How dangerous are balloons and chimes?

Grenoside Crematorium.
Grenoside Crematorium.
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I have been a gardening since I was a small child, for more than 60 years in fact, but it is always rewarding to learn something new.

For example, in The Star, April 25, we learn from Dignity, the new proprietors of Grenoside Crematorium, that “Wind chimes and balloons tied to trees and roses can cause the planting to die”.

Intrigued by this possibility and pondering the possible mechanisms by which these unfortunate deaths might occur I decided to carry out a notional risk assessment of my own.

First to face the rigours of scrutiny were the offending balloons. Escaping helium from the balloon, perhaps indicated by a slightly higher pitched rustling noise from the leaves, could theoretically have an effect but being an inert gas I would expect any physiological effects on the plant to be borderline insignificant.

Also, being lighter than air any contact with a plant in the open would be fleeting at worst.

Alternatively, if the leaking buoyancy gas were hydrogen there is the remote but nonetheless finite possibility that a carelessly discarded cigarette or match could ignite said gas, producing a Hindenberg effect that incinerated the plant. For this to occur we would require coincident calm meteoroligical conditions and tinder-dry foliage.

Depending on the volume of the balloon relative to the size of the plant it is theoretically possible, especially on a very cold day, that the upthrust developed might be sufficient over time to loosen the plant from its moorings and send it soaring over the nearest hedge. Wind speed would be a significant contributory factor of course. A test anemometer positioned in the vicinity of the plant and monitored remotely would alert the proprietors to any potential threat of this nature.

It is possible that the cord holding the balloon in place, if tied too tightly, could restrict the flow of nutrients to the leaves resulting in die-back, but this would rarely be terminal as the plant should normally compensate by sending out new shoots further back.

Next up, the wind chimes. It is a widely held belief that certain plants, particularly houseplants, respond positively to kind words and calming music. It is conceivable therefore that the constant annoying clatter of wind chimes might have the opposite effect on the tree. Although the infinitely more annoying racket from off-road motorcycles in certain cemeteries does not appear to impact so negatively on the trees as on the nearby residents..

If there are any obvious mechanisms I have overlooked I would welcome advice as I am always keen to learn.

Gary Crosby

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