Sorbus aucuparia, commonly called the rowan, is a deciduous tree with a history stretching back thousands of years across the northern hemisphere. In olden times the tree was planted outside homes to ward off witches and evil spirits, but today the rowan is commonly planted along streets and avenues for its aesthetic qualities but also because it’s a relatively low maintenance tree and only grows to around 15 metres. Rowans are happy in gardens, in the wild and especially at altitude where they flourish where others would not.
If you have a holly tree in your garden, lucky you – it’s one of my favourite trees for the vibrant, almost other-worldly, green of its leaves, because of the protection it offers to nesting birds, and for its evergreen nature, which means you can enjoy a holly all year round.
The hazel is a mysterious tree, treasured as a symbol of knowledge, thought to be magical, and later cultivated for its nuts. Today it’s just another deciduous tree that makes our woodland and gardens look that little bit more wonderful.
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’.
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.
The ash tree is the third most common tree in Britain, behind the birch and the oak, according to the Woodland Trust. It is found across many different ecological zones, from the Arctic Circle to Turkey, but this staple of the English woodland is currently under threat from a biological attack.
The silver birch is a striking tree, with its silver-grey trunk and limbs that shed paper-like bark, light canopy and drooping branches, weighed down by yellow-brown and green catkins in April and May each year. It grows to around 30 metres in height and its triangular-shaped, serrated leaves go from light green in the summer to yellow in the autumn before they fall from the tree.
The oak tree holds a special place in all our hearts. It’s the most common species of tree in England, and because of the height, scale, and age that it grows to, it has always been considered a symbol of endurance in our history. This is the story of the mighty oak, and how having one in your garden could well make you a very lucky homeowner.