Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best tree team

Winner - Benmore botanic garden, RBG Edinburgh

Benmore’s five-strong arbor team is responsible for a tree collection dating back to the 1820s with the planting of Scottish provenance Scots pine. It also includes majestic Sequoiadendron planted in 1863 that today stand 165ft high — plus Douglas fir, western red cedar, grand fir, noble fir and western hemlock planted in the 1870s and 1880s on a commercial scale.

The team is trained in tree inspection, climbing, chainsaw operations and rigging techniques. Working within a full complement of 11 staff, it also performs horticultural duties, caring for a diverse and internationally important collection of 12,000 exotic trees and shrubs.

Trees planted around 140 years ago are now of great stature — some almost 200ft high — and can pose particular challenges. Accessing some larger specimens requires the use of a catapult to install a line to pull through a climbing rope longer than any off-the-shelf item.

The ascent is not for the faint-hearted. Most of the trees are coniferous and do not provide a ready range of anchor points and redirects for achieving good work positioning.

Key outcomes

-Successful nurturing of the health of the collection from planting through early establishment.
-Successful maintenance of semi-mature and mature specimens.
-Correct annotation of botanical labels individually linked to botanic garden database records.
-Tree risk management strategy developed to identify and mitigate hazards. This has improved planned, proactive maintenance and ensures staff and visitor safety.
-Reduction of the risk of damage to the collection through appropriate planning and execution of operations.
-Efficient processing and recycling of windblown timber for use as mulch and in construction of bridges, handrails and steps within the garden.
-Maintenance of equipment including climbing and lowering kit, chainsaws, winches, chipper, tractors and trailers as well as working to the highest standards of health and safety.
-Team trained and qualified in emergency first aid.

The team’s work does not stop at Benmore. Over the past year staff have also climbed trees for seed collection in Bhutan and British Columbia, work vital to global conservation programmes.


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