DULWICH STORIES:

Local arborist John Welton offers tips for planting trees in small spaces

The Estate is home to hundreds of ancient trees. Everyone has a role in replenishing and maintaining our natural environment and as we approach autumn, this is the very best time for tree-planting.

Local arborist John Welton

Autumn

The ground is still warm. New tree roots are active for a few weeks yet, allowing them to establish with the surrounding soil. This means a healthier, more resilient tree next year.

Trees are essential to our environment. They absorb carbon dioxide, reflect heat upwards and so provide cooling effect. They host complex microhabitats for insects, lichen and fungi, as well as a valuable food source for a wide variety of birds. And they absorb airborne pollutants, reduce noise and provide screening.

Right tree for the right space

Consider the available space and the potential size of tree in 10 years, existing neighbouring trees, seasonal interest preferences (for example spring flowering, bark colour/texture) and what wildlife can be supported. Native species are often the best performers in this area.

Dig a planting hole twice the width and only slightly deeper than the container the tree is in. Remove clay or larger stones. Loosen the bottom of the hole to help drainage. Make sure the rootball is positioned in the hole with its surface level with the surrounding soil and the tree is perfectly upright. Compost/mycorrhizal root can be mixed with backfill to improve soil before refilling around the rootball and firming in to remove air pockets. Mulching around the base of the tree with compost and woodchip will help prevent weed, retain moisture, insulate from heat and cold and improve soil in the longer term. Larger trees should be staked to stabilise roots and aid establishment. Water with about 20-30 litres of water to settle the root ball in place.

Rowan (sorbus aucuparia) - spring white flowers, orange autumn fruits and leaf colour.

5 favourite smaller species

I recommend these for wildlife biodiversity and interest:

  • Rowan (sorbus aucuparia) - spring white flowers, orange autumn fruits and leaf colour.
  • Hawthorn (crataegus monogyna) - white spring flowers and red autumn berries with leaf colour.
  • Bird Cherry (prunus padus) - white racemes of almond scented flowers.
  • Cornelian Cherry (cornus mas) - tiny yellow flowers before leaves in February and fruits in August.
  • Cotoneaster Lacteus - evergreen small tree or large shrub with flowers in spring and masses of berries in autumn.