginning to take over. I decide to try topiary to restrict them, so they were quite big when I first cut the spirals into them. Good luck with yours.

  3. Chloris says:

    Wow, I am very impressed by your topiary skills, those bays look wonderful. I wonder if your berries are a sort of viburnum, many of them have lovely red berries. I love your shaggy ink cap, I have a friend who eats them. But she is Swedish and has an aunt who shoots elks so she is quite fearless. I wouldn’t fancy them myself.

    • I asked the Head gardener about the shrub and he agrees that it is a viburnum, but didn’t know the species. I think Jim Stephens is right though with V. betulifolium. Can’t say that I am likely to want to eat ink caps, but they are fascinating and I love the way they roll themselves up.

  4. TinyJeremy says:

    Looks amazing

  5. fredgardener says:

    Wow ! Congratulations for your talent to know how to prune the topiaries ..! I also liked in your Six the mosses and the mushroom that in macro can give great pictures.
    For your shrub don’t you think it could be a cornus?

  6. Love your bay trees. Do you dry the clippings? Like Chloris, I think the berries of your mystery plant look very much like viburnum, but I don’t recognize the leaf.

    • Thanks Marian. The unknown shrub is indeed a viburnum (betulifolium?) but I wonder if the weather has affected the way the leaves have coloured up this year, since I haven’t see any other images like mine.

  7. Lovely bay topiary, inspiring. I am guessing Viburnham too.

  8. Lora Hughes says:

    Love the melianthus flame. What will the pear rust ultimately do to your trees?

    • If I keep on top the the infection (removing leaves and burning and cutting out any affected wood) I think I will be alright. If the fungus gets well entrenched in young trees it can cause cankers, damage and spoil fruit.

  9. Amazing bay trees those and I love the ‘Lawyers Wig’ fungus’ name. Common names are so imaginative and on point aren’t they?

  10. Mala Burt says:

    The spiral topiaries are awesome!

  11. Jim Stephens says:

    I’m wondering about Viburnum betulifolium. I think I know someone who owns Dirr’s book on Viburnums, I’ll send him the pic.

  12. cavershamjj says:

    I love those bay spirals! I have two bays that were cuttings. I have attempted to grow them in a clumsy spiral. It/they are throwing new growth at the base and not doing a lot up top. I was aiming for a lollipop style effect but I need to do something different.

    • Thx. I checked out your bay today and I think that that main difference between ours is that I imposed the spiral shape after a few years of unchecked growth, because it was easier to cut into the volume then. For a couple of years after that I cut them deeper each time, until I reached the main upward stems. I lost my container grown lollipop bays to a big freeze a few years ago, so watch out for that.

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