Are supersized nursery trees environmentally beneficial?

Over recent decades, there has been a great emphasis on a ‘day one’ instant impact look with the size of tree grown and dispatched going off the charts. Some trees are so big that only one or two fit on a 40-foot articulated lorry that travels thousands of miles from continental Europe to reach their new homes. There is little or no environmental gain in these.

The trouble is that this obsession for size has been transposed across all genera. It’s fair enough to buy a tree at semi mature sizes if they go on to live for at least two centuries but what’s the point of buying semi mature Malus (Apple) or Prunus (Cherry) as these only live for about 70 years in the first place. In environmental terms it is like starting to invest in a new Olympic athlete when they turn 40. What is more, a short lived tree planted at a huge size has lost its juvenile vigour and reacts very poorly to this process giving the end user a miserable result rather than the utopian day one orchard they had been promised and imagined.

A tree supplied at an age too old and too large to make an environmental contribution does not make sense. We do not see the point in planting a short lived tree, that has a life expectancy of under 100 years, at much over 16-18cm girth, our ‘large’ size. By then it is only about 10 years old, so you still have 90 years’ worth of environmental contribution to gain. Better still, buy these from a nursery who has grown them from scratch rather than an imported tree with a hefty carbon footprint already attached.
For longer lived trees, there is a good case for planting at semi mature girth, our ‘instant’ size, but surely in the times we face with our environment at such a knife edge, not at the super-sized girths of 35cm and 40cm+ girth that need large carbon guzzling machinery to transport and plant them, negating their environmental worth from the start.

We have followed the trend of producing bigger and bigger trees but when you see one specimen tree being loaded by a three tonne diesel belching telehandler, with the tree taking up all the room on the 40 foot articulated lorry, it just doesn’t make sense! Trees should be contributing to the environment, not working against it.

With this in mind we are phasing out our production of our larger sized trees. No trees will be potted into our 750lt, 1000lt, 1750lt and 3000lt pots this potting season for future availability. We are going to limit our sizing to 25-30cm girth for ‘A’ rated eco trees that have a lifespan of centuries and 16-18cm for shorter lived ‘C’ rated trees. Our maximum pot size will reduce to 500litre, with the majority of our stock being in 35litre to 100litre sizes. On the other end of the scale we are also introducing a new range of 3,000 UK providence trees in 20litre that will be 2.25-2.75m tall by September.

We have modelled our trees not only to measure their carbon storage potential but also their breakeven point of when they start to positively contribute to the environment, after our production and delivery processes have been accounted for. This has given us renewed focus to produce and sell a diverse range of trees that offer the greatest environmental benefit.

Written by Mike Glover, Managing Director.

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