New homes for 211 trees!
January and February are a busy time for the team here at Westonbirt!
Before the cold weather really sets in, our tree team must find new homes for hundreds of new plants. Early planting means that the young trees have a chance to settle in with minimal fear of drought – then when spring finally arrives they are ready to thrive! This year we have a whopping 211 new plants to find new homes for!
Bringing in new plants is a crucial part of preserving the arboretum for future generations – though some trees live a long time they are not infinite and we must be sure to weave new plants into the landscape to maintain its beauty and variety for years to come.
Choosing new plants for the collection
Our Curator, Mark Ballard, and Propagator, Penny Jones, have been working together selecting new homes for trees at Westonbirt for 10 years, and are adept at finding the right home for the right tree in this beautiful landscape.
The first step in this immense task is to choose the seeds that will eventually become the trees you see out in the arboretum. Every plant must earn its place in this historic landscape, and Mark and Penny take care to pick trees that will add something to the arboretum – because they are a super plant, historic, endangered, rare, of scientific importance, or simply because they will add to the beauty of the landscape.
Most of our trees are grown from seed collection trips abroad. In past years the team has travelled to Italy, the United States, and Japan to find seeds. Read more about the team’s plant hunting adventures here...
These seeds are then reared in our propagation centre – there are currently over 2000 plants in the nursery being raised from seeds until they are ready for planting.
Finding the right spot
Once the trees are big enough to be planted out in the arboretum, the team must choose the correct spot for each plant - this is no easy task as there are a multitude of factors to consider – the soil type, the level of shade, the amount of shelter etc. Maintaining the picturesque landscape and creating open space is as important as finding the appropriate place for each new tree.
Having surveyed the whole site and allocated trees to specific spots, Mark and Penny mark each spot with a stake, on which is written the name and number of the tree to be planted there.
Our Tree Team then follow round and plant the new trees. The whole process takes several weeks with around 10 to 15 trees planted and caged in a day.
Once the tree is planted, we routinely check on them for two years, after which they are left to grow and thrive. Not all of the trees planted will become a permanent part of the landscape, inevitably some will fail to establish; if we plant 7 trees of the same species it’s not uncommon for only three to establish in the arboretum and for this reason we usually plant in odd numbers.