"Bizarre" weather sees team called out more times in last three months than last 30 years says Kew Garden's Kirkham

Kew Gardens' arboriculture supremo Tony Kirkham says the recent "bizarre" and "mixed up" weather has seen his team called out more times in the last three or four months than in the last 30 years.

Speaking during a landscape event at RBG Kew on Wednesday, he outlined the challenges the weather had brought.

"The climate is really bizarre, it's really wet and everything is mixed up. "This year we haven't really had a winter, the worst frost was at 1.5 degrees. It's not good and it's not right."

Kew lost about 20 trees in three storms on October 28, December 23 and February 14, and closed for two days after the St Jude's Day storm in October.

However Kirkham said things could have been worse if the trees were not so well-managed.

"It's about preparing. You can't prepare overnight. We decompact the soil, undertake crown works and ensure healthy roots - good tree management basically.

"I was asked the day before St Jude's by a reporter what I was doing to prepare. I said there's not a lot you can do before, it's been 26 years of changing the way we work. Everything we learnt in the great
storm of 1987 is part of that. It's been a long journey but I think we made it."

The head of the arboretum since 2001 said that Kew staff did no planting before Christmas because of the weather but there was a big push now. Kew plants around 200 trees a year.

He also said he was watching to see what would happen to trees and plants in Somerset, adding that received wisdom was that they could survive 21 days underwater.

Kirkham made his comments today during a special tour of the arboretum for landscape industry representatives.

The tour was followed by a debate which brought together landscape architects, contractors, designers and suppliers. For a report of the debate see the next issue of HW.

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