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Posts Tagged ‘collecting conkers’

I love Autumn; the crisp, frosty mornings when spiders webs appear to have been decorated with crystals, the misty mornings when the fields are cloaked in white and the rich, damp, earthy smells as you walk through the woods. At this time of year most of the plants in the garden have started to die back, the stars of Autumn to my mind are the trees, many of which are dazzling in their ‘coats’ of many colours and heavily laden with masses of fruits and seeds of varying colours, shapes and sizes just waiting for the perfect time and opportunity to break free and become the next generation of trees.

There are many varieties of trees where I live, I just cannot resist the temptation to collect their seeds, my favourites are conkers from the Horse Chestnut Tree and the Spinning Jennies from the Maples, Sycamores and Ashes it is lovely to watch children picking them up and throwing them into the air so that they spin round and round on their way back down, this will only work with a single seed, throw a double one up and it just comes straight down.

SYCAMORE KEYS

A Spinning Jenny is actually a winged ‘fruit’, its wing is made from fibrous papery tissue and contains the with seed at one end, they often grow in pairs but when mature they are often released singly, the correct name for them is a ‘Samara’  their shape enables the wind to carry their seed farther away from the parent tree ideally in an area where trees are not already present and where they can germinate and grow, they have many names depending on where you live they are often referred to as keys as well as wingnuts, helicopters and whirlibirds, in the North of England they are referred to as Spinning Jennies.

I have got quite a collection already if you find them in bunches they make a lovely Autumn decoration or if you are a gardener like me you can plant them and watch them grow in the spring.

The environmental Charity The Tree Council, which was founded over 40 years ago, works in partnership with schools, communities, organisations and the government to make trees matter to everyone, on the 23rd September they launched the start of the new Tree Year with Seed Gathering Season which runs until 23rd October, its aim is to encourage and inspire school children, families and groups to take part in activities to collect, sow and grow trees together to ensure the future of their green landscape for more information and events in your area have a look at their website.

If you have collected conkers and have some spare to grow click here for a guide to growing your own Horse Chestnut Tree.

Green Horse Chestnut Leaves

So get out, have fun and enjoy all that Autumn has to offer.

Love your environment

Gill

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This year has been a good year for conkers, as well as most other fruits and nuts, when we visited our local Horse Chestnut trees in October there was an abundance of spikey green shells hanging on tightly in the chilly north easterly wind, we collected about thirty beautiful, shiny brown nuggets that had fallen on the ground, enough for Thomas to play conkers with and some to plant as well.

The first record of the game of conkers is from the Isle of Wight in 1848, they originally played with snail shells! Click here to learn how to play the game of conkers.

Horse Chestnut trees were introduced from the Balkans in the late 16th Century, in the UK we have over two million trees, even though this year has been a good year for conkers the Horse Chestnut tree is under threat.

Nearly a million of our trees are infected by the tiny invasive moth larvae, known as the horse chestnut leaf miner, they burrow in the leaves which then turn brown, reducing the amount of food that the tree can absorb through photosynthesis, as well as the threat from the leaf minor another serious disease called bleeding canker is spreading too and can cause the death of the tree.

The Horse Chestnut Tree is spectacular throughout the year and one of our national treasures, if you want to help maintain the poulation why not plant some of your spare conkers.

How to grow your Horse Chestnut trees

  1. Place your conkers in a container of water, discard the ones that float these have dried out.
  2. Using only the conkers that sink, plant them about 2cm deep individually in pots of soil/compost, between now and the end of November.
  3. Water well and place in a sheltered spot outside.
  4. Protect the pots from predators i.e. squirrels, mice etc. and from hard frosts, a cold frame is ideal, keep checking them to see if they need watering, but don’t overwater.
  5. The conkers will need to go through a period of cold temperatures to encourage them to germinate in the spring.
  6. Keep your young trees watered and re-pot as they grow bigger.
  7. Ask the landowners permission before you plant your new trees into the big wide world, they can grow very large.

T and Conker Trees

We already have two healthy young trees waiting for a new home.

Happy planting

Gill

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This year many of the village Horse Chestnut Trees are lacking something – Conkers.

Thomas and I went out on our annual pilgrimage to find those special little Autumn Nuggets but we came back empty handed and disappointed, last year they were plentiful, the only thing I can put it down to is the hard frosts that we had in spring when the blossoms were out. Not to be outdone I searched further afield whilst Thomas was at school and thankfully found a couple of trees that had some on and collected about 10, which had been blown off.

Beautiful Autumn Nuggets

Conkers are little wonders of nature with their glorious rich chestnut colour, glossy coating and beautiful marbling, they grow inside thick and very prickly shells that split open when the conkers are ripe.

Thomas was thrilled as he would now be able to play conkers with his friends.

The Game of Conkers

What you will need 

  • Conkers
  • String or Shoelaces
  • A grown-up (to drill a hole in the conker)
  • An opponent

How to play 

  1. Each player needs to have a conker drilled and threaded with string or a shoelace.
  2. One player wraps the string around their hand and lets the conker hang down, keeping their arm outstretched.
  3. The opponent then needs to wrap their string around one of their hands and with the other hand hold their conker, aim and release it to try and hit your conker.
  4. Each player then takes it in turns to hit each other’s conker to try and smash it into pieces.
  5. The winning conker becomes a ‘one-er’ if this conker wins again it then becomes a ‘two-er’ and so on.

Take care when playing conkers as missed shots could hurt.

Happy hunting and have fun.

Gill

P.S. Thomas didn’t want to drill all of his conkers, he wants to plant some to grow into new trees.

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