Saturday, 26 November 2011

Trees for Christmas

Tree Planting? In Winter?! – It’s not as crazy as it sounds believe it or not. All too often we become too busy with Christmas shopping, tired from working through another hectic week or the dark nights make it difficult to even contemplate gardening; preferring to leave it be until the first signs of spring. I'm on the same page too, but at the risk of sounding like an advert; I would like to think
 I can spark just a little enthusiasm to get your winter gear on, pop out during breaks in the weather and buy a twiggy tree or two. Imagine the health benefits to getting into the fresh air for just a short while…..hopefully in the sun.

26th November – National Tree Week

OK, am I sensing a little negativity from some quarters? If my opening lines haven't grabbed you then maybe the fact that it is National Tree Week, will inspire you to get planting?! Maybe a title like 'Grovember' would be more suitable? Tut tut tut...

Before you switch off, just allow me a few words of positivity: Trees are so valuable for the environment, just one specimen offering so much to the planet, let alone a garden. Think of their physical potential to provide shelter, to provide a food source for birds and wildlife and even fruit and nuts to ourselves – if, we can outwit the squirrels of course. Trees also score huge points in ecological terms, as they breathe in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen - yet another great reason to find a home for a life giving tree. And if this isn't enough, put aside costly built structures; what better way is there to add instant structure to a garden, than to plant a tree? It makes so much sense!

Ultimate Gardeners Christmas Gift…
Of course if you needed an excuse to head away from mainstream Christmas shopping areas, most garden centre’s now serve good coffee (and cake too,) but not to be too easily swayed; they also have, or should have advice on tap with regard to the right tree for your needs. Stocks of trees vary considerably from place to place, and ultimately you can’t beat a real nursery for the best selection and prices. Don’t be put off, as many people can be because trees last for a long time; if a tree gets too large for its position; have it out and start again. In some ways, they can be treated no differently than a shrub – once past their best, simply start again. Or if you’re growing a tree in a pot – pass it on to someone with space in their garden. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not one for chopping trees down everywhere, far from it, their long lasting structure is so valuable and I’d always look to retain a tree where possible. I’m used however to coming across trees that have been poorly selected for a specific position, or have self seeded naturally, and in a garden situation, where space is often at a premium; it helps to have the right sized tree, in the right position - with enough space to spread out.

Note: Naturally, if a tree is a large growing specimen, further down the line when mature, you may have to apply for consent to simply prune or fell the tree which is where tree preservation orders, conservation areas and consultation comes into play; therefore careful selection of an appropriate tree is paramount. In certain locations, trees become important beacons for wildlife, bats in particular being drawn to rotten trunks and hollow stems, meaning these should also be given careful consideration before interaction with a tree. Don’t let this put you off though, use it to your advantage, and plant appropriate trees in an appropriate places.

Plant Plant Plant!

To get back to the National Tree Week, I've added a link to ‘The Tree Council’ website where a full explanation shows how you can get involved with tree planting on a community basis if you wish, with tree planting events happening all over the country. Therefore, if you don't have the space to squeeze a tree in, you can still do your bit for the environment and help out. In essence, the drive is simply to plant trees, for all the above reasons and more. If you take inspiration to plant even one small tree in a container then the initiative, and this blog post for that matter; will have been worth all the effort. At Compton last winter season we planted 32 disease resistant Elm trees to form an avenue, several standard Oaks and a Hornbeam, and I'm currently planning additions to our woodland and garden for 2012. Even though we're not planning such a large project this season I am optimistic we’ll get several trees in the ground before spring!

On a homely scale, I'll be shopping for container suitable trees this week, and fruit will be my driving force. If you have the space, why not be different and think of planting a living Christmas tree for future decorating; a native tree to attract and support wildlife; or one that will bring some autumn colour to your garden? ‘Go-native’ I would always recommend, but there are so many enticing trees to choose from I’d just say enjoy the shopping trip, read the labels carefully, and ask for advice.

Availability of space will be a prime concern for my suggestions mentioned below, which are considered native, but if space and nature conservation are high on your list, these considerations could be a good starting point – at least one, but maybe not all five! They would offer a mix of fruit, flowers, foliage colour, and for the Pine – evergreen structure. Think about: 1. soil type, 2. the space you have to fill - maximum height and spread you'd like for the tree, and 3. How you need the t
 ree to work for you.

1. Acer campestre, or Field Maple – to 20m when mature.
2. Sorbus aucuparia, or Rowan – to 20m
3. Betula pendula, or Silver Birch – 10m+
4. Malus sylvestris, or crab apple – to 10m
5. Pinus sylvestris, or Scots Pine – to 40m

Ah well, I shall stop driving my point - that's my tree planting sermon nearly over for this year. Do have a trip out to a nursery, enjoy the cake, and do get advice for the best tree to suit your plot. Trees are ultra versatile, they offer all things to all people, and the landscape (even suburban) would be much poorer if we simply stopped planting trees. I think a tree would be a great Christmas present…..

Enjoy your planting!

National Tree Week


Calogero said...

Don't they suffer @ home?

Gardener Gary said...

Thanks for the comment, can you expand on your comment & I'll answer as best I can.

Calogero said...

Grovember? :-)

In a garden they are very good, but maybe they aren't @ home.

Gardener Gary said...

Ah yes, think I get what you mean now. Not good in the home no!