Archive for November, 2013

Welcome Building update, by contractors Speller Metcalfe

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

18 November 2013

Rich Bullock, Project Manager, Speller Metcalfe 

Since our last update things have really progressed apart from those few days where we had very stormy weather – this stopped the crane lifting for a couple of days – but otherwise it’s been great. For those who have gone past the site you will be able to see a lot more has happened including the main structural timber frame construction which is now complete. The main frame was manufactured off site by Kingston Craftsman and then assembled on site by Kingston Craftsman’s erection team. They have done a great job from manufacture through to construction.

Following the main structural frame going up, we now have local company Watts Carpentry Services who we’ve worked with before on many projects doing all the infill panels and roof purlins prior to roof coverings going on. We have got five carpenters, eight ground workers, four scaffolders and the roofing contractor has just started on site, so it’s getting quite busy!

The roofers started on site at the beginning of this week with the insulation, counter battens and felt going on, which will help keep the rain out of the building. This will take 3-4 days to complete which is good as the weather starts to draw in. We then have another 3-4 weeks for the cedar shingle tiles to be laid – these cedar shingles will really keep in line with the aesthetic beauty of Westonbirt and should weather really nicely.

Other works on site have included the installation of a new septic tank for the building toilets and this week we will also be applying a waterproof membrane to take the stonework over the next few days – this is a sturdy, beautiful local stone which comes from the local quarry in Tetbury.

If you’re coming to Westonbirt, come in mid-December as once again it will look completely different and you will really be able to get a feel for the completed build.

A season spectacular…by Emily Pryor, Marketing Support Officer.

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Well what an autumn it’s been. We were watching the days go by in early October, expecting an explosion, but it kept us hanging on (and still is just by its fingertips).

There’s no doubt there were lots of rumblings about what we should expect this autumn, with mast year being at the forefront of the media, but for my first autumn at Westonbirt for a few years, it was an eye opener.

Thanks to the autumn blog here at Westonbirt, most of the office have managed to get out and enjoy our beautiful trees and landscape, believe it or not, some of us can’t always manage it, even if it’s outside our door!

We have had thoughts from all across the building about what has been best to catch, what’s come and gone, and what’s on its way in.  But nevertheless, we have all enjoyed autumn in our own personal way, just as you probably have.

It just reminds you what a beautiful season it is, yes, the weather hasn’t always been our friend, but those few precious gloriously sunny days have been a spectacle I would challenge you to find anywhere else.

I personally can’t think of any better way to spend my day than wrapping up warm for an autumnal stroll and kick around in the leaves and a nice sit down with a cup of tea and a slice of sponge for afters.  I know those things are with us all year round, but in autumn it’s a different experience all together.

We owe big thanks to the maples for again, putting on a show that no one could have imagined. It was like a little slice of heaven in Acer Glade and Maple Loop, which I’m sure made jaws drop on people of all ages.

We also owe much gratitude to you, our visitors. For not only coming to enjoy something that our tree team work so hard on, year on year looking after, but also for your involvement. All in different ways, whether it was a family day out and trying out the seasonal trail, a photo posted to our Facebook page, a love declared for our trees on Twitter or a chat with our volunteers about it at the Great Oak Hall. You all play your part in making the autumn season a spectacular one, just as much as our trees.

Planting the Car Park…

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Sarah Millard is Supervisor of Estate Volunteers for the Westonbirt Project. She leads a group of volunteers who carry out a variety of practical tasks, including tree planting.

The planting season is upon us and it is time to give the new car park its instant impact makeover as after months of preparation the new trees are finally being planted!

Differing from the Arboretum’s usual planting of two year old trees that have been propagated here on site by Penny, these trees have been purchased from Barcham, a tree specialist nursery. The trees are around 10 years old and we have over 130 to plant, so requiring a considerable amount of digging!    

(Just some of the trees we are planting!)

We have quite a variety of trees to plant too, including Quercus robur, the magnificent English oak, to eventually mature to create a tall canopy. Platanus x hispanica (London plane) is being planted, which is believed to be tolerant of urban pollution suitable for our new car park.
Colour in all seasons has also been important in the design of the car park. We are planting Acer platanoides ‘Princeton Gold’ for its golden yellow spring foliage. Betula utilis (Birch) is being planted for its bark colours which are shown off to full advantage in winter and Liquidambar styraciflua, also known as sweetgum, is a fine tree for autumn colour as it burns with crimson and gold.

Digging the holes Mulching

Despite the recent bad weather and some very stubborn Cotswold stone we hope to have the majority of car park planting finished by Christmas. The holes dug are around a meter in diameter to ensure the roots have some soft soil to settle down into. The trees are then protected with a tall metal cage that is held by two wooden stakes. This ensures there is plenty of space for the tree to move and grow, but giving maximum protection from wildlife such as deer that would rub their antlers over the trees to mark their territory. After being strapped in and tucked up in a good layer of mulch we hope that the new trees will grow and thrive to be another addition to Westonbirt’s fantastic landscape.

A Welcome Building update…

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

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

Now that the majority of the scaffolding is up, the carpenters have arrived and have started work on the roof.  

Welcome Building

Below: timber purlins are the first element of the roof to be fixed into position.

Welcome Building 
Below: timber sheeting is then fixed to the purlins. A roof membrane, timber battens and finally the Western red cedar shingles will then be laid and fixed onto the timber sheeting.

Welcome Building

An autumn walk with…Dan Crowley, Dendrologist

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

So once again I journeyed into the Old Arboretum with the camera to show some more of our autumn goodness here at Westonbirt and there still plenty of it, I can assure you of that!!

I started by heading for one of my favourites, which I am sure many of us have been keeping a close eye on, Acer griseum, the paper bark maple. From China and another Ernest Wilson introduction, it colours slightly later and our oldest specimens (and safe to say among the earliest plantings in this country) are just beginning to colour up nicely.

Our round-headed example at the west end of Mitchell Drive (left photo) is well on the way!

 Acer griseum   Acer griseum - Lodge Gates

While the taller specimen at close to Lodge Gates (right photo) has plenty still to go. There is also a younger specimen along Mitchell Drive in between these two – another worth visiting! And once the leaves are gone, the bark really takes over as its stand out feature – what a tree!!

Moving on, and set back from Loop Walk close to Morley Ride, the bright red fruits of Sorbus alnifolia are prominent against the dark back drop of the common yew, Taxus baccata.

Sorbus alnifolia

With its foliage long since gone for the year, it is only the fruit of this S. alnifolia remaining to provide seasonal interest. Seek it out before the birds do!!

Further round Loop Walk is a fine example of Acer pennsylvanicum.

Acer pennsylvanicum

Turning a particularly nice shade of yellow, the leaves were falling as I took this photo (not that you can tell!), so this fine display will not be with us for too much longer for this year. Interestingly, while there are around 20 species of snake bark maple, this is the only one native to North America, the others being Asian representatives this important genus.

Staying with plants of Asian origin is Photinia villosa. Not uncommon, this is known to be a later one to colour in autumn and is certainly doing its thing with us just now! Aside from the fine foliage colour, the fruits are also looking good. Like those of Sorbus alnifolia they are shining a bright red – yet another winner in the Rose family! This individual is growing adjacent to Loop Walk close to the end of Morley Ride, though there are a number of others also looking good just now elsewhere on site, like much else – but don’t take my word for it!! 

Back to maples, but only because it’s worth it, we have Acer palmatum subsp. palmatum.

Acer palmatum subsp. Palmatum

This subspecies is known for its smaller leaves that are held for longer and colour later. True to form, this mature specimen on Pool Avenue is doing just that. Enjoy.

Not far away, in Colour Circle, this example of Taxodium distichum  is really coming to the fore right about now.

Taxodium distichum

Colouring something of a dark peach, this is another North American favourite. Native to the south eastern states and known as bald, or swamp cypress, it is known for its ‘knees’ when growing in particularly damp areas. Whilst not apparent with us here, its fantastic autumn colour certainly is!

Just across Pool Avenue is this stand of dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

Metasequioa glyptostroboides

Like the swamp cypress, it is a species of deciduous conifer and both are members of the Cypress family, the Cupressaceae. Endangered in the wild, the dawn redwood was discovered in 1941, having long been thought extinct, and introduced to the U.K in 1949. Our oldest specimen (Growing on Specimen Avenue) was planted in 1953 though this group is younger, with the youngest trees planted in 1991.

Before heading out of the Old Arboretum, I visited a plant I observe on most days heading out into the collection on this side of the valley. Growing close to the bottom of Savill Glade and different from all that has been mentioned in our series of autumn blogs (so far!), Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is one that I am highlighting for its flowers. 

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Pale pink and pleasantly scented, these emerge from October onwards and are largely frost-resistant – most welcome as we move out of autumn and into winter. With more than a hint of autumn colour and one of a fantastic genus of (mainly!) shrubs, this is definitely one for the small garden!

Moving into Silk Wood then, and into Sand Earth we have the Japanese Malus tchonoskii.

Malus tchonoskii Malus tchonoskii.

A recent planting with us in 2010, having been collected as seed in the wild by colleagues here at Westonbirt. This example has established well and is now fulfilling its potential as a great autumnal feature. Growing with a lovely conical habit, it looks set to perform a role for us for some time to come – definitely one to keep an eye on!

Back on to Willesley Drive and one that may be easily missed is Hamamelis virginiana.

Hamamelis virginian

From eastern North America, as the name suggests, it is not notable for its foliage at this time of year, but for its flowers. Flowering earlier than other representatives of the genus, its yellow flowers are also smaller than some, with a pleasant, but subtle scent.

Up to Maple Loop and this area is beginning to really sing! There is all the colour of the Acer palmatum cultivars and the larch (Larix sp.) are also performing admirably.

Acer palmatum cultivars and (Larix sp.)

Another genus of deciduous conifer, though this time a member of the Pinaceae, the pine family, larch are clearly more than just plantation trees, though this was their original purpose in this area. This part of the arboretum is becoming a real favourite and is only set to improve as the young plants continue to establish. Swamp cypress also feature here with these young plants, wild collected by our colleagues at Bedgebury Pinetum, looking good to become the overstorey of the future. Like many of our plants we hope they will perform multiple roles in the landscape, providing both structure and autumn colour.

Swamp cypress

A trip down The Link is always worthwhile and at the Broad Drive end grows a fine young example of Acer pycnanthum.

Acer pynathum

Yet another fantastic plant from Japan. Closely related to the red maple of North America, Acer rubrum, it differs in being both smaller in form and foliage. Whilst our specimens of A. rubrum are among the earliest to colour in autumn, A. pycnanthum tends to be later and is among so many of our trees looking good now. Don’t miss out!

A Welcome Building update…

Monday, November 11th, 2013

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

The Douglas fir timber frame has been completed! The Welcome Building has been braced with straps and timber to hold it in place whilst the cladding and roof are constructed.

Welcome Buliding

The frame is now slightly hidden from view as the scaffolding is erected both around and inside the Welcome Building. This will enable the carpenters to access the top of the building and start work on constructing the Western Red Cedar shingle roof.

Welcome Building

Scaffolding towers in position in the entrance foyer of the Welcome Building.

Welcome Building

An autumn walk with…Mark Ballard, Curator

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Well, we are at the heart of yet another exciting autumn at Westonbirt right now, and I have to say that although every year is different in some way, I am yet to be disappointed. It is impossible to predict which plants will shine and exactly when that will be each year, which together with the fact that every day is unique, makes for a lot of fun.

Today I ventured out into Silk Wood with my colleague Penny, our highly skilled Propagator. Our mission was to begin the process of finding suitable locations within the landscape for the next generation of young plants, which have all been carefully grown from seeds within our very own nursery. You are welcome to witness this impressive operation for yourself, as there is an interpretation area for visitors next door to the very pretty Keepers Cottage.

Just like everyone else, Penny and I took the opportunity to enjoy lots of fantastic autumnal colour on our travels, a real perk of the job. Unquestionably, the stars of the show at the moment are the many species and cultivars of maple, which can appear even more dazzling when it is overcast, especially with a dramatic sky full of fast moving clouds as a backdrop.

As always, it’s best to get out there and explore the collection for yourself, and don’t be afraid to wander far from the path, as you are sure to find some unexpected gems around each corner. Enjoy!

Nerine bowdenii Elaeagnus rhamnoidesCotinus coggygria

In photo one is the Nerine bowdenii. This late flowering plant is also known as Cornish lily, Cape flower or Guernsey lily. In the second photo, Elaeagnus rhamnoides sea buckthorn, (formerly Hippophae rhamnoides) is one of our important signature plants, with great foliage and fruit at the moment. The third photo is of Cotinus coggygria (Smoke bush) on Waste Drive which provides a nice variety.

Cotinus ‘Grace’ Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' Penny Jones, Propagator

The first photo of this three is of Cotinus ‘Grace’ in the foreground with the yellow of Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) in the background. The second showcases Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ (purple Japanese maple) in full glory near Broad Drive. Photo three is our well respected and talented Propagator, Penny, at work, inspecting maples up close!

Maple Loop, Silk WoodMaplesAcer palmatum ‘Shime-no-uchi’

Photo one: I think as Maple Loop continues to establish, it is looking more attractive every year that passes, and is certainly now a rival to the splendour of Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum. The sun highlighting the colours and shapes of Maple leaves in photo two. The last photo is of Acer palmatum ‘Shime-no-uchi’.  This attractive Japanese maple cultivar was planted in Maple Loop with other specimens in 2005 to mark 100 years of Rotary.

Larix x eurolepisMaple LoopCarpinus betulus

Photo one: Deciduous hybrid larch trees (Larix x eurolepis) provide a vital protective over-storey here, but can be stunning in their own right. In photo two: this central vista is a key landscape component of the recently designed Maple Loop, and will become more prominent as plants develop and grow. Photo three: Carpinus betulus – we shouldn’t forget that our native trees, such as these common hornbeams, can look just as good too.