Brighter woods Posted on April 25, 2023

It’s been a near-perfect planting season – at least for spring planters like me. The heavens have been generous with timely rain; our streams are racing as I have rarely seen them. In the New Forest the ponies are splashing through gleaming puddles that are almost ponds. The first thrilling flush of foliage is filling out while the flowing trees, cherries and crab-apples and especially magnolias, grab all the attention in the landscape.

Aren’t our public bodies too austere in their tree-planting taste? Our planted woods could do with more variety. We don’t lack autumn colours. Oaks alone produce a medley. But I always plant a scattering of Prunus avium, our native cherry, even among conifers. Recently in Wales I have planted a scattering of Norway maples, cheerful with their lime-green flowers in April and reliable bright yellow leaves in late autumn.

Forestry is a deeply conservative art-form. It relies on centuries of experience; anything original is considered dangerously risky when the final reckoning is fifty or a hundred years in the future. You will live with your mistakes for the rest of your life. Gardening of course works in a much shorter timeframe. The safest planting of all is annuals.

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Trees was first published in 1973 as The International Book of Trees, two years after The World Atlas of Wine….

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Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book

I wrote my first Pocket Wine Book in 1977, was quite surprised to be asked to revise it in 1978,…

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