Winter is the ideal time to prune your trees. Ignoring this, or doing a poor job, could consign your trees to long-term issues in health, in fruitfulness, in growth, and even in its very survival through the long cold months.
There are around three billion trees in the UK, many of them in the woodlands that make up 13% of our land area, but many more are in our care, in our gardens. They’re often seen to be as solid as the homes we live in – after all, some of them will have been there long before your property was built. But the reality is that sometimes trees fall, and if you’re really unlucky they’ll fall on something expensive, like a neighbour’s home, their car, or their prized petunias. OK, so maybe the petunias are a bad example. But if this happens can you really be held liable by your neighbour or was it just an ‘act of God’?
Welcome to another article in our ‘sick tree’ series, our look at the most common nasties to attack your garden trees, how to spot that they have a problem in the first place and what, if anything, can be done about it.
Known as ‘May blossom’ because historically it has flowered in May, it’s also called the ‘bread and cheese tree’ because of its ‘edible’ leaves, and was named ‘hagthorn’ in Anglo-Saxon. And with ‘haga’ meaning hedge, it is not surprising that we find the hawthorn tree as part of many hedgerows across the country as well as growing as a standalone tree in shrubland. The hawthorn can grow, in full maturity, to heights of up to 15 meters and is identified by its entwined brown-grey bark, branches fortified by thorns and lobbed leaves. The hawthorn flowers between the months of April and May and produces deep red berries or ‘haws’.
Many green-fingered gardeners or weekend horticulturists may question whether they need to employ the services of a tree surgeon – after all, there’s little that can’t be done these days with access to the right equipment and Google/YouTube. However, the fact is that not only is the equipment hazardous for the untrained individual to use, but without the proper arboreal know-how it is possible to do more harm than good in your garden. Amateur tree surgery attempts and poor pruning practices can have unsightly and potentially dangerous consequences, so it’s important to consider carefully whether you have the appropriate knowledge before you decide to go DIY with your tree care.
When I was younger I used to love picking blackberries with my parents. It’s not like we did it all the time, but once in a while, bucket in hand, we’d traipse off to Alexander Palace or any other accessible bramble Mecca and pick away until our fingers were stained rosy with juice. BUT, as well as being a reason for an outing on a Sunday to seek out this wild crop that mum would turn into jam, it was also instilled in me from an early age, not to eat any berries unless mum and dad were there. This warning was issued because no matter how inviting berries might look, some present a real danger as they are poisonous. It was a bit like the ‘don’t pick mushrooms’ speech we got as well.
The Leyland Cypress is an evergreen tree, shaped much like a flame in silhouette with tiny dark green leaves and small spherical cones. It grows to 35m or more in height and spreads outwards by up to 8m. This tree will thrive in all forms of soil, including clay, chalk, loam and sandy soils, so long as it’s well drained.
Dieback is a common condition in Britain’s oak tree population, but in recent years the new menace of acute oak dieback (AOD) has appeared. The combination of a new strain of bacteria accompanied by an infestation of a particular species of beetle is thought to cause and/or make worse the situation, and it is a problem that is rapidly spreading – with AOD currently identified from Somerset to East Anglia and as far north as the Midlands.
Many gardens have them and in Britain we love the presence of that shade-giving, season-welcoming, fauna habitat that is the tree. However, with great timber comes great responsibility, if I’m allowed to paraphrase Spiderman, because trees can also cause arguments, destroy property and cost you a small fortune in recompense, so it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities as a tree owner.