While October heralds a season of fabulous colour, conkers and the essence of autumn to the thousands visiting Westonbirt, behind the scenes October is a time to prepare for another seasonal rush. Planting season.
Planting typically begins in November once our trees are entering a period of winter dormancy yet have stored enough energy to see them through and when soils are moist but not frozen or waterlogged. Every year we add 250-350 new trees to the collection over a 2-3 month period so it is a well rehearsed show. However, because of the ever progressing Westonbirt Project the 2013/2014 planting season has an additional 139 trees on our accession list and these aren’t your usual suspects either.
Almost all the new trees planted each year in the arboretum are propagated from seed or cuttings by Penny Jones our propagator in our on-site nursery in 7-12 litre black knobbly ‘air pots’ and are commonly 2 years old and between a foot and four foot in height. Our latest 139 additions however, arrived on a large lorry; they were probably ten years old in the main, kept in huge 45-100 litre white plastic bags and were regularly topping ten foot.
Image: (left/black pot) is a typical tree to be planted this season Barcham tree bought in for new carpark (right/white bag)
These special trees have a special job as they have been selected as the plantings for the new visitor car park and Welcome Building sites, they have been specifically chosen as older larger trees so they have an instant impact in the currently tree-free area. Therefore without being able to give a decade forewarning to Penny the trees had to be selected from Barcham tree nursery in Cambridgeshire, a specialist in large container trees.
Unloading a lorry full of large trees and lining up in the new prop yard was a daunting task on arrival but a team effort from numerous departments and volunteers made for a fun and less demanding morning in the autumn sunshine. Planting of these particular trees will be carried out by Sarah Millard and her volunteer group, we hope you’re all feeling strong this winter and look forward to them growing even bigger next spring.
Raef Johnson, Tree Team.