My back garden is dominated by a pine tree which – though it’s beautiful – is sort of the bane of my life. Why?
- It’s huge – so big I need to fill forms in if I want to cut it (not that I can reach it to do so).
- It casts most of the back garden in shade so decreases the growing opportunities substantially
- Pine trees, in their ongoing attempts to take over the world, leech acid into the soil. As a result, This is something I attempt to sort out (watch this space!). This decreases the growing opportunities substantially.
- The ground around the pine tree is covered in either cones or an abundance of lengthy needles.Which constantly need raking or they cover the ground, decreasing the growing opportunities substantially.
- Pines are really thirsty and suck all of the water out of the surrounding soil. Which decreases…you get the idea.
- I think it might be a Scots pine and so there’s a decent chance it hates me.
- It produces shedloads of pine cones. They don’t compost and they were starting to gather in huge amounts.
In its favour:
- It’s really beautiful.
- It’s a tree and they do loads of good stuff and that.
- The birds love it.
- I like Scots, even if they don’t like me.
- I had so many pine cones!
If I see the cones as a plus, I’ll need to do something with them.
For making items you’re going to keep indoors, it’s best not to use pine cones as is though – they’re full of insects, are covered in sap, and are prone to opening and closing.
My preferred method of preserving the cones is to bake them – this has the advantage of melting the sap, which forms a lovely natural gloss.
Preparing Pine Cones By Baking
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray with either foil or greaseproof paper and lay out the pine cones.
- Put the tray in the oven. Although many people recommend you should bake them for 30 minutes, I think this is far too long. The cones are ready when they have opened fully and the sap has melted. In any case, make sure you keep an eye on their progress and make sure they don’t burn. Any sign of smoke – take them out! Less dramatically, if you leave them in too long they start to darken and become rather brittle.
- Lay them out in a dry area and leave them for two or three days.
Preparing Pine Cones By Washing
- Fill a sink with warm water and add approximately 250ml vinegar.
- Soak the pine cones for half an hour and check that the sap has washed away from them.
- Rinse the cones in clean water
- Lay the cones out on some layers of newspaper and leave them to dry for three or four days
- Although this process will ensure the cones are open and free of insects, they’ll have no sheen as the sap has been washed away rather than melted.
So here we are. Lovely, prepared pine cones. What to do with them? The previous owners already filled the living room fireplace with them.
I thought of donating them to a local florist but I was too embarrassed to suggest it. Throwing them away seems sinful. I started flogging them on eBay – they cost so much to post that there’s no profit in it, but the important thing is that they were being used in the wider world. I got rid of over 1,000 that way.
Still got plenty left though…and it’s December and currently I have the only unadorned door in the street. So I’m going to make a festive wreath. I’ll keep you posted.
It’s not all hopeless with the endlessly growing pile of needles (left) either. Apparently they can be used for mulch.
Which means I might have to revise my opinion on the massive pine.
Now…what on earth can redeem the neighbouring hawthorn tree that blights my life?