At last, some space in the diary to get the blog going again. Last year, 2014, the blog was left behind for a while due to lots of other things, hope to catch up during 2015.

Harvest of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Keeping plant samples

Keeping plant samples

The witch hazel shrubs are doing well, both on the edge of woodland and in the understorey where they tend to reach up higher, to over 6 ft. The shrub throws out long twigs with lovely fresh shiny and smooth leaves (Hazel nut leaf is furry). So, each spring the witch hazels get a ‘haircut’ to take off most of the twiggy sprouts. This young leaf and twig distils to produce a delightful floral water which seems to reduce inflammation in sprains, bites and suchlike. We sell it in small amounts of 50 ml (Herbaid shop). It is more expensive than distilled witch hazel from a chemist, but it is a locally produced in Devon, seasonal, sustainable product which has never been near any pesticides. A bit like artisanal production of fine wines! The provenance of this distilled water is carefully logged and linked to a barcode label. Every batch of witch hazel is recorded by weight with the date and location of harvest, and a sample of the plant and product kept – see the image of the specimen of the most recent harvest.

Other developments

The Sweet Chestnuts (Castanea sativa) are flowering so we must keep an eye on them to see if they produce nuts.


Meanwhile we have noticed that bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is spreading, and needs to be controlled. Although we have strimmed frequently in grassy rides, the bracken still comes up. Our approach probably needs to be more vigorous and consistent to beat this. And we can use the leaves on the compost heap, to make a mulch for young plants. A good way to knock it back is trampling, so we will soon be asking visitors if they could trample a few square feet of bracken before they leave!