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Let's Hear it for the Trees

National Tree Week, at the end of November, marks the start of the winter tree-planting season. They say that no garden is complete without a tree. Tall, majestic, and symbolic of the past, present and future, these queens of nature shape outside spaces in a way that no other plants can. Trees are essential. They are our largest plants, providing us with both oxygen and carbon, which are vital for life here on Earth. Their roots provide stability for the soil, with their canopies and trunks providing shelter and sustenance for wildlife. The wood trees yield, give we humans materials to make tools, shelter and furniture. Trees also have health and environmental benefits, with woodlands offering spaces for us to enjoy active leisure time, creating an immense feeling of wellbeing. The long hot Summer brought discussions around the reality of global warming to the fore. Trees are great stores of carbon, thus lowering emissions of this gas and slowing the advance of soaring temperatures around the world. You could say that by planting trees we are literally helping to save the world!

A Tree for Every Garden

There is a tree for every size and style of garden, from great Oaks for massive plots, to varieties for more modest spaces. My favourite tree – as you’ll already know if you heard me on BBC Gardeners’ Question Time – is Betula Utilis – common name: Silver Birch. Happy in full sun or partial shade, this tree is at home in any soil type that is moist and well drained. Native to the Himalayas, the Silver Birch can grow over 12 metres high within 20 – 50 years. Did you know that ‘Utilis’ means ‘Useful’ in Latin! Silver Birch has medicinal qualities too. I particularly like the Betula Utilis var jacquemonti fastigiata. This upright beauty is perfect for a medium sized garden. I have three of them growing together in a border, closely planted to restrict growth further. The wonderful peeling habit of the bark lights up even the dullest of winter days.

An Acer for the Smaller Plot

The ruby red brightness of Acer Palmatum ‘Bloodgood” leaves before they finally shed in Winter, have a lovely luscious colour. This tree can be planted in a container when small, or to restrict growth. In the ground, it can grow to up to four metres, and is happy in chalk, clay, loam or sandy soil that has an acid or neutral PH. Give it a sheltered spot which faces West, East or South, and sun or partial shade.

Under the Laburnum Tree

Want to make a statement with a tree that can lay languid like over an arch or two, shouting: ”Look at me and my oh so yellow blossom” – I give you Laburnum anagyroides (common laburnum). This spreading deciduous tree can grow to a height of eight metres. It has hanging bunches of dense and intensely yellow flowers, which put on a show from late Spring until the early Summer. This is another fairly unfussy tree that is happy to grow in any well - drained soil in either an exposed or sheltered position – as long as it has full sun. Do be careful though, as all parts of this tree, are poisonous.

Into the Tropics

I do love mixing an English Country style with Tropical overtones. There are a couple of trees – Cordyline Australis, and Trachycarpus fortunei – that I’ve seen planted both on the coast and further inland, both in domestic gardens and large country estates. These evergreen, architectural beauties can punctuate the skyline with dramatic effect. Both can be planted in the ground or in large pots. They look really good in a courtyard setting.

Some Jobs to do in the Garden in November

· Clear up fallen leaves regularly

· Plant tulip bulbs in the ground, or in pots if you tend to have soggy soil

· Use a bonfire – if allowed in your area - to dispose of garden waste that is hard to compost

· Plant out Winter bedding

· Prune roses

· Lift and divide overcrowded perennials to maintain vigour

· Raise pots off the ground to avoid waterlogging

· Build raised beds for vegetable growing

· Put grease bands on the trunks of fruit trees to avoid pests laying eggs

· Aerate your lawn

· Create a new hedge using bare root plants


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