How did it all start?
Around about this time of year 45 years ago, my Cousins who lived in Hemel Hempstead came to visit with Uncle David and Aunty Grace (who now have a memorial bench at RHS Wisley which I visit several times a year). I imagine that year was quite similar to this one in that there were loads of conkers ripe and falling plentifully from the trees. There was a large Chestnut tree ‘around the corner’ from our house by a local shop and we went for a walk over there. We must have come prepared with bags because we collected a large haul of conkers some which found immediate usage on the familiar strings (I’m sure they would have been shoe strings!). Anyway there really wasn’t much call for harvesting so many and the rest knocked around in our garden for many months to come.
Some time in Spring many of the abandoned conkers began to shoot and I recall wanting to grow some of them. Initially a few (I’m sure it was more than one) were ‘potted’ into little white plastic cups from a vending machine which I reckon was a Dads place of work. I’m sure there were holes diligently made in the bottom of the cups because my Grandparents on both sides were no strangers to growing things and so my Parents knew the drill.
So it began and I expect that it wasn’t long after that only one Chestnut sapling remained. Being the last one it took on more importance and was duly given more attention. Tree saplings and trees cannot cope with drying out and so vigilance and diligence is vital to maintain them in the growing season.
I don’t now recall all the various containers that the Chestnut tree has been in since but once I got my own place I felt it really should be allowed to bulk out a bit. I have read and admired Bonsai trees at Shows and in various Nurseries, Gardens etc. but now after a spell of a few years in the ground (a little trick some Bonsai producers use to get a bigger tree much more rapidly) it is growing it something which you could not possibly call a ‘shallow container’. Cultivating trees in shallow containers being the definition of Bonsai.
Anyway last year it flowered for the first time and this year it has produced it’s first conkers. I was expecting tiny ones but there are some larger ones. The tree itself is now about a meter high. It has suffered from Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner although I have taken some steps to remedy that, it also has signs of Bleeding Canker, which is more serious. One stress it doesn’t have it the lack of water which the full size trees have had to endure in recent years.
So there you have it. The story of, what I believe to be, the first thing I cultivated. I am still wondering of the chestnuts from it will naturally grow smaller but I suspect that even the smallest could still produce an massive tree?