Thursday, 14 March 2013

himalayan birch (betula utilis jacqemontii)

In July 2011 we visited the Bluebell Arboretum, Smisby, Leicestershire. There, we saw many outstanding trees but sharp in the memory remains the sight of the white barked Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis jacqemontii). We resolved on that visit to plant a small copse of Himalayan Birch between Waxwings and Goldcrest bungalows one day.

And that time has come!
Jill, Sarah and Judith on the soil heap

At the weekend, in sub-zero temperatures, we set about realising our vision armed with a digger, a six ton dumper and hand tools.

Over a hundred tons of sand and soil were shifted to create a raised bed into which ten of the beautiful birch would be planted.

It was going so well, until we tried laying topsoil onto the sub-soil base we had laid. The 'top soil' turned out to be huge, impenetrable lumps of sodden, heavy clay. As I emptied the dumper onto the sandy sub-soil, our hearts sank. The 'soil' was impossible to break apart and spread. It was too heavy to allow a spade to penetrate, making planting our precious trees almost impossible.

Our plasterer visited us on Sunday, surprised that our wives were toiling with hand tools on a mud heap in the rain on what was Mothers Day.
the finished copse
'Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen' I joked.

Making a virtue out of necessity we decided to dig planting holes with the mechanical digger and then put a top coat of sand over the whole sorry, soggy mess.

And inspiration! We had already toyed with planting the mounds which will be our earth sheltering as heath. Now we have a sandy bed planted with birch. Why not have a heath theme for all of our north side garden?! Heath is a rare and diminishing habitat and to create 100m2 of new heath could be wonderful. I'm picturing basking lizards and flowering heather, gorse and broom. Here we go again.......

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