Archive | Tree – Root and Branch

Portraits of trees with key features, origins and uses.

Best British Trees Reviewed


Our series of tree reviews covers exotics and UK trees with a few specials thrown in. Each separate post covers;

  • Latin names and other common names
  • Height, uses and normal distribution. –
  • Type of tree – Evergreen/ Deciduous – dictoyledons, monocotyledon, Conifer etc
  • Description of Leaves, Flowers, Fruit and bark –
  • Family links, varieties and near relatives –

Below are links to a dozen British natives with short descriptions.

English Oak
Top of most lists for great British Trees. Our list of tree reviews is no different, Oak is the tops!

Rowan – Mountain Ash
The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

Beech
From the copper coloured leaf to solid green hedges the Beech deserves a place in most gardens.

Silver Birch
Seem to be growing everywhere you look with some very distinctive varieties like Jacquemontii.

Horse Chestnut
Brought to England by William the Conqueror (no not really the conkers were there first).

Norway Spruce
Despite containing a foreign country name this Spruce grows freely on Forestry Commission land in the UK.

Hawthorn
Ideal for hedgerows and feeding birds. May blossom in May maybe.

Lime or Linden
a useful ornamental for parks and large gardens.

Hornbeam
Grows well in my garden and trains easily into a shapely tree.

Sycamore
Related to the other Acers but I would let someone else grow Sycamore on their land. (not my favourite)

Larch
A fast growing deciduous conifer good in forests.

Yew
Longest lived and slowest growing British tree synonymous with church yards and pagan worship.

Ash
Along with the Oak and the bonny Rowan tree the Ash is justly popular.

Notes

  • This completes our bakers dozen of British trees. If you want to learn more click on each link.
  • If you want to look for a different tree, type in the common or Latin name in our Google search box.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment or make a request on tree or garden related matters.
  • For more information of tree leaf shape design and function read this section.

Tree Organisations and Links
Woodland Trust

The Arboricultural Association
International Society of Arboriculture UK

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Crab Apple Trees for Fruit & Ornament

Malus Red Sentinel

The flowering crab apples, Malus Rosaceae, are excellent floral trees with the added bonus of small usually edible fruit. The Malus Red Sentinel above has a profusion of small hard red autumn fruit that can be admired in the garden, left to feed birds, converted into a jelly or added to other food dishes. Crab apples generally contain a deal of pectin and are seldom eaten uncooked.

Favourite Crab Apple Varieties

  1. Golden Hornet is a small tree with white flowers producing a large crop of small yellow fruit.
  2. John Downie perhaps the best fruiting large conical crab apples of bright orange to red.
  3. Jay Darling is ornamental with large, deep red flowers and crimson tinted foliage.
  4. Eleyi has purpleish shoots and very decorative purpleish fruit in Autumn. Slightly later flowering and a good pollinator.
  5. Profusion is a fragrant hybrid with large wine red clustered flowers. Ox-blood red fruit make this one of the best Crab Apples.

Continue Reading →

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Five Trees & Shrubs for Chalk Soil

The best trees for chalk soil conditions tend to be locally grown and not be Dutch imports. In fact they resemble shrubs more than trees but there are the odd exception that are tree like.

Syringia
Lilac

Lilac trees will tolerate limey chalk or clay soils. They are grown for the wonderful scent of the lilac blossom in spring and other than that they are not much of a feature. Syringia vulgaris Primrose is a white flowered variety and Syringia vulgaris Sensation has purple flowers with white edges. The flowers of the lilac make conical panticles which are useful in large flower arrangements.

Crataegus
Großkelchiger Weißdorn (Crataegus rhipidophylla)
Generically called the thorn these small trees have a variety of flowers and berries depending on the species including the Hawthorn. All species seem to do well in chalk soil. Crataegus laevigata Crimson Cloud has bright red flowers whilst Pauls Scarlet is a round-headed tree with red haws in autumn.
They are hardy and will tolerate pollution and some shade but perform best in full sun.

Aesculus
Conker
Horse Chestnuts produce conkers not edible chestnuts. They are stately trees needing room to grow to over 16 feet.
Aesculus parviflora is one of the smaller growing varieties that will suit a garden with chalk soil.

Carpinus betulus
Hornbeam
Hornbeams are a small genus of medium sized trees for chalk soil. Carpinus betulus Frans Fontaine is a slender fastigate form retaining its narrow habit with age. Carpinus japonica has many catkins, corrugated leaves and grows in a wide spread suitable for garden use.

Sambucus
Schwarzer Holunder (Sambucus nigra)

Sambucus is a hardy shrub or small ornamental tree for chalk soil or many other conditions. Sambucus nigra has black leaves and light pink to white flower bracts.

Cotoneaster
cotoneaster berries

Cotoneasters will grow in most soil conditions. They are invaluable for attracting hoverflies to the white flowers, birds to the red berries and gardeners to the shape and form of a good all-rounder.
Cotoneaster hybrid pendulus can be grown as a small weeping tree with arching branches. Cotoneaster horizontalis is commonly referred to as the Fish Bone cotoneaster

Read about our review of British trees with a bakers dozen links to our favourites.

Credits
Großkelchiger Weißdorn (Crataegus rhipidophylla) by blumenbiene CC BY 2.0
Schwarzer Holunder (Sambucus nigra) by blumenbiene CC BY 2.0

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Roots Root For National Tree Week

Lets get to the root of the problem, we seldom get to see roots in action but they are crucial to most plants and trees.

When it comes to trees their roots have two critical functions. Firstly they take up water and minerals. Secondly they help to anchor the tree often utilising a longer tap root. The solid root plate near the trunk normally extends as far as the leaf canopy. Thinner finer lateral roots can extend twice as far in search of water and nutrients. Other root functions for some species include storage of food or nutrients and  as part of a reproduction or regeneration system.

Book Cover

Even today, few places can rival an English oak wood in early summer for peace and beauty with its carpet of primroses and bluebells. Or the cathedral-like majesty of the autumn beech wood with the sun’s light filtering through the leaves. Or the brooding quiet of the ancient holly wood. Perhaps it is not surprising that our remote ancestors performed their acts of worship in forest clearings and woodland glades, for this is where they came face to face with ‘Nature’ – however they close to see it.

Myths About Tree Roots

  • Trees have long been held as part of the superstitions about witches
  • Roots do not penetrate solid objects like wall of drainage pipes that are in good condition.
  • Roots wont affect foundations except on clay soil where they help take away moisture and cause shrinkage.
  • After planting roots are not always keen to extend into surrounding soil unless it is broken up and loosened before hand.
  • Trees need watering even after the first year. Roots take time to establish and be able to supply the needs of of a growing tree. Make sure it is watered for the first 3 years and seldom allowed to dry out completely.
  • Not surprisingly roots will take the easy route if they find cracks in pavements or leaking drains.

Book Cover‘Throughout our long history, forests have been places of shelter, providing food for man and fodder for the animals; the wood for fuel (i.e. warmth and cooking) and for making weapons and other utensils. At the same time they have also been places of fear, where the temperamental Faere Folk, wood sprites and elementals lurked in the dappled shadows.’

Roots Near Buildings further reading

Roots in Pots

  • Pot bound’ is the phrase used when a containerised plant has roots that fill or over fill the pot and satrt going round and round in search of new soil. The pot below has not quite reached a critical stage as the rooot ball can be teased out.
  • If roots are left in a tight circle that is how they will stay and the plant will not thrive. I have occasionally dug out a poor plant to find the original compost is all that is feeding the plant and it is often bone dry. It is hard to rewet plants grown in peat coir and other similar substances.

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Best Trees for Toughness

Avoiding early onset of death caused by disease or climate change will affect the trees we plant in the future. Gardeners must consider tree selection carefully bearing in mind more than aesthetics and utility. Economics of forestry have increased there relevance to Britain as (the dreaded by some) Brexit nears. We import and export more wood than in previous years but with those extra tree miles comes risks. Toxins pests and disease are to readily spread from one country to another. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is designed to protect over-exploitation and endangerment  through international trade.

Some of the most reliable trees to plant with a view to them reaching maturity even if not in my life time include:

Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipifera

American Sweetgum Liquidambar stryraciflua

Evergreen Oak Quercus ilex also Pin Oak and Chestnut leaved oak

Silver Lime Tilia tomentosa

Sweet Chestnut Castaneasativa

Hornbeam Carpinus

Dawb Redwood Metasequoia

Wedding cake tree Cornus controversa

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Trees That Produce Hard Tough Wood

  • Janka is the basic measure of hardness for a sample of wood. The toughest tree is  an ironwood tree which is native to Australia.
  • Lignum vitae is so hard it was used to make policemen’s truncheons
  • Ebony and Brazilian Olivewood have tightly packed grain making up the hardness.
  • Snakewood is an exotic hardwood which is particularly prized for it’s decorative grain
  • Other hard woods common in Britain include mahogany, maple, oak, and teak.
  • Tropical pear, cashew and walnut are hard hardwoods.
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Trees for Carbon Capture and Global Warming

Church Lane

I am  unsure about all the fuss over carbon emissions and the impact of humans on the environment. There is a finite amount of carbon in our world and it cycles around in solids, dissolved in water or in gaseous forms. Plants helped convert the primordial carbon gasses and  volcanoes eruptions into solid carbons. Trees capture carbon and hold as wood for long periods and historically many trees fossilised into coal.

Other key examples of carbon capture include the stores of hydrocarbons in the form of tar, oil deposits and shale from which gas is now fracked. Less related to tree carbon capture is the vast quantities of limestone deposited from crustaceans and coral.

Many ecologists and scientist now believe we should invent mechanical ways of storing carbon as there is a perceived imbalance in the carbon cycle caused by human activity. I am amused by the idea of sending carbon dioxide down the mines and oil wells to be retained for some future ill defined purpose.

Personal View on Global Warming

  • The above photograph of the Yorkshire Dales including a tree and dry limestone wall contains a substantial amount of captured carbon as does the peat up on the moor.
  • All Yorkshire can’t compare to the Amazon rainforest or the dissolved carbon in the sea. Since I first wrote about carbon capture major advances with shale gas exploration have highlighted again the plants of eons ago that were converted into captured carbon and are now giving up their bounty to modern man.
  • All the hot air about global warming and political influence isn’t going to change me or my gardening approach.
  • I will garden responsibly but I do not think I will take my gardening to extremes. However, I am going to plant some trees, grow some hard carbon and hope these trees have a long and hard carbon producing life, I just regret I won’t be around to carbon date them.

Amazon Rain Forest

  • This resource is often quoted as a shorthand for the ills of global warming. Is it better to use the land freed up by deforestation for human or animal food production? I don’t think there is a perfect answer but avarice and vested interest is a poor driver of policy.
  • If a tree grows 10% each and every year ( at least until adult maturity) then if follows that small young trees will capture less carbon than stately relatives. There is also a potential amenity benefit from large well managed forests so lets encourage the big and beautiful.
  • In National Tree Week we should be celebrating our British heritage of trees and those organisationst and woodland charities that help manage them.
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National Tree Week Tribute 2018

Gardeners tips would like to pay tribute to the nation’s trees, past and present and all those that use or care for them. The time to pay this tribute must be during National Tree Week which runs from 24th November to 2nd December 2018.

Where to Start the Tribute

  • I have ordered 3 bare rooted fruit trees to be delivered on the 24th November. These will be planted in my mini orchard to augment the apple and plum varieties I already grow. I don’t really need any more trees for fruit production as the family can’t eat a good years crop even when taking jam into account. Still another tree will be a good backstop should one of my current trees start to fail.
  • It may be a bit early for Christmas but I have agreed to give and have sourced a Kilmarnock Willow tree for my sister’s present. This is to replace a dead willow tree that used to provide a place for garden birds to congregate.
  • Whilst learning oil painting and watercolour I have set aside 2 books on how to draw and paint trees. It will make me look closely at all trees (during cold winter months that will probably be through a window.)
  • Historically gardeners tips have published 443 articles about trees. I will re-post and update one of these pages on each day during National Tree Week

Quirky Tree Facts

  • An 80,000 year old Quaking Aspen in Colorado formed a clonal colony linked to a single massive subterranean root system with all the trunks above ground remaining connected to each other.
  • Against all odds trees can have great survival instincts

  •  The process known as dendrochronology involves counting the rings of a tree trunk.
  • If a birdhouse is hung on a tree branch, it does not move up the tree as the tree grows.
  • There are over 50,000 tree species and some large specimens can drink 100 gallons of water a day.
  • There are numerous uses of trees including food production, energy creation from burning, construction of buildings and ships, decoration and furniture. Best of all I like the idea of a tree house.

Raise a toast including a tree botanical to the UK National Tree Week and all the great trees in the world

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Trees for Burning

I am indebted to Lars Mytting for the inspiration to write a post about ‘trees for burning’ that would fit with our gardeners tips. Trees are a good source of green energy that can often  be used for various constructions including boats and furniture instead of reaching a fiery end.

Book Cover

Odd Facts about Wood and Trees for Burning.

  • All timber has pound for pound the same calorific value. Some burn hot and fast whilst other yield their heat treasure more slowly. The heating values per cubic meter vary with the weight.
  • Virtually all trees will burn once they have dried. They will dry quicker if they are split as the bark retains moisture.
  • Wounded Pine trees produce a lot of resin which produces ‘fatwood’ that burns strongly.
  • Rowan and Birch make great glowing embers with which to rekindle a fire.
  • Stacked would is measured in cords (not music to my ears).

Different Trees

  • Ash contains less moisture than many common trees and the wood is prized for burning, furniture making and its ability to be coppiced.
  • Beech grows slowly but can be long lived reaching 5 feet in diameter.It has a fine texture and can be steamed and used in furniture making.
  • Birch grows tall, knot free and straight a virtue in wood that needs drying, chopping or using for furniture making. It rots quickly if left on the ground.
  • Spruce and other conifers are prone to spitting and crackling when burnt but provides quick heat.
  • Oak is revered for its strength and has long been used as a building material. It will burn with great satisfaction but who would want to destroy such a useful wood.
  • More individual pieces of Aspen are burnt than any other wood because Aspen is used to make matches.

What About Gardens and Trees for Burning

  • It would take a large garden to grow enough wood for burning to heat a house but dry branches and twigs can be a start.
  • Clean air acts and pollution have curtailed garden fires but dry wood burns in a chimneyed dustbin without too much smoke.
  • Charcoal for a barbecue is best bought specially for the purpose.
  • Firethorn, burning bushes and bonfire night plots are not trees for our type of burning.

Old Sawn Derby Lime

Trees Burning with a Scent

  • All smoke smells to a greater or lesser extent but one all time favourite is wood from an Apple tree. The fruity aroma pervades the room.
  • Cedar has a strong scent that appeals to many. My house is named Cedar Ville for it’s cladding rather than burning (I hope).
  • Pine cones are a quick scented burner and the season wood will burn well if you can stand a pit of spitting.
  • If wood is hard to obtain you can get a herbal aroma from burning Rosemary or other fragrant herbs.

In the words of Lars –  ‘In Learning About Wood, We Can Learn About Life

Part guide to the best practice in every aspect of working with this renewable energy source, part meditation on the human instinct for survival, this definitive handbook on the art of chopping, stacking and drying wood in the Scandinavian way has resonated across the world, with more than half a million copies sold worldwide.’

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Trees Near Buildings

The UK is experiencing a significant drought following a very wet spring. Trees were encouraged to put on extra foliage and they are now regretting the extra moisture they need to transpire. This is leading to more cracks in the surface soil and could lead to permanent damage.

Trees take up large volumes of water during summer. Shrinking and swelling of clay soils can be a concern but trees 30 feet from buildings should not be a major concern. However it is wise to avoid large vigorous and thirsty trees like Oak, Poplar and Willow.

Root Damage

  • Main roots are usually confined to the top 3 feet of soil
  • Shrubs and climbers are seldom implicated in root damage.
  • Swelling trunks close to buildings may squeeze against structures.
  • Root size and extent is variable dependant on species.They seldom penetrate well maintained drains but vulnerable drains should be repaired.
  • Roots radiate irregularly seeking moisture and nutrient. They may spread two to three times the height of the tree.

Subsidence & Structural Damage

  • Older buildings with shallow foundations are more vulnerable.
  • Soils other than shrinkable clay do not swell and contract as much as other soil and seldom cause damage.
  • The side of a building nearest the tree can settle due to its weight in dry soil causing cracked masonry, distorted doors and windows.
  • Fences, hedges and boundary walls may be damaged by proximity.
  • Paths can be lifted by robust roots.
  • Wind damage to trees may make them structurally unsafe.

General Tree Issues

  • A tree is the responsibility of the landowner who may be liable for any damage it causes.
  • Check with the local planning authority to establish if a tree has a ‘Tree Preservation Order’. They should also know if the garden is in a designated conservation order whose objective is to conserve landscape and public spaces in an area.
  • Trees have atendency to grow larger than you originally intended. They can block out light through your windows, shade gardens and over hang into your neighbors garden.
  • If you need to remove a large tree be aware that the large volume of water it previously transpired will remain in the ground and may lift the water table, swell the soil and cause ‘heave’ or displacement.
  • Gutters and roofs may suffer from leaf litter.
  • Surface roots and suckers can be invasive.

Further Tree Safety Tips

  • Think about the future life and nature of your tree before planting or starting work. It pays to plan ahead.
  • If a large tree needs pruning, lopping or taking down use a tree surgeon who has full insurance.
  • Consider neighbors and  overhangs across roads and public paths.

 

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Trust Woodland to Supply Timber

What do Acute Oak Decline, The Red Squirrel Survival Trust and the silviculture reduction of oak rotation from 140 years to 100 years have in common? I can think of two or three answers around the work of the late Peter Goodwin.

Peter was from a family of cabinet makers and with Lewis Scott founded the Woodland Trust a charity focused on forestry and users of the different types of wood. The trust is a fount of knowledge about our native trees, tree planting advice and woodland based education.

Book Cover

Acute Oak Decline (AOD)

  • AOD is an aggressive disease which can result in high levels of tree mortality within 5 years of diagnosis.
  • Like chronic Oak decline, AOD affects pendunculate and sessile oak trees that are over 50 years old
  • AOD is caused by a pathogenic bacteria that attacks the trunk of the tree causing a dark, sticky fluid to ooze from cracks or lesions in the bark.
  • Trees may also suffer from canopy dieback, similar to that in chronic oak decline.
  • Chronic Oak Decline is a less vociferous disease caused in part by insect damage caused by the leaf roller moth caterpillars .
  • The Woodland Trust has sponsored research into the problems and potential treatment.

The Red Squirrel Survival Trust

  • The American grey squirrel is a destructive pest that has displaced many colonies of red squirrels.
  • By keeping reds and greys apart, red squirrels can be allowed to thrive protecting the biodiversity of Britain’s native woodlands.
  • Other activities of the trust include establishing new red colonies across the UK wherever feasible and funding research.

 Ancient and veteran trees

  • The British love ancient trees, the stories associated with them, cultural connections and historic uses of timber for dwellings ship building etc.
  • The number of ancient trees in the UK (127,595) is exceptional. Many look special and support rare fungi, plants and animals.
  • Visit the Woodland Trust’s  Ancient Tree Inventory to find ancient trees near you. ‘You’ll be able to record one that is missing or search the database for the largest or oldest trees in any part of the UK.’
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