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Tree planting at Langdon

A copper beech, planted Nov 2018. Unlike some of the young trees they are thick with leaves already, and keep them almost all year round. This pic was from a week or so ago during a beautiful autumn sunset.

When we start counting how many trees we’ve planted since we’ve arrived, we’re always amazed at how many there are, perhaps because many of them still look like sticks – that’s the thing with trees, they really take their time!

We’ve planted two alders and an oak in the last week (the latter thanks to a wonderful 1000-tree-giveaway to local residents by our town council here in Faversham). So that brings our current total, since we started planting trees a year into our time here in November 2018, to 112 new trees planted. (This doesn’t include lots of hawthorns and hornbeams that we’ve planted around the boundary as hedging).

It’s no news to anyone now how important it is that we plant more trees – and fast. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere is only the first part of the battle. We also need to recapture the carbon we have already released, and one of the simplest, most effective ways of doing this is by planting more trees: our ancient friends who absorb carbon through photosynthesis and sequester it safely into the soil.

So, very mindful of this need, and the opportunity we have here at Langdon, we intend to plant many more in the coming years. The planting we’ve done so far has been fairly ad-hoc, gradually unfolding as we develop different parts of the garden, or simply happening because we’ve been given trees as gifts, or have bought them on impulse.

What have we planted so far?

As I said, many of the young trees don’t look like much more than a stick in the ground for quite a long time, especially at this time of year, and so today I went back through my notes and listed everything we’d planted. It really fills me awe to think of what all these young sticks of things will become one day…mighty oaks and venerable yews.

Native Trees/Shrubs

  1. Alder x 2

  2. Crab apple

  3. Dogwood x 12

  4. Guelder rose

  5. Holly x 15

  6. Hawthorn

  7. Hornbeam

  8. Lime x 24

  9. Field maple

  10. English oak x 5

  11. Rowan

  12. White willow (Weeping willow)

  13. Yew x 6

Left to right: Rowan, Oak, Alder

Non-Native Trees/Shrubs

  1. Apple x 3

  2. Copper beech x 6

  3. Cherry x 5

  4. Horse chestnut

  5. Plum

  6. Walnut x 3

  7. Himalayan birch x 13

  8. Mediterranean cypress pine x 8

  9. Japanese maple x 2

  10. Magnolia

  11. Snowy Mespilus

  12. Mahonia x 6

  13. Liquidambar

Left: Himalayan birch, Right – Copper beech

The importance of planting native trees

Lately we’ve become aware of the added value of planting native trees, and have been concentrating on these in our more recent planting. Native trees have been here for many thousands of years, or even millions in the cases of yew and holly, for example. Whereas, non-native trees, even ones like apple and horse chestnut that feel so familiar from old poems and ancient tales, have only been here for a few hundred, or at most a few thousand years.

Native’ and ‘Non-native‘ – ‘Native’ tends to be defined as species that came here naturally without human intervention, sometime after the last Ice Age and before the UK was disconnected from mainland Europe (about 10,000 years ago). ‘Non-native’ are any species that have been brought in through human activity since then, though many have become naturalised over hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. Quite a few, for example, pear, sweet chestnut, and walnut, were brought over by the Romans – I guess they’ve always loved a good meal. I’ve divided up my lists above based on the Woodland Trust A-Z of British trees. The group in italics are not listed on their website which I think means that they are rarely found growing wild here and have been introduced much more recently.

Because they have been here for so long, these native species have co-evolved with their local ecosystems, giving them them two key strengths:

  1. They support incredible amounts of wildlife. Oaks are an amazing example of this, with hundreds of species living off them and in them – birds, insects, mammals, fungi, lichen…In fact 326 species are completely dependent on the oak tree to survive!

  2. They are resilient. They don’t need a lot of pampering such as watering, fertilising or protecting from pests because they have adapted to life here over millennia. The yew has survived several ice ages, so it’s pretty darn hardy!

Both of these strengths are huge assets to us today at a time when we not only face a climate crisis, but also massive loss of our biodiversity – tough trees with maximum capacity to sustain wildlife – these have to be our champions! So in our tree planting here at Langdon from now on it makes sense to us to concentrate on these, our oldest, most powerful allies.

400 years from now, which will still be standing – the oak or the house?

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