Every year the Woodland Trust runs the Tree of the Year contest. Anyone can nominate a tree, and the winning tree gets a £1000 in tree care awards. We decided this year that we’d like one of our 600+ trees to be considered for the award. Almost too many to choose from! The staff team narrowed it down to our three favourites, and then we asked our social media followers to choose the one to submit.
Our shortlist consisted of the Contorted Hazel (Corylus avellana contorta), the Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata), and a Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus); the latter was the winner of our social media vote, and our eventual submission to the Woodland Trust.
So why these trees? Here is a bit about the Contorted Hazel and the Handkerchief Tree, and below you can read our submission to the Woodland Trust.
Contorted Hazel (Corylus avellana contorta)
Our contorted hazel is not just a beautiful and unusual tree, it is a second generation from the original twisted tree discovered in a hedgerow on the Frocester Court Estate in 1863. The tenant’s gardener was friends with Earl Ducie’s gardener and shared a cutting. When the owner of Frocester Court proudly showed Earl Ducie his contorted hazel, the Earl gladly responded that he already had one of his own. This is one of the cuttings that Earl Ducie’s gardener grew on the Tortworth Estate, and is visible from the public footpath.
Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata)
The handkerchief tree (or dove tree) is a stunning feature of our collection, in the private part of the arboretum. For most of the year it is a nice enough but fairly uninteresting tree. Then for a couple of weeks in May it takes centre stage with it’s stunningly pretty and unusual bloom. When it flowers the white bracts hang delicately from the tree like handkerchiefs tied to the branches. Simply stunning
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) – our Tree of the Year submission to the Woodland Trust
“We are nominating a gorgeous, tall and twisted hornbeam. This handsome native tree, possibly a veteran, is one of our favourites at the Tortworth Forest Centre. In 2001 it was chosen by renowned dendrologist Tony Titchen as one of the ‘Top 21’ trees in the Tortworth Arboretum.”
“The tree stands at the entrance to the Forest Centre, on the site of the old Tortworth Arboretum, where we (a small social enterprise), are working to restore the arboretum for community use. We selected a shortlist from the 600 or so trees (almost too many to choose from) on the site, and asked our volunteers and social media followers to choose which tree to nominate for Tree of the Year 2020. This hornbeam was the outright winner of the vote, and it is clear to us why. It is mighty and majestic, with gnarly, twisted branches, two of which have grown into each other, adding to the interest of the tree.
We think this tree most likely predates the arboretum (planting of which started in 1853 by the Earl of Ducie), and was part of the Tortworth Estate parkland, though we don’t currently have enough information to age the tree. We believe that it is notable, possibly even veteran (it has a substantial girth of 305cm, some dead branches, large scars, and some rot and decay starting to form).
We love that this native tree stands out as something special amongst the many exotic specimens planted as part of the old arboretum’s collection. It is a particularly beautiful and statuesque specimen, waiting to be revered by anyone who enters the site via the public footpath.”
We will find out in a couple of months if the Hornbeam has made it to the Tree of the Year 2020 shortlist. Watch this space!