Peter Seabrook on ... real help for trees

There are far too many pressure groups today all dictating what others should do, while actually doing nothing themselves.

Take, for example, trees and the outpourings from many organisations to plant more. All would have my full support if only they would spend their money and efforts on trees and planting them carefully. The BBC Tree O'clock campaign was, from my viewpoint, a fiasco. BBC estimates say: "As many as 500,000 trees could have been planted." But how many were actually planted and, even more importantly, how many will survive and thrive?

I would like to see trees planted in school grounds. Thanks to generous support from Nick Dunn, a mini orchard of 10 different apple trees has been planted at a comprehensive school in Berkshire.

There was no song and dance about it, no press releases or holier-than-thou statements; it involved just spotting a need and opportunity and grabbing it with both hands to see the trees get planted. And following through to see that the new plantings get watered and, for the first few years at least, properly pruned.

There is also the matter of caring for trees we already have. Two stately elms have survived the ravages of Dutch Elm disease in the Backs at Cambridge. What efforts have been made to propagate from them and to trial whether they do have inbuilt resistance?

These two are not alone. There are other isolated specimens that may well be resistant.

Then we have horse chestnut leaf miner. We are told that the only defence is to collect up and burn or deeply bury all infected fallen leaves in the autumn.

Why is there no government-funded research on such pests and more effort made to find ways to protect our much-loved conker trees? I'm given to understand there are systemic chemical treatments, if that is the case, who in Britain is undertaking the research?

Professor David Bellamy does, I believe, have a programme to plant disease-resistant elms in schools. Why doesn't the BBC give more airtime to this action?

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.

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