What's in a name?

With a vast and superb array of new and old trees around the lake at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, labelling them can be an intricate process...

A wintry morning by the lake at Hyde HallThe lake at Hyde Hall was dug out back in 2011 and, with the marginal planting having taken place in 2012, specimen trees were added in March 2014.

My first priority for the new year is to check the condition of the selling labels on the trees before they become too faded or are swept off by the strong winds that we sometimes experience here. We'll then replace them with temporary labels prior to permanent ones being added at a later date. With the help of my volunteer, I need to complete the bed plan by drawing in the position of the trees and filling in the accompanying log with tree names, numbers and general condition.

The interesting yellow/golden bending stems and brown corky bark of Salix alba ‘Tristis’We make our way down to the lake, the ground squelching beneath our feet due to the recent wet weather. Welly boots are essential and I’m certainly glad of them as I feel my feet slowing sinking in a couple of areas as we take a circular route of the lake, starting at the wider end. 

There are a couple of existing mature trees around the lake which give the area a slight sense of maturity before the rest of the trees catch up. One of them, the northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis), has bare black branches at this time of year that form a lovely pyramid shape. Two new groups of Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) have been planted: they already give the area some good winter structure and their distinctive white bark which looks stunning on a sunny day.

The 'manic waving arms' of Metasequoia glyptostroboidesAs we work around the lake we reach a weeping willow Salix alba ‘Tristis’ (above), one of three specimens planted. This is the best time of the year to appreciate the golden yellow bending stems and trunk with its brown corky bark. Three dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides, right) have also been planted and are quite majestic even at their current height of approximately 7–8 metres (23–26ft) and their leafless bent branches form shapes like waving manic arms giving them a certain character.

On the western side of the lake there is a group of Tibetan cherries (Prunus serrula, below). The ruby copper-coloured, peeling bark never ceases to amaze me and I’m almost enticed to stop and give it a polish, this cherry certainly provides colourful winter interest. 

The beautiful red peeling bark of Prunus serrulaSo even with new planting of young trees the lake is an area providing winter interest with coloured stems and bark and is worthy of a closer look.

With all trees recorded I head back up to the office for my next job of making some temporary hanging labels.

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