Archive for January, 2013

Spring 2013 Magazine, by Louisa Lockwood, editor

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Hello, here’s a sneak preview of the spring issue. It will land on your doormat around 12th February, just in time for Valentine’s Day – and love is what it’s all about. Find out about the different ways we celebrate our love for Westonbirt and for each other.

The Westonbirt Project is a labour of love for many! Chris Packham recently endorsed the Project, our £1.9 million grant and the arboretum in glowing terms.

I wanted a good photo of him at the arboretum – a task that took some sleuthing. Eventually resorting to Google images, I found the perfect pose but could I get permission in time?

Labelled BBC/Scott Tibbles, I tried BBC switchboard (no record), Autumnwatch (no joy there either!), another search and he came up at Films@59. They said he was ‘somewhere filming orcas’. Probably not local or online.

An experimental email later and Scott replied! On location in Norway and with wifi on the edge of feasibility, but within 20 minutes his hi-res image of Chris was in the hands of the magazine designer! (Thanks Cloud.) Here it is – was it worth it?


Closer to home, another new science is playing a part in saving our rarer rhododendrons: micropropagation. Penny Jones explains the science while Graham Dennis explains why we need to use it.

Mark Ballard takes a look at how we choose the trees we do; Simon Toomer explains why cultivars don’t do sexual reproduction (what? You want to know more? Wait until the 12 Feb); Sally Day enjoys the weather (wet, wet, wet) and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is loving lobster.

The Westonbirt Magazine is produced by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum for its membership; to inform Friends about events, to engage Friends in issues that affect the arboretum, and to share enjoyment in and knowledge of this world-renowned tree collection.

Useful links
More about the Westonbirt Magazine
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

A winter walk with Westonbirt’s curator, Mark Ballard

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Isn’t it funny how normally familiar surroundings can appear very different throughout the seasons…

Today I managed to escape from my office for a hour or two, my purpose was to check on some of our newly planted young specimens in the Old Arboretum.

Juglans mandshurica (Manchurian Walnut)Juglans mandshurica (Manchurian Walnut)

Back in the autumn of 2011, I was part of a wild seed collecting trip to Japan. Penny our propagator is doing a fantastic job as always in caring for the seeds we brought back, with lots of successful germination so far. Impressively, two species have grown from seed trays to 7 litre pots in under 12 months, and were actually ready for planting just before Christmas. We choose to locate a group of three Juglans mandshurica (Manchurian Walnut) from Chichibu University Forest within a mixed clump in Section 16 near Main Drive.

 Zanthoxylum ailanthoides (Japanese Toothache Tree)Zanthoxylum ailanthoides (Japanese Toothache Tree)

We located a large group of ten Zanthoxylum ailanthoides (Japanese Toothache Tree) from Chiba University Forest in Section 4 next to Loop Walk at the new 2050 Glade. It’s obviously early days, but all these specimens are doing well despite a very cold introduction to life at Westonbirt.

Mark (120)Mark (108)

During my walk, I saw some strange sights & shapes in the snow where I would usually expect to see all too familiar scenes, such as these Juniper mounds. It never fails to amaze me, just how different yet beautiful the arboretum can appear on any given day of the year.


It was very quiet, and I soon found myself away from the main paths where the only other tracks had been made by birds, rabbits, foxes & deer. I was accompanied for a while by a pheasant at one point, oblivious to me & seeming to equally enjoy the surrounding winter wonderland.

2050 GladeCabbage Tree (Cordyline australis)

At the entrance to the 2050 Glade is an information board about future challenges, but our trees & shrubs must also be able to cope with the weather of today. Here we have a plant that is a long way from home & hopefully doing just that, a Cabbage Tree (Cordyline australis).

Morley RideHolford Ride

The views along both Morley Ride and Holford Ride are just great.

Colour CircleParrotia persica (Persian Ironwood)

Colour Circle is also looking fantastic, especially the Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) which is worth a closer look for its winter flowers.

Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamemelis mollis)Oregan Grape (Mahonia x media 'Charity')

Other flowering plants along Main Drive are Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis), and Oregon Grape (Mahonia x media ‘Charity’), which at first glance looks a little like an alien.

Grand Fir (Abies grandis)

My personal ‘Tree of the Day’ award must go to a Grand Fir (Abies grandis) on Loop Walk, for the geometric pattern highlighted in the branches.

Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum)Acer Glade

The Runner-up spot goes to the rather majestic group of Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) on the corner of Lime Avenue & Holford Ride. Third position must go collectively to Acer Glade, which currently rivals the glory of autumn right now.

Tree Team at work sign

Believe it or not, the Tree Team are still outside hard at work as there is always something to do whatever the weather. If you get the chance, I would strongly urge you to get out there too before all the snow disappears for another year.

Office Culture vs Horticulture: why some of Westonbirt’s staff love doing what they do!

Monday, January 21st, 2013

On this, ‘Blue Monday’, the day that’s supposed to be the most depressing of the year, the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt is supporting the RHS campaign ‘Office culture versus horticulture’ to show how careers working outdoors can make you happy!

So why did some of Westonbirt’s staff choose a ‘green’ career?


Gina Mills, Marketing Officer: “The appeal of working in marketing somewhere like Westonbirt is two-fold, really. Firstly, the idea of ‘marketing trees’ and engaging new audiences with Westonbirt to enable more people to enjoy the outdoors and learn, often in a very informal way, about plants is something that really interested me.

“Secondly, there are amazing opportunities for personal development offered by working in a garden or arboretum – I am always learning more about trees and plants from my colleagues, who are incredibly knowledgeable. Not to mention the well-being benefits of having access to this unique landscape every day of my working week. It’s a great balance between the office and the outdoors and I find it difficult to imagine working outside of this sector now!”

Arboretum Director, Simon Toomer

Simon Toomer, Arboretum Director: “For me initially it was the love of being outdoors in beautiful places. Then it was the appeal of doing a physically demanding job and the satisfaction of developing skills that at first seemed very difficult.

“Over the years I have gained enormous satisfaction from jobs well done -whether it was a planted tree or a well-thinned woodland. Working with trees and garden management, there is the added dimension of having a long lasting impact with your successes!”

Andy Bryce, Arborist

Andy Bryce, Arborist: “The physical aspect of working outdoors is both enjoyable and rewarding. I’ve worked outdoors for eight years and haven’t looked back. Having a green skill gives me the chance to travel and learn about trees and plants from all around the world.

“I feel healthy and I have much less ironing to do than when I worked in an office!”

Tom Dewey, Arborist

Tom Dewey, Arborist: “I prefer experiencing real life outdoors, rather than through a window. It’s a lifestyle choice that makes me look forward to Mondays! I also take a lot of satisfaction from knowing that I am contributing to a beautiful place that other people can enjoy.

“I think it’s never too late to change your job. There are lots of grants and student positions (often all over the world) to apply for and they’ll give you many opportunities to experience trees, plants and life in different locations.”

Paul Cody, Head of Visitor Attraction

Paul Cody, Head of Visitor Attraction: “As a small child I was fascinated by how things grew. Putting a nasturtium seed in a pot and watching and waiting for it to grow was one of the highlights of my early years. As I grew older I became intrigued how massive trees grew from such tiny seeds. This led my enquiring mind to forestry and a life long passion for trees and gardening.”

Barriers, Bollards and Boots, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Sophie Nash is Project Officer for the Westonbirt Project. She organises the logistics of the project, working with architects and project managers for various elements to deliver the works.

Car park visual
With work on the new car park about to begin at the arboretum, I thought I should explain what I have been up to for the last few months leading up to this exciting moment! 

Although car parks perhaps aren’t most people’s idea of an interesting conversation topic, I’ve found an appreciation for a well designed attractive car park!

Ensuring our new car park looks lovely and works well will ensure all visitors have a better arrival and welcome which matches our ‘National’ status.

Along with searching for bright yellow women’s hi-vis jacket and breaking in my new steel toe cap welly boots, I’ve been searching the internet for the finishing details for the car park.

Searching for an attractive FSC approved timber, energy efficient lighting bollard was surprisingly difficult.

After many hours of internet trawling and discussions about light fitting ratings, I finally found a reasonably priced one made from Oak with an LED light fitting.

It’s a small but important detail and, knowing that we’d need more than 100 of them to be installed in the new car park and around other parts of the site, we wanted to make sure we selected an attractive but ‘Westonbirt’ suitable light.

Along with the new lighting bollards I’ve also been researching car park barriers. We will be installing two new barriers, one much closer to the A433 junction and one past the new car park by the plant centre. Both will be installed in late spring.

I will be updating the blog during the next 18 months, keeping you all up-to-date with what’s happening here and providing some behind the scenes updates.

For more details about the Westonbirt Project, visit

Recycling phones for Friends! by Louisa Oldfield, Fundraising Assistant

Friday, January 11th, 2013

It is fantastic news that we can now recycle our old mobile phones and printer ink cartridges and raise money for the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum at the same time!

Old mobile phone ready for recycling

I found 3 old mobile phones in my drawer when I was sorting out after Christmas and each of these could be worth as much as £30 to the charity.

What a brilliant way to recycle old resources and raise money for my favourite place at the same time! And it won’t cost me anything as the envelopes are freepost.

Go to and click on the link to find out what you can recycle for the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and get involved now!

Recycle 4 Charity logo