Planting a new generation of trees

After many years of fighting brambles and clearing rhododendron we are finally at the point where we can begin planting a new generation of trees at the arboretum. To celebrate this opportunity we decided to spend a day planting trees with the local community and make it part of our autumn open day. We were able to do this thanks to funding from Tesco Bags of Help and The People’s Postcode Lottery, who’s support made it all possible. So, we had some budget for new trees, what shall we plant? ..and where?

Our objectives

After some advice we thought it would be a good idea to write down exactly what our objectives were when it came to planting. This is what we came up with..

“Our aim is to maintain the arboretum for future generations, replanting new exotic trees in the spirit of the existing collection. This will be mainly focused on showing the splendour and variety of tree species, displaying specimens from around the world for visitor’s enjoyment and educational purposes. New specimens will be sourced from close to natural stock where possible (i.e. ideally not horticultural origin). We are also hoping to replace notable old stock, and build upon existing strengths and groupings, e.g. our oak collection.”

Finding new sites

With the aid of our long term volunteers we were able to walk around the arboretum and identify sites that might be suitable for planting. We were looking for areas with a large gap in the canopy and ideally some direct sunlight, also being mindful of how much work it would take to clear the ground of any bracken and brambles.

Following on from our mapping project, we were also able to look at the density of trees on the map and spot where there may be an opportunity for planting. The newly created species list was also useful for working out what might complement the existing collection.

Once the sites had been selected, we went around recording the amount of light, soil conditions, maximum height and any features we wanted the tree to have throughout the year. We also looked at the other trees in the immediate vicinity and what kind of backdrop the new tree would have in order to find something that would compliment well.

Our new trees

The trees we chose were:

Nyssa sinensis (Chinese tupelo)
This is a deciduous tree from China/Vietnam with spectacular autumn colours of red orange and yellow, which will be visible from the footpath and also from our main meeting area.

Viburnum betulifolium (birch-leaf viburnum)
This is a deciduous shrub from China with glossy, dark green, birch-like leaves. Domed clusters of small, white flowers in spring and heavy bunches of glistening, red berries in the autumn. Again, visible from the footpath and should be a good contrast to nearby conifer trees.

Carpinus polyneura
Making an elegant small to medium sized tree this is a different take on our familiar native hornbeam tree, this has slender drooping branches and long pointed leaves. Native to China.

Sorbus ulleungensis ‘Olympic flame’
From Ulleung Island off the coast of Korea, this is another feature tree with vibrant reds and oranges in the autumn and bright white flowers in the spring. This has been placed at a point viewable from three pathways and should contrast nicely with nearby redwoods and laurel.

Quercus canariensis (Algerian oak or Mirbeck’s oak)
Despite the scientific name, it does not occur naturally today in the Canary Islands. From southern Spain, this evergreen oak is rarely seen in the UK so it is a good addition to our oak collection. We’ve given it a prominent position in full sun to show it off.

Cornus wilsoniana
A rare dogwood from China. This will grow into a small tree and features a spectacular amount of white flowers in the early summer and attractive peeling bark. We have sited it close to another exotic dogwood and also next to a large eucalyptus tree with similar multi-shaded pealing bark.

Planting the trees

Before planting the trees we first spent a day clearing the new sites with volunteers, then an afternoon digging the holes in advance of the open day. On the day we planted six trees, with lots of visitors lending a hand and getting stuck in. Each tree took about 40 minutes to plant, including the construction of two wire fences to help protect the tree from squirrels and deer (plus the goats!).

The open day was really well attended and it was great to see people keen to get stuck in and help us with the planting.

Planting our new hornbeam

As there were a couple of trees left over these then got planted by our regular volunteers as part of our Volunteer Sunday. These were sited further into the woodland and took a little more time to complete as we were met with very stony soil.

We are really proud of our new additions and very happy to have the next generation of trees growing for future visitors to enjoy. We hope to do more planting once we have further areas clear and also fill in some of the gaps provided from recent fallen trees (mostly mature silver birch), so watch this space!

With support from: