Named after Wakehurst’s former head gardener Alfred Coates, Coates Wood opened to the public in 1977.
Did you know?
- When Alfred Coates attended an interview at the House of Commons, Wakehurst’s then owner Gerald Loder is reputed to have asked him: “Well, Coates, what shall it be; flowers, or trees and shrubs?” Coates is said to have replied: “I reckon trees and shrubs, sir.” This set the direction for the estate’s development over the following three decades.
- The native oaks and ash planted among the Southern Hemisphere trees are there for a reason. They were planted to quickly establish new woodland in cleared and damaged areas and provide shelter for the Southern trees. They are being grown clear stemmed (without low-down branches) so the Southern trees get sufficient light and are protected by the high canopy against damage from air frost.
- Wakehurst staff have established a new shelterbelt in Coates Wood to try and protect its specimens in the case of future strong winds. The shelter belt comprises four rows of trees, with those in the centre being taller to form an ‘A’ shape. The idea is that the bulk of the wind will be directed up and over the tall trees and then across the top of the protected trees beyond.
The land had been bought from a neighbouring estate and planted with conifers, hardwoods and some southern beeches. However, swathes of the woodland were flattened during the great storm of 1987. The wood's position at the north-northwest end of Bloomer’s Valley meant it suffered more than other parts of the garden because the wind’s strength intensified as it funnelled up the valley. Even the shelterbelts, planted to provide protection from storms, were destroyed.
Things to look out for
The subsequent restoration is now progressing well. The eastern part of the wood is planted with eucalyptus and broad-leaved evergreens from New Zealand and Australia. Visitors can compare the very different barks of spinning gum (Eucalyptus perriniana) and gum-topped stringy bark (Eucalyptus delegatensis), as well as see an unusual three-trunked eucalyptus. This tree was damaged when young and so coppiced, after which it grew three perfectly spaced trunks. The western part of the wood contains the National Collection of southern beeches (Nothofagus) and represents the temperate rainforest from Chile and Argentina.
Close to the path on the eastern side of Coates Wood is a collection of young spinning gum trees. Take a look at the leaves. Can you see different shaped leaves on the young trees to those on older ones? Describe the two types. What is unusual about the young leaves? Can you work out why the tree is called the ‘spinning’ gum?
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Bitterroot was first described as new to science in 1813 from specimens collected during one of the first western expeditions across the United States to the Pacific coast, but the species was already well-known and used by local Native Americans.