How to choose the right tree to plant for the Queen’s Jubilee

If you are thinking of planting trees to mark the Platinum Jubilee, now is the time to get planning before the end of year tree planting season starts.

The tree planting season runs up to March and restarts in October – many trees were planted early this year under The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) initiative, and more planting will get under way towards the end of Jubilee year.

This article investigates:

  • The Plant a Tree for the Jubilee initiative.
  • What to think about before planting trees in a garden, woodland or on farmland.
  • Where to buy young trees.

Plant a Tree for the Jubilee

Plant a Tree for the Jubilee is the message behind the QGC, and communities, organisations and individuals are getting involved in tree planting schemes. The Woodland Trust is partnering the project through its Free Trees for Schools and Communities scheme; corporations can support designated community forest planting projects and The Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission offer schemes which contribute to farmland tree planting projects.

Other QGC initiatives include the dedication of a network of 70 ancient woodlands across the UK to highlight their importance, and 70 ancient trees will be identified to mark the 70 years of the Queen’s reign; this is the start of a project to propagate material from many of our ancient trees to conserve their genetic resource.

The decision to plant a tree can be made for many reasons – from acting to combat climate change, to selecting a perfect tree for the right place, remembering a loved one or creating something for future generations to enjoy. You may want to increase the genetic diversity of trees on your land by planting native broadleaf trees or non-native species and encourage natural regeneration.

What to think about before planting trees in your garden, woodland or on farmland

Young trees ready for planting.

Garden trees

Firstly, decide what you want from your tree: do you want it to be part of a landscape garden plan, provide year-round colour, fruit, shade or attract wildlife? There are many species to choose from and to be sure of choosing the right tree for the right place, it’s useful to observe which species thrive locally. Senior arboriculturist Alan Thompson of ecological consultancy Arbtech said:

Site specifics should be taken into account, such as:

– Soil types: for instance, trees which prefer a high ph. soil will not establish in acidic soils and vice versa.

– The available soil rooting area. A large growing tree species may struggle to establish with a restricted volume of soil, whereas a small tree can fully establish and grow into maturity.

– The amount of direct sunlight received: shaded areas require shade tolerant trees.

– Coastal areas require salt tolerant tree species.

– Busy urban environments require pollution tolerant trees.

– Does the site become seasonably waterlogged? If so, select the appropriate species type such as willow or alder.

– Would shade be beneficial? If so, choose a tree species with a heavy crown density.

Then more specifically, the tree itself. Is it the right tree for the right location? Does it have room to grow to its full size at maturity, or will it start to outgrow its location before it is even halfway to its mature size – this would require either the tree being pruned regularly at a cost, or the tree being felled and replaced.

A fastigiate (column shaped) cultivar of a tree species would be preferable for a constricted space. Also important are the trees’ aesthetics. Will they provide a nice blossom, spring colour or autumn colour? Is the tree a native species? Many planting schemes prefer native species to introduced species.

Aftercare of the planted tree or trees is essential. All too often, young, newly planted trees are left to fend for themselves, and many will die within the first year in dry conditions as they are extremely vulnerable to drought.

Watering of newly-planted trees is essential during dry periods. Removal of tree stakes and ties is important once the tree has established, to stop the tree harming itself by rubbing against them.

Alan Thompson – Arbtech
A cherry tree in full bloom.

Woodland trees

Planting woodlands can be undertaken for many reasons. According to the Woodland Trust, common reasons for planting a large area of trees or tree forests include:

  • Reducing flooding: select trees which suit wetland adjacent to rivers and streams, such as alder or willow.
  • Timber production: wood that burns well includes cherry, hornbeam, rowan, and birch.
  • New woodlands can prevent soil and wind erosion.
  • Woodland creation can attract wildlife: native trees such as rowan, hazel and beech provide year-round food, nuts and berries as well as protective woodland cover.
  • Shelter for livestock: native broadleaf trees offer shade and shelter.
A rowan tree.

Alex Tan, senior data associate at land research experts Addland said:

If you’re planning to plant more than two hectares of tree forests, you’ll need permission from the Forestry Commission as well as an Environmental Impact Assessment before you can begin. You’ll also need to draw up a woodland creation plan, outlining your long term objectives and any potential opportunities or constraints on usage, such as timber production or leisure.

You need to plant species that are carefully chosen based on your particular piece of land, especially if you’re planting trees on degraded or deforested land, as the previous human involvement may mean your trees need more attentive management early on.

One of the biggest questions when it comes to tree planting is spacing. As a general rule, commercial timber trees are planted at 2 metre intervals to maximise yield, while amenity woodland tends to be more spaced out, at 2.5 to 3 metres.

Farmland trees

Planting many species of trees on farmland can benefit both livestock and arable farms, commented Alex Tan:

Trees can provide shade and shelter for animals, improve the water carrying capacity of the land and benefit soil health. Well-managed trees can be a useful resource, providing timber for fencing, fuel or wood chips for animal bedding.

For arable farmers, trees can attract pollinators, act as windbreaks to stop soil erosion and capture sunlight more efficiently by projecting upwards, higher than the crops, all of which contribute to the crop’s productiveness. Planting the likes of apple trees can also provide another income-earning crop and increase the resilience of the farm.

Technically, you can plant a tree on any land you own, providing they don’t damage neighbouring properties. But the Woodland Trust says new trees should not be planted on wetlands, heathlands or grassland that’s never been ploughed, to preserve the ecosystems that already exist there.

Agroforestry in practice; trees can increase soil quality and land productivity.

Tree planting can help farmers and land managers utilise low-yield land or increase the efficiency of prime farmland. Agroforestry is a land management approach that combines trees and shrubs with crop and livestock farming systems, delivering multiple benefits for the farm and helping tackle climate change.

Innovative agroforestry includes systems such as contour planting or silvoarable (mixed, alley-shaped planting); cropping takes up much less land while increasing productivity and bringing huge environmental benefits. Efficient agroforestry can be cost effective as it may:     

  • Enhance farm productivity.
  • Improve soil health and prevent soil erosion.
  • Help provide income all year round.
  • Boost livestock welfare.
  • Increase wildlife.
  • Create natural flood management and improve water quality.
  • Contribute to climate change mitigation and reversal.

The Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission are promoting agroforestry as a way of persuading farmers of its benefits: the former’s MOREwoods scheme provides experts to design your site’s ideal woodland and cover up to 75% of costs, while the latter’s England Woodland Creation Offer provides around £10,000 per hectare of new woodland created.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and are known as `carbon sinks’ for their ability to store carbon. With the government committed to tackle the climate crisis and reach net zero emissions by 2050, there are increasing numbers of schemes incentivising farmers to take on a tree project. Other opportunities from tree planting over the coming years include carbon sequestration and selling carbon credits. Addland has advice on finding, buying or researching farmland to plant trees on.  

It’s worth noting that woodland management may require a tree survey at various stages to ensure tree health and satisfy safety concerns. In another article, 24H explains when and why a tree survey may be needed.

Where to buy young trees

A certified nursery will reduce the risk of trees carrying pests or diseases; look out for growers who are certified by the Ornamental Horticulture Assurance Scheme (OHAS) Grower Standard. Buying a UK grown tree (UKISG assured) is advised to reduce the risk of importing pathogens from outside the UK.

Plan and plant a tree

So, as the saying goes, plan in summer, plant in autumn. If you are inspired to plant trees for the Jubilee, you have time over the summer to do the research!

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