by June Cynthia, 3rd September 2021
Celebrate 70 years of the Queen’s reign by planting a tree in her honour
The 1st of September may well be what met office call the autumnal equinox, but autumn officially starts on the 22nd of September. So now we are finally on the countdown to a very exciting time in the garden.
Not only is this the perfect time to change the layout of your garden or to change your normal plants over to drought resistant types (as I explain in the autumn issue of Welsh Borer Life) but there’s another good reason to get excited.
Hands up those of you who would like an extra bank holiday next year? I thought that might be the case, so write the 6th of February 2022 onto your calendar, as our Queen will amazingly celebrate 70 loyal years on the throne, making this her Platinum Jubilee year. To honour her majesty’s anniversary and indeed her birthday, this historic event is going to be celebrated with, among other celebrations, an extra Bank Holiday. The May day bank holiday which is usually held on the first Monday in May, has now been moved to Thursday 2nd June, thus creating a longer four-day fabulous celebration for this historic event. It will run from Thursday 2nd June to Sunday 5th June.
Other interesting celebrations will be organised throughout next year and her majesty has asked that her subjects plant a tree to mark her 70th anniversary as our monarch. What nicer gift can we give to her than to plant a tree in her honour and, what greater gift from her majesty to the universe. Thank you, mam and congratulations.
So instead of waiting until next year, why not plant a tree now, as the autumn is the perfect season. Also, bare root trees are less expensive to purchase at present, so from now until the end of February is the ideal time to take advantage of the savings.
Below are two suggested trees for your gardens:
Silver Birch – Betula pendula (Perfect for the occasion)
The silver birch tree is a favourite of many as it is a graceful deciduous tree with its canopy hanging down over a beautiful silvery white trunk. It shows its wonderful shape off to its best in the wintery snow. A favourite on Christmas cards.
The silver birch's height though must be controlled if you have a small garden. Planting it in a largish container will stop it outgrowing a smaller garden. But if you have plenty of space then it makes a handsome specimen tree. Never plant near paths or buildings as the roots can become troublesome
Dig a hole 60 x 60 wide (2ft x 2ft) and 30cm (12”) deep. Add a little organic matter i.e., well-rotted manure or a good compost to the base. Spread the roots out in the hole, cover the roots well leaving no air pockets and tread in well. Water and place a mulch around the base to prevent it drying out. Keep well-watered in dry spells until established. Do not grow in waterlogged areas.
Suggestion: try complimenting the beautiful silver bark by planting around its base snowdrops, white crocus, Thalia daffodils (white) white hellebores and Erythronium or dogtooth lilies. Or, ring the changes with the odd clump of blue bells, blue crocus or blue Muscari (grape hyacinth) etc.
Just gently scatter the bulbs/corms from where you stand and plant where they lay for a naturalistic look. Pretty as a picture and just beautiful!
A Tree for the children: - The Christmas Tree
The children will really enjoy helping to grow their very own Christmas tree, especially as it’s in honour of the Queen’s platinum jubilee and even more because it’s helping to protect the planet which is another very exciting event to tell their teacher about. Christmas trees come in all sorts of sizes so it might be nice to choose a smallish type so that the children can plant it themselves and can measure it each year to see how much it has grown. With help, they can decorate their tree with battery operated outdoor lights at Christmas time.
Choose between ‘container grown’ trees which have always been grown in their container but are more expensive to buy or, ‘containerised trees’ which are less expensive as these have been grown in a field and then dug up and placed into a pot. These might be tricky as the roots may have been disturbed. I suggest the former because we don’t want to dishearten the children if the tree dies.
Choose a site that can be enjoyed from your windows and plant the tree while the soil is warm. Now is a good time to plant but if left then avoid cold frosty weather. Do not plant in waterlogged areas of the garden. Give the tree a good watering after purchasing and continue watering well until you are ready to plant it.
The size of the plant pot roughly determines the width and the depth of the hole. Dig the hole slightly wider than the pot and as deep as the pot. Do not bury the root ball or trunk any deeper than it was in its original pot. You can measure the depth by popping the plant into the hole and by laying a pole across the top. If satisfied and at this point you could stake the tree before you cover the roots in soil. Hence no damage to the roots. Take care not to leave air pockets when covering the root ball. The stake will be of help until the tree is established and is a good idea with all the prevailing winds we suffer during the winter months. Spread an organic mulch like well-rotted manure or a good compost around the base of the tree to prevent drying out. Keep well-watered until established and during dry spells.
As well as a Christmas tree and the silver birch, there are many other trees to choose from, many of which help wildlife. For instance, the Mountain ash or Rowen tree has a bounty of berries for the birds in the autumn. You might also like to choose a fruit tree, a giant willow or even the majestic blue atlantica glauca tree (blue cedar) which reaches for the sky eventually.
Whichever tree you buy, choose with care by considering the size of your garden and the tree roots in relation to the proximity to buildings and pathways. Enjoy the celebrations next year, oh and give the tree a hug after planting.
June Cynthia is a Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist and award-winning florist and gardening expert