Freeing the trees to stretch into spring

This week’s blog is by student gardener, Tina Roberts…

“Well, it hasn’t stopped raining these last few days and some may wonder what the garden team are able to achieve in this weather. The days are lengthening and we can feel all the plants stepping into spring. But, our trees have been battling against competitors and it’s been a pleasure to free them to grandstand their beauty. We have fought the rain and mud and it’s been worth it!

“Having started by the glasshouse, we have worked on removing competing grass and perennial weeds from around the base of all our favourite trees: Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’, Betula utilis subsp. jacquemontii and Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ to name but a few.

“Then we moved up towards the entrance and began work on the beautiful collection of cherry trees on the woodland banks above the ticket office donated by the Sakura Cherry Tree Project in 2021. Now three years old, the Prunus yedoensis, Prunus ‘Beni Yutaka’, and Prunus ‘Tai Haku’ have had chance to establish in the grassed areas but were calling out to be allowed to grow unimpeded by the nutrient hungry grass that has been blocking any organic matter feeding their roots.

“The team started by measuring circles based on the tree trunk (rather than the stake) making the diameter appropriate for the size of tree. We cut down approximately 5 to 6 cm to be able to cut away the turf and uproot perennial weeds that had grown over time. We don’t want to encourage further growth by simply mowing and we couldn’t hoe out weeds as we didn’t want to damage the surface roots. We used the opportunity to prune away any suckers from below the graft line and once this was done, we filled with a composted bark mulch shaped into a berm. This takes the shape of a tyre where the mulch doesn’t sit against the tree trunk itself and isn’t too high. As the tree matures this annual maintenance can start to flatten out and be as wide as the tree canopy. Some people use tree circles to prevent the grass taking back over.

“The end result is incredibly satisfying. I can hear the trees breathing a sigh of relief and putting a spurt on with the sheer joy a spring. For a small amount of work I’m really looking forward to reaping a bountiful canopy of blossom and a lovely spot to eat my lunch!”

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