“Plant here for other eyes that kingly tree, Whose reign we shall not see. Choose well that spot, that other eyes may bless, its natural loveliness”. Alfred Noyes, poet (1880-1958)
Planting a tree is one of the most generous things we can do for the next generation, but never more so than now, as trees play a huge role in locking up carbon as well as helping to prevent flooding, reduce pollution and keep us cool.
According to The Woodland Trust, we currently have only 13% woodland cover in the UK and this needs to increase to at least 17% if the government is to reach its 2050 target to become carbon net zero. So, the more trees we can plant, the better for the planet.
We are lucky to have a lot of ancient trees in Britain, within woods, fields and hedgerows but we have fewer woodlands in Britain than almost any other European country. We are looking for sites in which to carry out large-scale planting to create new woodland, so if you have land you'd like to have planted up, please let us know. We will supply the trees and the people to plant them.
However, all of us who have gardens or community spaces can also plant trees, and this is one of the easiest ways of reducing our carbon footprint.
Right Tree, Right Place
Planting any old tree in any old place isn't the solution; the Woodland Trust recommends that we plant native trees in order to ensure that our woodlands are genetically diverse and able to better withstand pests, diseases and the effects of climate change.
There is a long list of native trees to choose from, but choosing one suitable for the site is key to its long-term survival. Here are some tips when choosing a tree:
Ultimate size: Trees are described as ‘Small’ (5-10m high), ‘Medium’ (10-20m high) and ‘Large’ (20m+ high). Different trees grow at different rates so some trees can take 50 years to reach maturity, whereas others get there a lot quicker. How big a tree can your garden cope with?
Spread: how wide will the tree become? Upright (‘fastigiate’) trees take up less room and can be useful for small spaces but others need room to expand.
Soil, Moisture and Aspect: next you must match the tree with the growing conditions of your site. For example, a beech tree likes a garden with chalky soil and will struggle in one with light sandy soil. Very wet, dry or exposed sites also require careful selection, as do acid soils. Fortunately, there is a tree for almost every situation.
Evergreen or deciduous: most native trees are deciduous and tend to have a looser shape than evergreen trees, especially in summer and let more light through in winter once they have lost their leaves. Interest varies from season to season through the production of flowers, berries, seed pods, fruits, nuts or cones.
Shape and Leaf Colour: trees come in all shapes – columnar, upright, conical, domed, rounded and weeping. Leaf shape and colour also have to be considered – for example, golden foliage warms up a garden even on dull days, silver and grey leaves reflect the light and give a Mediterranean feel, while purple foliage absorbs light and can feel dull unless positioned carefully as a foil for lighter plants.
Credit: David Vig, Unsplash
An almost perfectly symmetrical hornbeam growing in the churchyard of St Mary's, Hanley Castle. This was planted in 1977 to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.
Above, wassailing at the Hanley Swan oak, January 2020, and, below, in summer. The tree was planted in 1863.