Tag Archive: native


carpinus betulus autumn colourThis is the third in my new series on garden trees. I’ve also done an article about trees and garden design.

Common name: Hornbeam

Native areas: The 30–40 species occur across much of the north temperate regions, including the U.K., with the greatest number of species in east Asia, particularly China. Only two species occur in Europe, and only one in eastern North America. 

Historical notes: Traditionally, the timber of hornbeams has been used to produce mallets, skittles and even the moving parts of pianos! The common English name of “hornbeam” derives from the hardness of the wood (likened to ‘horn’) and the Old English ‘beam’, a tree (similar to the German for tree, “Baum”).

Pleached trees- picture RHS
Pleached trees- picture RHS

Features: A large, deciduous tree (growing to 20 metres plus), with a grey-fluted trunk and spreading canopy. It has ovate, ribbed and serrated edge leaves that turn a beautiful clear yellow in autumn. The flowers are wind-pollinated pendulous catkins, produced in spring. The male and female flowers are on separate catkins, but on the same tree (i.e it is monoecious). The fruit is a small nut about 3–6 mm long, held in a leafy bract; the bract may be either trilobed or a simple oval, and is slightly asymmetrical.

Uses:  Wonderful in a parkland setting, grown in groups, it also ideal for pleaching (i.e. training into a ‘hedge on stilts’) and for use along the edges of smaller gardens – just like here at Old School Garden. Received the Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 2002.  Some of the cultivars are suitable for smaller gardens as their growth habit is more columnar.

Some of the cultivars available include:

‘Fastigiata’– a tree of medium size (10-15 metres in height) and with a pyramidal habit, slender in its youth. Suitable for smaller areas despite developing ‘middle age spread’ (it can grow out to  1o metres wide). Very effective if left feathered at the base to encourage gold and orange autumn leaf colour. Stiffly ascending branches give it a columnar shape, resembling Lombardy Poplar.

‘Fastigiata Frans Fontaine’- selected from a street in the Netherlands in the 1980’s this retains its columnar habit better than the ordinary ‘Fastigiata’ variety (3 metres wide after 25 years) so is even better suited to restricted areas.

‘Purpurea’-  medium height (10-15 metres), introduced in the 1870’s , this is well suited to arboretums and plant collections. Young leaves flush with a purple tinge and then gradually turn deep green and them a similar yellow to the species hornbeam in  autumn. Slower growing and ultimately smaller than the species tree. Well suited to heavier soils.

”Japonica’-  (Japanese hornbeam), introduced from Japan in 1895, a small (5-10 metres tall), rounded tree, very effective if pleached. Darker than the species tree, with heavily corrugated leaves, darker than the species tree. Attractive, prolific hop-like fruit. AGM in 2002

Growing conditions: hornbeams grow well in most soils, including clay and chalk and is useful for planting where there are poor planting conditions.

 Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS- Carpinus betulus

RHS- pleaching

Barcham trees directory

Old School Gardener

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mature betula pendula bartram treesThis is the second in my new series on garden trees. I’ll shortly be doing one or two articles about trees and garden design, in my series ‘Design my garden’, so keep an eye out.

Common name: Silver Birch

Native areas: Europe, though in southern Europe it is only found at higher altitudes

Historical notes: Also known as the ‘Lady of the woods’ because of its slender and graceful appearance. Especially popular in the UK. Grown as an ornamental plant and also for its timber. It is used for a range of purposes, from broom-making and steeple-chase fencing to medicines.

Features: A medium tree (15- 20 metres tall), with a conical, semi weeping habit, with white bark and horizontal lines and large diamond -shaped cracks which form as the tree matures. Leaves ovate, yellow in autumn. Flowers in catkins. Can be grown either as a single or multi-stemmed tree.

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Uses: Very good as a multi-stemmed tree for exposed or elevated positions as they have a low centre of gravity. These look good in small groups in informal settings. I have a few that contribute to a mixed ‘woodland edge’  here at Old School Garden, providing a natural boundary to the garden. It can also be used as a specimen, though some of the cultivars available perhaps provide more interesting features than the species plant:

‘Dalecarlica’ (Swedish Birch, syn. ‘Laciniata’ or ‘Crispa’)- deeply cut leaves which weep gracefully, white peeling bark

‘Fastigiata’- stiffly ascending branches give it a columnar shape, resembling Lombardy Poplar

‘Purpurea’ slow growing and rare, with new, dark purple leaves,softening t o dark green/purple by summer.

‘Tristis’- tall (15-20 metres), weeping birch, with beautiful winter structure.

‘Youngii’- similar habit to ‘Tristis’ but shorter (5-10 metres) and so more suitable for smaller gardens, especially good as a specimen  in lawns.

‘Zwisters Glory’- from Switzerland, this new variety has gleaming white bark, so makes a good avenue tree and a good choice for urban areas and is quick growing.

Two other species of birch are also worth mentioning:

Betula pubescens- ‘Common White Birch’, prefers damper conditions than B. pendula, also it’s more hardy. It’s ascending branches give it a more solid appearance than B. pendula.

Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’/ ‘Doorenbos’-a medium tree with ascending branches, most admired for its almost pure white bark, looking very effective against a dark background.

Growing conditions: grows well in most soils and is good for parks and woodland, but is not suitable for areas which have soil that becomes compacted. Difficult to transfer as a bare rooted specimen, but containerised plants are more successful.

Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS

Barcham trees directory

Silver Birch among others in the snow at Old School Garden, January 2013
Silver Birch among others in the snow at Old School Garden, January 2013

Old School Gardener

acer campestre by wendy cutler

Acer campestre Autumn colour by Wendy Cutler

Welcome to my new ‘A-Z’ series on Garden Trees. My recently concluded series on perennials proved to be very popular so I hope that this will be equally appealing to my blog readers and followers. I plan to give a few brief facts on 26 trees that are suitable for gardens, together with a picture or two and how they might be used in the garden. My companion collection of articles called ‘Design my Garden’ will feature a few articles about the different design uses of trees in parallel with this new series.

I will be using various sources for the articles, but much will come from the very useful catalogues of Barcham Trees,a specialist tree nursery in Cambridgeshire I had the pleasure of visiting a couple of years go. So, here we go…..

Common name: Field Maple

Native areas: England

Historical notes: used for making musical instruments in the Middle Ages.

Features: small to medium height tree (10-15 metres) with rounded for. Leaves with 5 blunt lobes, turning varied tints of yellow, golden brown and red in the autumn.  Flowers small, green, forming typical winged maple fruitsCan be grown as a single or multi-stem tree.

Uses: a tree for woodland settings or used in small groups in large open gardens and landscapes especially valuable for its autumn colour; also useful in hedgerows (it is very wildlife friendly and will tolerate rough pruning in winter to keep its shape). Various clones of Acer campestre are well suited to streetscapes and urban settings as they have a more regular shaped crown than the parent.

Growing conditions: grows best in rich, well-drained soils, but will do well in most soil types and is tolerant of drought, soil compaction and air pollution.

Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS

Barcham trees directory

Old School Gardener

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A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

Most gardens play an important part in promoting biodiversity and maintaining ecosystems – vital if we are to have a sustainable planet. You might want to further enhance your garden’s ecological value, or perhaps promote wildlife to help pollinate plants (important if you want to gather your own seed and/or are growing your own food) and to help control unwanted pests.

Promoting wildlife is also a way or enriching the garden experience – just think about birdsong, the buzzing and gentle flitting of bees from flower to flower, the colourful displays of butterflies and the fascinating movements of the myriad insects and other ‘critters’ out there! So how can you ‘design’ wildlife into your garden and gardening activities?

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

First it’s important to recognise that you and your friends and family are also going to use the garden, so there’s no need to ‘go completely wild’ and make it unpleasant or difficult for humans to use the garden. In fact the best designed and managed gardens (and often the most beautiful) can also be the best for wildlife. These are the places where nature has not been allowed to take over.

You can ‘tip the balance in favour of wildlife’ in a number of ways. If you have a large garden you can adopt a ‘conservation’ approach and set out separate areas to attract and support different types of wildlife. If your garden is smaller, you can provide a range of features for the wildlife species you want to encourage. This approach is especially important if you want to actively harness nature to control pests.

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

So what can you do?

  • Create habitats that mimic those in nature and complement the local range outside the garden

  • Provide natural shelter, nesting, food and drink –  important as ‘stopping off’ points for temporary visitors to your garden as well as for longer term residents

  • Aim to increase diversity- and recognise that this is going to be a gradual process

  • Build in some key features, such as…..

Climbign planst like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

Climbing plants like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

  1. Native plants- these act as a host to many more species than non native plants

  2. Wildflowers, grasses, weeds- these attract butterflies and many other insects. Nettles are important hosts for species that aid a healthy garden; butterflies and ladybirds. Maybe you can grow these in a container if you don’t have the space to leave patch in the garden?

  3. Nectar and pollen rich flowering plants- these  feed butterflies, bees, hoverflies etc.- which in turn attract birds

  4. Trees, flowering and fruiting shrubs- these provide food and shelter for birds

  5. Climbing plants- they provide food and cover for birds and food for insects and butterflies. Examples include Ivy, honeysuckle, quince, wisteria, clematis..

  6. Hedges- these give food and shelter for wildlife (e.g hedgehogs, voles and shrews), food and nesting for birds- where it’s practical choose to install a hedge rather than a fence

  7. Water- a pond brings masses of creatures to drink as well as attracting resident pond life

  8. Wood piles – insects colonise the decaying wood, attracting spiders and birds; beetles lay grubs; toads and hedgehogs hibernate underneath; slow worms use it as home (and these prey on slugs)

  9. Compost heap – provides both food for the soil and home for minute insects and other ‘mini beasts’ which feed birds, hedgehogs, toads. It also acts as a possible nesting place for hedgehogs, toads and slow worms.

  10. Bird and Bat boxes, tables, feeders and baths- put these up in secluded and sheltered spots out of full sun – and out of the reach of cats! Birds need extra food in winter. provide a range of foods according to the species you want to attract. Birds need to drink and bathe to keep their plumage in good order- even in winter, so keep birdbaths unfrozen

  11. Stones and walls- toads, newts and female frogs usually spend winter on land, under rockery stones (or in a log pile). Beetles, spiders, insects live in nooks and crannies

  12. Bug hotels’ can provide a ‘man made’ substitute for the above, and are good fun to make with children.

'Bug Hotels' can provide a 'Des Res' for many insects and other critters

‘Bug Hotels’ can provide a ‘Des Res’ for many insects and other critters

Further information: A range of useful wildlife gardening guides

Old School Gardener

Two projects in the village of Cawston, Norfolk enabled me to ‘cut my teeth’ on designing playful landscapes.

Both were completed about 6 years ago and largely on a voluntary basis. I remain involved at the local Primary School, helping them with their School Gardening activities, but my early involvement was in designing, sourcing planting and organising the creation of an ‘Eco Park’ – basically to try and diversify the habitats and play opportunities in a bland, mown grass playing field with a solitary multi function play unit. The design features a curved mixed native species hedge (which is now over 2 metres high) and a haven for wildlife, several groupings of native trees such as Silver Birch, Hazel, Douglas Fir, Beech, Oak, Feild Maple, Mountain Ash and Black Poplar, and some areas of shallow mounding.

The planting has been used to create several different spaces, and grass within these has been left to grow long both to provide varied habitats and interesting play areas. In addition a ‘Nectar Bar’ of insect – friendly herbaceous and other flowering plants has been created alongside the school, including a painted pergola which both helps to privide shade to the south – facing side of the school and added planting interest.

The second project involved working on commission for the Parish Council and a local charity to design, seek funding, consult local people and supervise the creation of a new play landscape at the ‘Oakes Family Field’ located to one side of the village. The design was constrained by the need to retain areas for cricket and football pitches and to avoid placing play areas close to housing on one side of the field. There is a mix of landscape features including a large mound (with a slide), timber play equipment for balancing and enclosed social areas, as well as a selection of traditional play equipment in two main areas, one for younger, one for older children. Over £100,000 was raised from various sources and so a wide range of play equipment and features has been possible.

Old School Gardener

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