Wednesday, 6 July 2011

bluebell arboretum and nursery, smisby

Searching for inspiration and a source of more unusual plants, we visited the nursery and exceptional arboretum developed by Robert Vernon in Smisby. This is an adolescent arboretum being developed on windswept former pasture on the south Derbyshire/Leicestershire border over the past twenty years.
And what inspiration we found!
There we saw many of the stunning acers and birches we had hoped to find with lots of other exciting discoveries along the way.


There was an eyecatching elder Sambucus nigra Laciniata (green berried form),striking for its compact habit and disectum leaves. Scrubby elder grow as weeds in our new garden and so our conditions clearly suit this plant. It always makes sense to use plants that flourish naturally in your conditions. Elder also tick the 'permaculture box' providing both flowers and berries for us to use. It also is valuable for wildlife. Linda made a wonderful elderflower cordial last year.

There was a red hazel corylus 'red zelermus' whose upper leaves burned crimson in the sun and with red fringed fruits. Hazel grow in most soils and we are keen to add some as they form a natural understorey that is also very friendly to wildlife. These also fit into the 'agro-forestry' or 'permaculture' philosophy that will be integral to the spirit of the site.

Another unusual red beauty was a weeping red beech fagus sylvatica 'Rohan Weeping' with geotropic stems that grow towards the earth (see photo). How exotic! We have a couple of beautiful copper beech trees and know they like our conditions.

White barked birch betula utilis 'Doorenbos' was the kind of outstanding birch we hope will one day form a small stand of trees between the two bungalows. Birch seed freely across the site. Although Nottinghamshire is synonymous with oaks, it is the silver birch that is really our county tree in my view. It emerges everywhere and its delicate, hanging branches and pretty leaves set against that silver trunk make it easily recognisable to everyone.

By their very nature, arboretums are dedicated to the beauty of trees. In the maturing section of the arboretum too however, there was inspiration with imaginative underplanting that complemented the trees.


With luck we will be back in the autumn.


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