Kirkham gives Kew tree management insights

Kew Gardens' head of arboretum Tony Kirkham gave delegates to last week's TreeWorks conference some insights into how the west London attraction's 14,000-plus tree collection is managed.

Image: HW
Image: HW
Although the garden lost 700 trees in the Great Storm of 1987, one oak, an evergreen Quercus turneri (pictured above) "has thrived since", he said. "It was planted in 1770 but has put on a third of its growth since being loosened by the storm. Clearly it was suffering from root compaction, from which we concluded that many other trees were too. That led to a decompaction programme with TerraVent air spades."

Kew plants 100 to 200 trees a year, he said, mostly grown from wild-collected seeds. "We have gone from field-grown to Air Pots, which gives them a good fibrous root system. We want to get them out young and early."

He added: "Each tree I plant has to tick a number of boxes - scientific, educational, conservation, aesthetic and so on. The Indian horse chestnut Aesculus indica is a hard-working tree - the variety 'Sydney Pierce' is particularly floriferous -and it's resistant to Cameraria. We may be able to give that resistance to A. hippocastaneum [the common horse chestnut] by micro-injection - we have some evidence this works."

On the oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea), now an established noxious pest in the area, he said: "We spray 450 oak trees in the garden each year as a prophylactic measure in early May. It's not good for my staff to spray when the caterpillars' hairs are being shed."
  • For full conference report, see next week's Horticulture Week magazine.

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