Trees are for life

NATIONAL Tree Week is an annual festival celebrating all positive aspects of trees in our lives and environment.

It is organised by the Tree Council of Ireland and this year it takes place from tomorrow to March 10. The theme is trees: our past, our present, our future.

During National Tree Week, as well as prompting people to plant more trees, the council is asking people to celebrate our remarkable heritage of trees and woodlands and to recognise the significance of trees and forests as a living link to our past, as an enjoyable, life-enhancing asset in the present, and as a wise investment in our future.

National Tree Week is an opportune chance for Tree Council member organisations, local authorities, tidy towns and community groups, schools, families and many others all over Ireland to do something positive for their local landscape. By setting up events for National Tree Week within your community or organisation, you can inspire people, young and old, to get out into the fresh air and together plant more trees.

For all that, it is during Tree Week that I most miss John Cushnie, author of many books on trees and shrubs, and panellist on the BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time. He died on New Year’s Eve 2009.

The 66-year-old, who ran his own business was an experienced landscape gardener and regular radio problem solver — delivered in his instantly recognisable Northern Ireland brogue on BBC Radio Ulster for many years. But his greatest book is Trees for the Garden and if you ever want to add a tree to your garden property, then this is the tome to buy.

The core of the book is its comprehensive and beautifully illustrated directory of over 200 garden trees. John advises on choosing, planting, and caring for trees and picks his own personal choice of ‘six of the best for every situation’.

This is no tongue-in-cheek claim, for he really offers six of the best for not alone clay soils, but six for acid and six more for alkaline soils. Then there are six good choices for dry and sunny sites, six for coastal use, and six for properties where wind always seems to be a problem. He continues with six worthy specimens for growing against a wall, and six for those with small, medium and large gardens.

Following these hugely interesting chapters Cushnie gives a selection of trees for spring, summer, autumn and winter colour not forgetting those that produce berries, outstanding bark, variegated foliage, fragrance, fruits and special shape.

There’s even a chapter on trees to impress the neighbours. If then, you are looking for a specimen tree for a lawn, an anniversary planting in an established garden, or you long for trees for an avenue, then Trees for the Garden is the tome to inspire. It provides the gardener with a solid background of knowledge to underpin the process of selecting and cultivating the choicest of ornamentals.

* Trees for the Garden is published by Kyle Cathie and available at good bookshops.

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