Always look at the parent

Imported pests and diseases are rife among UK trees, but there is a solution!

With an explosion of foreign tree imports in recent decades, the Arboricultural industry is now reaping what it has sowed. Ash dieback, the Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) and the pine moth caterpillar are just a few of the unwelcome visitors to the UK, forcing Government importation bans and costing Defra a fortune to police. OPM is a significant hazard to human health, causing severe respiratory reactions, and will cost authorities at least a six-figure sum to control in London alone this year.

But does it have to be that way? Mike Glover, managing director, explains how we collect seed from veteran trees across the UK each autumn:

‘I have a simple rule when choosing seed—always look at the parent. One of my favourites is a superb English oak in Northamptonshire. If it looks this good after 700 years nature is telling me all is well!’

‘Whether it’s English oak from Northamptonshire and Windsor, holm oak from Norfolk, sycamore and beech from Gloucestershire, birch from Wales or alder from Scotland, we believe there should be an emphasis on home grown trees. ‘British trees are best suited to thrive in this country and, by growing trees in this way, the threat of pests and diseases entering the country is negated,’ Mike enthuses.

But trees are a long-term business and there is always demand for a greater diversity than our native range. Significantly, the topic of tree importation and the protection of woodland became a topic of discussion in the House of Lords earlier this year. Barcham Trees was singled out for trying to tackle these problems by introducing its own quarantine system for all imported trees. ‘We don’t import trees and sell to customers for immediate planting—instead, we hold all imported trees on the nursery for at least one full growing season. During this time, they are monitored by professionals and outside agencies such as Defra,’ Mike elaborates. It may not always be practical to look at the parent, but knowing where our trees have come from means we can enjoy a full range of beautiful specimens without unintended and potentially disastrous consequences.

For our biosecurity policy please follow the link Biosecurity

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How we produce our trees

Welcome to the first, I hope, of many production blogs. My name is Warren Holmes-Chatfield and I am the Operations Director at Barcham Trees. In production it is our job to do the growing and maintaining of our trees in our distinctive white bags.

We are coming to the end of a busy period on production where we have been potting our new intake of field grown trees. This process starts in October and finishes around the end of April. The nursery really starts to fill up very quickly at this time of year especially when we start potting our large container trees.

Once potting is complete the next big operation for us is pruning of all the stock, this takes place all through the summer months. Starting with the pruning of oaks, moving onto cherries at the start of spring and on it goes through the hundreds of varieties that Barcham Trees grows.

Of course water is very important to the crop and we always emphasize this when you buy your trees from us, water is extremely important in the first 18 months of the trees life once it is planted out. In March we will start to get our irrigation system up and running. Irrigation tanks are filled from our 11 acre reservoir which was filled up during the winter months with 16 million gallons of water, that’s a lot of baths!! Once this is up a running the computer system delivers water and feed to all of the 120,000+ trees across our nursery and the growing season truly begins.

Posted by Warren Holmes-Chatfield

 

 

 

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How do trees hold themselves up?

If you watch a mature tree on a windy day you will notice that whilst all the outer branches are moving, the centre trunk is still. The tree canopy is defusing the energy of the wind to protect its centre from rocking out of control. A tree with a lot of space around it develops a mature and well developed crown so is better equipped to defuse strong winds whereas trees grown close together rely on each other to do this as alone they are weaker with thinner canopies. In a dense copse, the trees on the outer edge are the strongest as they have grown having to withstand prevailing winds and if they are removed the weaker ones in the middle can soon blow over, deprived of their protectors.

Think of a large tree with an established root system as having the same dynamic as a lovely red wine glass, with a wide bowl supported by a thin stem and wide base. If you put such a glass on a table, without wine, and try and blow it over you won’t be able to. However, put a pencil on its end and you can blow it over no problem. Trees grow with a similar stability. Wide rounded crowns, a slender trunk and a wide shallow root system make them mechanically very strong.

Multi stem trees have a low centre of gravity so are the best equipped to withstand the strongest winds. Feathered trees, i.e. with branches all the way down the trunk, are also stronger than lollypop shaped trees. I never forget walking passed a Pinus nigra Austriaca (Black Pine) on a stormy day on the Norfolk coast, as when I was under its protection the air was completely still with all of the tree’s branches and needles diffusing the strength of the wind.

At Barcham, we grow our large trees at wide spacing to make them strong. If our trees can withstand our fen climate they will be fine when planted in your garden!

Posted by Mike Glover

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How to position your Prunus serrula Tibetica

I’ve been growing trees for 28 years and I saw something that I have never witnessed until today.

Prunus serrula Tibetica (Tibetan Cherry) is always revered for its bark but against a low winter setting sun it is an amazing site to behold!

Good as a multi stem or single stem specimen tree, if you place this in the garden with this sun angle in mind you will not be disappointed

       

Posted by Mike Glover

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Quirky

The amount of times I hear the word ‘quirky’. It can apply to behavioural characteristics for both people or animals, or even houses and events. For me, ‘quirky’ is a desirable trait, something different and interesting from the normal.

And you guessed it, quirky is derived from the Latin ‘Quercus’ or in our language ‘Oak’. The haphazard but beautifully shaped crown of our iconic mature English oak, such a feature to our countryside, is what we refer to each time we use the word. It implies tried, tested and unique, much like this beauty that I harvest acorns from every other year in Northamptonshire. This tree was around and thriving when Richard 3rd was born at Fotheringhay Castle in 1452 which coincidentally is less than 2 miles away from where it still grows today!

I always point out to my impressionable kids that most things in life always ends up, or starts, with trees!

Posted by Mike Glover

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Combating pests and diseases

Following on from a House of Lords debate in January bemoaning the introduction of new pest and diseases coming into the UK from companies importing trees from abroad, we are saying that it doesn’t have to be this way! Every October I collect seeds from veteran UK trees that have a proven history and providence. The acorns I collect are from specimen trees over 300 years old and they are planted in seedbeds the day after I harvest them for best germination results.

Seedlings emerge in the spring and are left to grow on for a year before being pricked out into containers the following winter to develop their root systems for a further growing season.From there they are planted into our field unit to grow on for another 4 years before being lifted and containerised for sale as an instant impact tree to provide beauty or privacy screening for gardens across the breadth of the UK.

Always ask where your trees are coming from! 9 times out of 10 they will be imported, sometimes with nasty ramifications. Oak Processionary Moth, which can hospitalize people if they inhale their projectile hairs, was brought into the UK by importing nurseries. This pest will cost London over a six figure sum to combat next summer, all because of lax biosecurity. It is possible to reverse this trend by buying from British growers who don’t factor in trees from abroad for immediate resale and who would rather put the time in to do the job properly!

 

Posted by Mike Glover

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Exciting new Royal Appointment

We were thrilled by the news just before Christmas that our application for the Grant of a Royal Warrant of Appointment to the Prince of Wales has been approved. We have been supplying His Royal Highness for the last five years and to have this accreditation for our nursery is a rare honour. All the staff here at Barcham are very proud to now be able to display the Feathers alongside our existing Warrant to Her Majesty the Queen.

 

Posted by Mike Glover

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Christmas is on its way!

Well it seems that time of year is upon us that we drink, eat and be merry (!) and indeed it is the time of year that the tree production process ramps up to being in full swing! So, as much as we are getting into the Xmas spirit here at Barcham, we are full steam ahead now with lifting from the field and containerising new stock ready for supply next autumn time.

Our potting machine has been working hard for around 3 weeks now, being used to pot the smaller stock in an automated process that means we can containerise a considerable number of trees each day. The start of this process has been somewhat delayed this year, as the extremely mild autumn and early winter has meant it has taken some time for the deciduous trees to be ready for lifting from the field, however we are catching up now. We have also lifted some large, semi-mature, Betula albosinensis Fascination for hand potting that we have been growing in the field next to the main road to the Barcham nursery. These trees are stunning and we are all very excited to have them ready for sale next year, and hopefully video some for Buy The Tree You See in the summer!

In other news, the finishing touches have recently been added to our latest poly tunnel, which will be used to over winter some of the more tender species such as Olive.

Don’t forget that trees are a great Xmas gift, and whilst time is running out now to get trees to you in advance of Xmas day, we can send a copy of our book in the post to you to give to the recipient of your gift, or indeed we can send gift vouchers for trees. you can buy Gift Vouchers, that we can happily personalise for you, at the following link. Buy Christmas Gift Vouchers here.

 

   

Posted by Ellen Carvey

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Autumn: What a fantastic time of year for trees!

Generally it is the summer and spring months that bring us the most cheer in terms of trees and plants. The fresh and lush greens of new foliage and glorious floral display exciting everyone into thinking about getting out into the garden again as the dulldrums of winter draws to its end.

Yet for trees, it is not just spring and summer that brings attraction, the autumn is equally as beautiful and whilst it signifies the beginning of the winter for some, it also heralds the start of the planting season for us! The start of our main periods of both production for next season and indeed the busiest time of year for despatching of trees for planting.

Whilst many trees give a vague attempt at producing some colour before limping into winter, there are a stalwart few species that produce a fantastic display year in, year out. Of these old reliables, our favourite here at Barcham has to be Liquidambar styraciflua Worplesdon, and whilst I do not think that any photograph can do the beauty of this autumn colour any justice at all, I think you will agree that it is stunning. See the pic on the right of a double row of these trees. They somewhat remind me of a “Fab” lolly effect, whereby the top of the tree reaches a deep crimson purple, giving rise to a whole array of shades, rght to yellows towards the bottom of the tree. It is truly a magnificent sight and often needs to be seen to truly be appreciated.

This autumn we have been lucky with the mild weather and bright, sunny days which has made for some great photographs of the nursery. Trees that are still holding onto their leaves look super against the back drop of a setting sun and bright blue sky. The bottom photograph is of a Malus evereste, which are still pretty much in full leaf! This one is also showing some plump and luscious fruit, with the foliage only showing minimal signs that it is about to fall for winter.

The onset of winter for trees is brought about by a combination in the the day length and the extreme of the change between day and night temperature. this November has been exceptionally mild, with temperatures of recent nights only just dipping below 10°C. This is strange for the trees and as such we have seen some huge differences in how the trees across the nursery are dealing with autumn time. Some have lost their leaves completely, some showing glorious autumn colour and others, such as the Malus varieties, are still in full leaf! No doubt as we continue to march through November, December will take its tol and finish off the final of the persisting deciduous trees and give rise to the might of the evergreens over the winter! It is then their time to shine.

Here’s to some cooler weather and even more perfect tree planting and lifting conditions in the very near future!

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