A visit to the beautiful grounds of Howbery Park last week to interview candidates for our new team (more on this later) prompted me to highlight what I feel are the most important features of our landscape – trees. I think they’re brilliant.
Now’s the time
September is a great time to start thinking about how you could enhance your own landscape by planting a tree (or maybe two) in your garden. Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves) are still in leaf and some are already starting to show their Autumn colours. If you start looking now, you can plan to buy and plant your tree at the best possible time in its lifecycle (while its dormant and not growing) – and when a great variety of stock is available. Apart from estates like Howbery Park and the countryside around you, arboretums such as Westonbirt and Harcourt are great place to visit and become familiar with the different species and how they look as mature specimens as well as when they are newly planted. They are also a great day out with lots of other things for all the family to do (and usually a good coffee shop too).
Leave a legacy for the future
So why think about a tree for your garden? Planting a tree is a great way to mark an event or anniversary – perhaps the birth of a child or grandchild or when you move into a new home. By planting a tree, you are leaving a legacy for future generations as well as adding to the landscape and enhancing the environment. What to choose for the landscape: If you want to have a real impact on the landscape and have the space then why not go for it, and plant one of the majestic conifers such as Sequoia or Wellingtonia? You’d be creating a living monument that would be a celebration of Britain’s insatiable horticultural curiosity and rich legacy of botanical exploration (the first seed was brought to England from California in 1853). Alternatively Cedar of Lebanon is a grand, evergreen tree with a distinctive shape, several trunks and clear horizontal layers in its structure. Mature trees can grow to 35m so make sure you have room!
Few of us do have room in our gardens for such giants so favourites such as the Acer, for its shape, dramatic leaf colour and interesting bark can be a focal point for any garden. The prunus species or Cherry blossom tree are a great choice for small gardens with their delightful Spring blossom, elegant shape and colourful barks.
What to choose for the environment:
We all know how important planting a tree can be for the environment, so why not do your bit to help in your own garden? Quercus robur or English Oak is a native species that is an entire ecosystem in itself. Over 300 species of insects, birds and small animals inhabit the tree benefiting from food, support and shelter. Birds such as great-spotted woodpeckers feed on insects in the bark while fallen acorns provide food for wood pigeons and mice, which in turn attract birds of prey such as owls, buzzards and sparrow hawks. Crataegus monogyna, better known as the common Hawthorn, can reach 15m in height when mature, but can also grow as a small tree with a single stem. Its dense, thorny habit is perfect nesting shelter for birds while its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects.
Finally, if you don’t have the space or inclination to plant a tree in your own garden, then how about doing your bit for the British Landscape and for the environment for future generations, by dedicating a tree? Both the Woodland Trust and National Forest have schemes designed to address the ever-decreasing population of trees – and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your armchair. Brilliant.
Oh, and by the way I was convinced there was a comedy sketch from The Fast Show called ‘Aren’t Trees Brilliant’ but this is all I could find – worth watching if you’ve got time to lose on YouTube. Enjoy.