I’ve always been a bit of collector. I like to return home with something to remind me of where I’ve been. It’s rarely anything very special, just something simple but lovely. I hardly dare admit to the glass jar of pebbles which adorns the hearth of my living room fireplace, lest the conservation police come after me. I know I shouldn’t really take pebbles and shells from their habitat but I don’t think I can stop it. I do find myself looking both ways in a rather shifty manner before I pocket a pebble.
You’ll be pleased to know that I draw the line at popping large cuttings into my handbag when visiting a lovely public garden, but if some seeds or a pine cone present themselves on the ground in front of me, I’m afraid they are meant to be mine. I go mad when it’s conker season. On an autumn walk last year my best friend threatened to disown me if I didn’t stop scrabbling around on the ground like an excited child. He also denied me the use of his pockets when I couldn’t hold any more conkers, which I found very unsporting.
And so it was when I visited Portmeirion in North Wales last year. I loved the woodland walks with bright leaves to collect and press and wandering the cliff paths down to the beach to collect a few shells. (I don’t feel like I’m properly established in a holiday cottage unless there are a few shells sat on the edge of the basic and sand around the plughole that doesn’t seem to rinse away.)
Then I stumbled on real treasure. Acorns. I’d never seen so many on the ground, especially acorns that were starting to sprout. Surely it couldn’t be wrong to wrap a few in a tissue and take them home when there were so many would-be oak trees just lying there? I kept them damp for the few days of my stay and lovingly potted them up when I got home. But their initial enthusiastic sprouting didn’t lead to anything more, despite attentive daily inspections while I wait for my portion of porridge to cook. (The potted acorns live in what I think of as my nursery garden on the ledge outside the kitchen window.) I considered this lack of activity a fair punishment for removing them from their native soil.
A week ago, the morning inspection revealed a small miracle. I tiny nub of fresh new green at the end of one acorn. Every day since there have been huge strides and yesterday my tiny little oak tree revealed it’s first identifiable leaves, perfect replicas of the distinctive full-size scalloped shape everyone recognises. (Interesting that trees don’t seem to sprout ‘seed leaves’ the way other plants do, they just skip straight to the real thing.)
I found my oak tree a larger pot and set him to grow next the horse chestnut tree I grew from a conker two years ago, to give him a bit of inspiration. I’m not quite sure what to do when my windowledge forest gets any larger but for now I shall enjoy observing their progress. I also like the thought that oak is a symbol of strength and promise. I shall take it as a sign.