Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 1 November 2013

GBMD - The Best Time to Plant a Tree

Near the entrance to Devil's Glen, County Wicklow, Ireland

National Tree Week is 23rd November to 1st December this year.

20 years ago I and around 30 other volunteers celebrated National Tree Week by helping Professor Martin Haigh plant 1,000 trees directly into a coal spoil heap in south Wales. This is a land reclamation technique pioneered in Bulgaria, which they found is more successful in stabilising the land and kick-starting soil formation than the grassing over we're more familiar with.

Martin was trying to find the right combination of native trees for the UK which would replicate the Bulgarian results. We planted alder and willow which could withstand the soggy, claggy material, plus Scots pine and oak. The idea was the first three species were sacrificial and would help protect the oak; this would then grow on to form the mature woodland.

In 1993 we planted in the snow - as well as having the odd snowball fight - and these trees went on to grow more rapidly than those planted in previous years. I like to think the harsher conditions - and the usual ones were pretty bad - helped them make better use of the summer warmth which followed. Martin always named his research plots after key people involved in the project, such as his Bulgarian colleagues. I'm proud to say part of that 1993 plot - situated on a very bleak hillside near Big Pit - is named after me.

What tree planting plans - if any - do you have this month?

NB The Woodland Trust has packs of free trees for schools, universities and community groups to apply for now ready for planting in spring 2014. Packs of 30, 105 and 420 trees are available in a variety of themes to include short hedge and small copse for the small pack; and wild harvest, wildlife, year-round colour, working wood, wetland and wild wood for the medium and large packs.

13 comments:

  1. Fantastic, what a great idea. I love trees, and I'm always worried that we aren't planting enough for the future. The proverb is wonderful.

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    1. I had an interesting conversation with a nurseryman at Chelsea this year. Apparently there's plenty of 'quick to grow, quick to die' trees going on, with the unsaid assumption (by me) that planting for the longer term generally isn't happening.

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  2. How wonderful to have a patch of woodland named after you! Funily enough I am a little obsessed by trees at the moment, and plant to plant three bare root plums and a bare root pear once the weather gets cold enough for te nurseries to be sending them out. I also want a couple of ornamental trees for my front garden, which will probably end up pot grown. I prefer bare rooted,, they establish so much better and quickly overtake their pot grown cousins, not to mention being cheaper, but the ornamentals seem harder to come by in naked form. Any recommendations on tree nurseries that sell on line and deliver?

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    1. We sourced the trees from a very good nursery in Gloucestershire whose name escapes me at the moment. I'll have a rootle around (in my memory and notes somewhere in the house!) to see if I can find out who it is. There's also a great nursery in Yorkshire that Nick Mann of Habitat Aid uses (and also did a fantastic fruit exhibit at Harrogate Autumn show) - I have a picture of the exhibit in the archive + the nursery name... Oh and Reads Nursery supplied the trees for Horatio's Garden - they're very good...

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    2. Thanks VP, tracked down R V Roger nursery from your Harrogate post and looks very promising, might be able to get all my trees, plum and ornamental, from them, and great they are grown hard in Yorks, should fit right in to a wild and wet Welsh winter!!

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    3. Janet - thank you for taking the trouble to take my vague memories and find out what I was actually talking about :) It was indeed R V Roger - we passed their nursery in Pickering whilst on holiday last year and it looked very good. I know that Nick Mann has nothing but praise for them. And you're right - grown hard in Yorkshire is probably the best for your location from the 3 I was talking about :)

      I look forward to seeing what you decide to plant on your blog at some point.

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  3. What a great project to be involved with, and the bonus of getting it named after you!

    I've been thinking of trees quite a bit at the moment - I guess that time of year. I've just picked up 2 smaller acers and am ordering 4 fruit trees.

    I've planted trees in every garden I've had to date, and I often wonder how they are doing. I like the idea that planting trees is planting hope, as you'll probably never see them at their full size.

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    1. Hi Gwenfar - I've planted trees in all my gardens too and I also have 18 up at the allotment which are kept to 6ft so they're within the allotment rules!

      I like your planting hope remark :)

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  4. I feel I can't squeeze any more in, but with the gales we have had, there need to be youngsters to carry on when the ancient ones fall over. We always have young ash, oak and chestnut, but usually these get removed, now I think it is the time to let some of them grow on so that there is a woodland strip still here in 100 yrs time. I have always been a fan of trees, they are the lungs of the earth.

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    1. Fingers crossed that the ash and chestnut don't succumb to the current problems with those trees. I wish we had enough land for a woodland strip - that's the public land next door, which I've 'borrowed' to form the backdrop of my garden.

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  5. I'm now wondering what 'The Devil's Glen' is - it looks such a tranquil spot. Have you been back to see the trees you played a part in planting back in 1993? Here we are hoping to plant a malus which we should have done 20 years ago :)

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    1. Anna - I will be writing about Devil's Glen. I have quite a backlog of posts from our trip to Ireland!

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    2. PS I've been back a couple of times, but not in the last 10 years. I must rectify that...

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