The East London Garden Society

The Voice ‐ May 2019

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

As one deals with one issue, and I refer to The Shoreditch Forest Garden, another puts its head above the parapet.

We are now hearing about an ‘Extinction Rebellion’, something we have heard about for many years, which is about the value of gardening and its ability to create a better environment and provide benefits to our health.

The rail line entering London from the east has been unused for some time, but it’s not the politician who understands its prestige and value to the community. It is people in the community who have vision. I am not referring to myself but a group of people who brought this Great eastern Nature Route to the public eye, and for this, I thank the local community.

Tree Topping

Tree Topping

Tree topping is the removal of limbs and in some cases trunks, to a random length, leaving stubs which causes the tree to look unsightly. It is unethical and can be dangerous. Sometimes called heading, hat‐racking or tipping, it is condemned by the Tree Care Industry of America, The International Society of Arboriculture and other professional tree‐care organisations.

Topping is not to be confused with pollarding, a practice dating to feudal times when peasants could be put to death for cutting down the King’s trees, but they could clip back each year’s twig extension to a callus ‘ball’ for use as fuel and fodder. Pollarding does not work on all species and to be successful must be started when a tree is relatively young and should be undertaken annually.

Topping, on the other hand, shortens a tree but does not alter the tree’s DNA, which instructs it to grow to its potential. After the natural branch structure is destroyed by topping, new growth erupts from the bark. These shoots, called epicormic sprouts, will become major branches. Unfortunately, they are always poorly attached to the parent wood.

Because the tree is in a hurry to regain its genetically mandated height, the new branches grow faster than usual. These replacement limbs cause the tree to add lignin, a complex organic polymer deposited in the cell walls of many plants that makes them rigid and woody and helps make branches strong. As a result, the branches are weaker than the originals and are badly connected to the trunk or major branch wood.

Topping also causes decay, which sets in at each topping wound. The flimsy new branches soon find themselves attached to a rotting stub and it may take up to thirty‐years or it may happen in fewer than five, but every topping cut grows a ‘killer limb’. A tree that has been topped also takes starch out of its store that is used to replace leaf‐bearing wood at a time when it is needed.

Trees need reserves to make defensive chemicals that protect against pests and decay, to expand root systems and produce each year’s leaves. A topped tree is weaker and is far more vulnerable to decay, disease and insects than it had been before it had been topped. If a short tree is desired, a short‐maturing species should be planted.

However, there is a practice called crown reduction pruning which can slightly reduce the height of hardwood trees without harming them. To be done correctly, crown reduction requires a good deal of training to do properly. It can reduce a tree’s height by twenty to twenty‐five percent and must be repeated every three to five years as deemed prudent by an experienced arborist.

Another practice, called crown thinning, addresses fears about a tree blowing over. This is the judicious pruning of branches evenly throughout the canopy to reduce wind resistance. A maximum of twenty percent of live branches may be taken. This also requires a great deal more skill than topping.

The International Society of Arboriculture, a research and education association of tree care professionals, advises the public that a tree company which advertises topping is not following recognised industry standards and best practices. Individuals should consider hiring a company who employs an ISA Certified Arborist.

(Taken from an article by Paul Hetzler, a natural resources and horticulture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St Lawrence County) Back to top

Tower Hamlets Spider

Tower Hamlets Spider

London’s eight Royal Parks are some of the world’s most spectacular urban green spaces, visited by 77 million people a year. They also host activities that range from jogging to rock concerts but share a secret. They are also home to a spectacular range of creepy‐crawlies which are indigenous to the Capital vital to the urban ecosystem. Now a new project aims to record and protect them.

The project named Mission: Invertebrate will highlight the importance of worms, gnats, spiders, slugs and grasshoppers in maintaining the health of Britain’s wildlife and natural habitats.

The aim of the challenge is to record as much wildlife as possible on city streets and in parks. The main effort in London will be on the insects of the Royal open spaces: Hyde Park, Green Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park, St James’s Park, Bushy Park, Regent’s Park and Kensington Gardens.

“To protect and increase our wildlife, we need more data and a deeper understanding of what lives here and invertebrates are crucial to that understanding” said Mission: Invertebrate’s Project Manager, Dr Alice Laughton.

Underground Mosquito

The idea that London is a hotbed of invertebrate activity may seem unlikely. However, the claim is supported by the number of insect species to which the city has put its name.

These include the Tower Hamlets spider (Macaroeris nidicolens), a jumping spider identified in Mile End Park in 2002; the Bushy gnat (Grzegorzekia bushyae), a species of fungus gnat discovered in Bushy Park in 2016; and the London Underground mosquito (Culex Pipiens Molestus), a genetically distinct subspecies of mosquito that has evolved in the deep tunnels of the tube over the past 100 years.

“In many ways, cities, especially London, act as refuges for these invertebrates’ added Laughton. “In the countryside, you have problems that include run‐off from fields polluted with pesticides, and when they reach rivers and streams these can do all sorts of harm to insect life. By contrast, water in London is relatively clean and so its insect life is quite healthy.”

This was endorsed by Hugh Smith, Senior Wildlife Officer for the Royal Parks. “If you take the example of the main lake in St James’s Park, it has a lot of Rudd and Perch in it, plus Carp and Roach. That indicates there must be a lot of insect life to provide food for them.”

In fact, more than 4,720 species of invertebrates have been recorded in London’s Royal Parks which cover 5,000 acres, most of them former Royal hunting grounds. These include more than 1,000 species of fly in Bushy Park, including the Bushy gnat; more than 100 types of spider in Brompton Cemetery (also run by the royal parks), including the Tower Hamlets spider. It is estimated that Richmond Park has more than 400,000 ant hills that are home to some 3 billion ants.

If you wish to take part in this project, visit Mission: Invertebrate. Back to top



A member of the Borage family, Comfrey Symphytum spp, is native to Europe and Asia and there are forty recorded species of it throughout that region. The plant most commonly referred to and used in gardens is Russian Comfrey, Symphytum x uplandicum, a naturally occurring hybrid of two wild species, Common Comfrey Symphytum officinale and Prickly Comfrey Symphytum asperum.

A few centuries back the hybrid Symphytum x uplandicum came to the attention of Henry Doubleday (1810‐1902) and he widely promoted the plant as a food and forage crop. Years later, and after two world wars, Lawrence D Hills (1911‐1991) continued Henry Doubleday’s Comfrey crusade.

In the 1950’s, Hills developed a Comfrey research program in the village of Bocking, near Braintree in the UK. The original trial site is on the plot of land now occupied by the Doubleday Gardens housing development. Lawrence Hills lived at 20 Convent Lane just around the corner of the trail site.

At this site Hills he trailed twenty‐one strains of Comfrey gathered from other growers. He named them after the village of Bocking and gave each one a number. Strain fourteen was identified as being the most nutrient rich non‐seeding strain and ‘Bocking 14’ began its journey into gardens far and wide across the world. As a consequence of his research into Comfrey and organic gardening, Hills founded HDRA (Henry Doubleday Research Organisation). HDRA moved from Bocking to Wolston, near Coventry in 1985, which is the present site of the Ryton Organic Gardens. Now known as Garden Organic, HDRA is one of the world’s leading organic gardening organisations. Apart from ‘Bocking 14’, the other twenty strains are now lost.

Comfrey has been cultivated since 400 BC and has many uses, originally being used as a healing herb to stop heavy bleeding, to treat bronchial problems, heal wounds and broken bones. It produces large amounts of foliage from late May until hard frosts and the plant is excellent for producing mulch. It can be cut two to five times a year depending on how well the plants are watered and fed.

It has deep roots of up to two metres that utilise nutrients deep in the subsoil that would otherwise wash away with the underground soil water or remain inaccessible to other plants. The bell‐shaped flowers provide nectar and pollen to many species of bees and other insects. Lacewings are said to lay eggs on Comfrey and spiders overwinter on the plant. Research indicates that a solution of Comfrey can also be used to prevent powdery mildew. Other uses include ground cover, animal fodder and as a fertiliser since the wilted plant contains significantly higher quantities of Potash compared to other organic fertilisers. Back to top

Shoreditch Forest Garden

Forest Garden Logo

We have been told by the developers of The Bishopsgate Goodsyard site that they agree to have a forest garden on top of the arches, which is wonderful news.

The Bishopsgate Goodsyard would be a catalyst for the greater route through east London to the River Thames, bringing nature into people’s lives. The route will commence at the largest forest garden in Europe, in Bishopsgate, follow the old railway, much of which is in viaduct state, to Meath Gardens, Mile End Park, leading to the Limehouse Cut and the River Thames.

There is a further route connecting Meath Gardens to the Regents Canal, entering Victoria Park, following the Hereford Canal to the Olympic Park, then onward to Three Mills culminating at the River Lea reaching the River Thames.

However, we must keep up the pressure regarding this project. Most say it’s a wonderful idea but the only people who can make this work are yourselves. The naming of this nature way has already been considered, The Great Eastern Parks Route being one. However, your opinion is the one that matters, so please let us know. You can give your views by using the Reader Comment form which you can find at the bottom of the The Proposed Shoreditch Forest Garden article. Back to top

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Zingy Wasabi With Salmon


  • 1½ limes
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1½ tablespoons of wasabi paste
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 6‐ounce skinless salmon fillets
  • Oil for the grill

Method: Prepare a medium-hot grill fire. Cut the half lime into four wedges and set aside. Finely grate the zest from the whole lime. Cut the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into a small bowl. In a medium bowl, combine one teaspoon of the lime juice with the lime zest, mayonnaise, wasabi paste, ginger, and one quarter of a teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine.

Run your finger along each salmon fillet to feel for tiny bones; use tweezers or needle nose pliers to pull out any that you find. Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon about two tablespoons of the mayonnaise mixture onto the salmon fillets and refrigerate the rest. With your hands, spread the mayonnaise in a thin layer over all sides of the fillets. Back to top



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