Barrell on ... a better standard for tree survival

The Government's promise of a national tree planting campaign ( is a sound-bite of superficial nonsense.

We have been planting trees for decades and yet all the indications are that the UK has a severely depleted urban canopy cover and a nationally compromised capacity to cope with climate change. What is the point of planting more trees if they do not make it to maturity? Tree survival is the issue, not tree planting.

As new trees shrivel and die in our streets, suppliers and managers bombard us with the same old excuses - it's the tree, it's the soil, it's de-icing salt, it's poor maintenance. If it is so tough in towns, why do we see so many mature trees flourishing? The irrefutable evidence that trees can thrive is all around us. This is not a tree failure, it is a nursery production failure.

Tree production is an international business strongly influenced by the need to maximise returns at the nursery gate. Growing the biggest tree in the shortest time, using the smallest amount of space, dominates conventional nursery practice. This drives species selection towards the fastest growers, not the best survivors. On the streets, the community manager wants a tree that will cope with the hostile conditions, establish with minimal maintenance and live a long time. Although the new tree initially appears to fit the bill, it struggles to grow, it takes years to die and the delay is too long to seek redress.

This fundamental incompatibility between what nurseries are growing and what is needed should be the focus of Government attention, not a headline-grabbing tree planting campaign. Against this unsatisfactory background, we should welcome the announcement of a new British Standard - BS 8545 Code of Practice for Trees: From Nursery to Independence in the Landscape offers a rare opportunity to break the suppliers' grip on this market and allow managers to buy trees that are fit for purpose, not fit for profit.


- Jeremy Barrell is managing director of Barrell Tree Consultancy.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Horticulture education update - staying on course

Horticulture education update - staying on course

Raised levels of investment in horticulture education and increased student take-up is welcome news for the industry, says Rachel Anderson.

Tree planting guide - three basic rules

Tree planting guide - three basic rules

Choosing the right plant, correct planting procedure and best aftercare are the three basic rules for sucessful tree planting, Sally Drury explains.

Tree planting - what are the benefits of planting trees?

Tree planting - what are the benefits of planting trees?

Mitigating climate change, providing windbreaks and reducing the risk of soil erosion are some of the best reasons for planting trees, says Sally Drury.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Arboriculture Contracts & Tenders

Jeremy Barrell On...

Jeremy Barrell

Tree consultant Jeremy Barrell reflects on the big issues in arboriculture.

Products & Kit Resources