New trees for Kew's historic vistas

By: Tony Hall - 29/04/2013

The arboretum team have been out planting some new trees along Kew's historic vistas. This is to ensure they are maintained for generations to come.

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Every year in the Arboretum we plant around sixty new young trees. These are to replace old trees lost and also to add diversity to Kew's tree collection, which currently numbers around 14,000 individual trees. Most of these are grown in our own Arboretum nursery, as seed raised plants, from natural source, meaning they are grown from seed legally collected in the wild, and from seed donated from other botanic gardens and arboreta around the world. We also grow many from vegetative material i.e. grafts and cuttings.

Usually the trees are small and easily manageable, requiring only normal hand tools to lift, move and to plant them.

ARB_Arboretum nursery  

Plants lined out in the Arboretum nursery for future plantings (Image: Tony Hall)

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Newly planted young tree in Arboretum (Image: Tony Hall) 

We also plant much larger trees, bought in from UK nurseries. These trees are usually around 10-15 metres tall and weigh around three tonnes.

Over the last ten years we have been replanting some of the gaps left from losses of mature trees that grew along our historic vistas which were designed by William Nesfield and originally planted in the mid-1800s.

The vistas make up a triangle consisting of Syon vista, lined with evergreen holm oaks, Cedar vista, the longest of the three vistas, lined with cedars, and Pagoda vista, lined with deciduous pairs of trees, with a secondary vista of cedars.

The old photo below shows the original planting of the Pagoda vista, planted with its matched pairs of broadleaved trees flanked with a secondary planting of cedars (Cedrus deodara), and showing the old tea pavilion, top right, which was burnt down by the suffragettes in 1913! On that spot now stands the Pavilion restaurant.

ARB_Old Pagoda vista image

Original planting on part of Pagoda vista, late 1800s (Image: RBG Kew)

This year we are strengthening the 850 metre-long Pagoda vista. The large tree being planted here is an American tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera.

ARB_Before planting_vista       

Part of Pagoda vista showing area needing new vista trees (Image:Tony Hall)

  ARB_JCB digging hole for tree planting

Jerry and his JCB, helping out with tree planting! (Image: Tony Hall)

We decide the previous year which areas need replanting and then source the trees from large tree nurseries. Deepdale Trees is our main supplier, they will find what we need and then grow them on for us until we are ready to plant.

Unlike our normal tree planting, which is all done by hand, big trees call for big machines, so from digging the hole to positioning the tree it is all done with machines. These easily cope, making the job both quicker and less strenuous!

The large tree pits, though, are finished off by hand, ensuring the correct depth and final position of the tree.

ARB_Finishing large tree plantin hole by hand_vista

Arboretum staff Ed and Duncan hand-finishing a planting pit (Image: Tony Hall) 

ARB_New tree in place_vista

Tree in position, lined up along and across the vista (Image: Tony Hall)

Trees arrive on large lorries, usually two or three to a lorry depending on size.

ARB_Large tree delivery_vista

Vista tree delivered on articulated lorry (Image: Tony Hall)

They are then unloaded and delivered to their new home, to planting holes measured to exactly fit in, both with the tree opposite and those along the length of the vista.

ARB_Finished planted tree_vista

Happy in its new home - the finished job. (Image: Tony Hall)


ARB_Newly planted  line of trees on Pagoda vista

New vista trees strengthening the heritage landscape (Image: Tony Hall)

Once we are happy with the trees' positions, they can be back filled, have a new mulched circle, and take their place in the future history of Kew's vistas. Hopefully for generations to come.

- Tony -

5 comments on 'New trees for Kew's historic vistas'

Tony Hall says

24/05/2013 6:50:43 AM | Report abuse

Hi David, good to hear from you and great to hear that you are planting some big trees using some of the skills you learnt at Kew. I hope it all goes well.

David Alicha says

23/05/2013 12:28:05 PM | Report abuse

Hi Tony, it was great working in the Arboretum with you. I have a similar assignment on the Queen's way here in Uganda. I have already shared some of the arboretum skills from Kew. Keep it up.

Luke Hull says

08/05/2013 10:27:58 PM | Report abuse

Well if you do ever dust it off give me a call if you need volunteers to help operate it, I've still got most of my outfit from the last time!

Tony says

02/05/2013 4:08:33 PM | Report abuse

Hi Luke, good to see you are still keeping an eye on what we are doing in the arboretum. The Barrons transplanter a horse-drawn machine invented in the 19th century by William Barron for transplanting trees up to 20 metres in height is a great piece of tree planting history and, who knows, one day we may dust it off and use it again. If we do I will certainly show you in a blog.

Luke Hull says

01/05/2013 2:10:34 AM | Report abuse

Shame you didn't dust off the Baron's Tree Transplanter for this!

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