Posts Tagged ‘propagation’

Spring Colour Watch Blog: things to look out for in the Old Arboretum, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


This week, we look at some of the sights along the route of the seasonal trail in the Old Arboretum, from hellebores in shady spots, to the bright rhododendrons and azaleas which are now emerging.

The hellebores on Main Drive are all too easy to miss. Luckily, the second stop on the Old Arboretum seasonal trail halts nearby at the 2011 planting of Rhododendron schlippenbachii.

Although these historic royal azaleas are not in bloom – and in fact may not flower this year due to their youth – if you turn around you’ll find a delightful selection of hellebores, in a selection of colours from cream to purple, close to the ground just across the path.


Although Rhododendron schlippenbachii may not bloom this year, many other azaleas and rhododendrons are starting to appear, from the relatively small, delicate, pale pink blooms of Rhododendron ‘praecox’ to the larger deep red blooms of Rhododendron ‘Melissa’ Grex.


It is worth taking a slight detour from the trail to take a look at Rhododendron ‘Melissa’ Grex, as at the moment you’ll see black plastic wraps on the branches. This is a form of propagation called air layering which enables us to grow new saplings from our historic trees and shrubs. Take a look to your left as you pass Dukes Cut Gate on the seasonal trail.

Many other interesting specimens have started to come into their own this week.

Firstly, Illicium simonsii, which you may recognise from a recent ID challenge on the Westonbirt Arboretum Facebook page. Look out for these pale yellow flowers which can be found just before the second stop on the trail, off Main Drive – the flowers are quite small so if you want to make sure you don’t miss this plant, search the Westonbirt Interactive Map before you visit, or pop into the Great Oak Hall to use it and get a location.


Further along the trail, as it heads along Mitchell Drive towards the final stop, there are a few hidden gems. You’ll need to keep an eagle eye out in the direction of the road to spot the small flowers of Magnolia stellata ‘rosea’ which have started to appear.


Small and star shaped, this magnolia is one of the first to bloom this year, with many other burgeoning buds to be found throughout the Old Arboretum, not least on our champion Magnolia Sprengeri ‘Diva’. Watch this space for updates on that one – it is probably the most famous of Westonbirt’s magnolias, and for good reason!


This week’s misty weather has led to some interesting effects for photographers to capture. This katsura tree, also just off Mitchell Drive, is well known for its heady candyfloss scent as the year progresses. Pink spring shoots combined with lichens and moss are already a feast for the eye. Drops of moisture caught on a cobweb add a glittering effect.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

115 years of hard work, by Sally Day, Database and Records Officer

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

In August 1896 the owner of Westonbirt, George Holford, wrote to Mr Thistleton Dyer the director of Kew Gardens. “I will certainly take your advice about having a catalogue made of the trees and shrubs. In fact I have left instructions with Chapman and Rattray to begin it while I am away from England.”

Mr Chapman the head gardener in the bowler hat - Mr Mitchell to his left.

Mr Chapman in the bowler hat - Mr Mitchell to his left.

Mr Rattray the forester

Mr Rattray the forester

The final result of this was a catalogue published in 1927.

When the Forestry Commission took over in 1956 they embarked on re-cataloguing the collection. From an article in 1964: “Unfortunately, neither Jackson’s original catalogue nor Mitchell’s subsequent planting records were specific enough about the planting site for us to run down the specimen in all cases”. Also, a large number of labels had been lost, especially the lead ones which were often gnawed to illegibility by squirrels.

The present day labels give a wealth of information about the plant. They are however still enjoyed by the squirrels.

Identifiying a tree

Identifiying a tree

Eventually a printed catalogue of many pages and a set of maps provided the information about the plants in the collection. To deal with any updates new plantings or plant deaths a new list would be printed and dots drawn on the maps or rubbed out. Searching for a particular number on a map was time consuming.

The next step was to create a more modern database and a computerised map. On this in-house map we can display all the live trees but we also retain information about the location and type of a deceased specimen (great if there is an error as the tree can be brought back to life!) Now you can type in the number and the map will zoom to the correct location. This combined system is the engine behind all the work we do on the collection and our decisions about what to collect, propagate and plant in the future. Regular checks are made (much of it done by skilled volunteers) to keep the information up-to-date.

Why keep this information to ourselves?

What have we got and where is it?

These were the main questions we posed when asking a company to develop a web based interactive map for us. Since the site was launched in April it has been used by more than 2,000 different people worldwide.

So if you want to know if we have a type of plant, go to the map and follow the steps in the Quick search wizard:

– Select from a dropdown list (saves having to remember how to spell it: is it ginkgo or gingko?)
– then follow the steps to find out the location in the arboretum

Magic: the result of 115 years of hard work.

What’s Happening In Propagation by Penny Jones

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

I’ve been out walking around the arboretum over the last few weeks, finding just the right location for 270 different specimens of trees and shrubs. Quite a job as you can imagine (covering an area of 600 acres), but one that is very enjoyable too. Of course I have to make sure that each specimen I plant, fits into the original Holford style which is quite a responsibility.

I’m happy to say that my seed collecting trip to Japan last autumn has proved to be very successful as I’m already using those plants that germinated from seed last Spring. Some of the specimens are: Betula maximowicziana, Cornus kousa, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, Clerodendrum trichotomum, Malus tschonoskii, Pterostyrax hispidus, Malus tschonoskii, Pterostyrax hispidus, Betula maximowicziana.