Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

A winter walk with Westonbirt's curator

Posted: January 23, 2013 at 10:56 am Author: Mark Ballard

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.

Juniper moundsJuniper mounds

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.