I am very fortunate to live only a few miles from Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, so I am able to spend much of my spare time walking there, doing what the Japanese call ‘shinrinyoku’ or ‘forest bathing’. Soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying being amongst the trees and hopefully reaping the health benefits associated with this activity.
However, as well as enjoying the walk through the trees, I also use the arboretum as a resource, because it is here that you can see trees at their mature height and spread. This is extremely useful when making decisions about what tree species is appropriate for the space allocated to it in a design and how it will fill that space in years to come.
Leaf colour through the seasons, leaf shape and distribution, density of canopy, colour and texture of bark, how one tree looks against the back drop of another, can all be observed and noted while strolling through the arboretum
It is something that cannot be underestimated when selecting trees for your garden. The importance of knowing how big it will become over ten, twenty, thirty years.
Some people think that trees should be treated like other plants in the garden, once it has outgrown its space you just remove it and replace it with another. Personally, I do not think it is as simple as that. Trees fill a space in a much more permanent way than any shrub or herbaceous plant, so it is not that easy to just cut down and replace it, never mind the shear cost of doing so. What’s more, is it is so unnecessary, if the right tree had been chosen in the first place.
Certainly some tree species tolerate being contained in a space by practices such as pollarding and pleaching. But, for those that do not, surely it makes sense to choose the right tree for the right place from the beginning, rather than trying to put a ‘square peg in a round hole’ and force it to fit.