Tree Planting: Preparing and Planting a Scots Pine Tree by Charlie Noton

Our client asked us to screen a neighbouring new build which overlooked their summerhouse and pool. We needed a tree with significant spread that would fit with the general design of the garden and provide all year round screening. We found the perfect tree, a Scots Pine, in Belgium. This tree had added appeal for our client due to her Scots heritage! 6m-7m tall and 7m-8m wide, the width dimensions of the tree presented transport challenges and our 'convoy exceptionale' was escorted, front and rear, by the police. As you can see below, the tree does a successful job of screening the new build and our client can now enjoy the privacy of her garden with the added bonus of a shaded dining area.

Charlie Noton, Lead Consultant, Tree Research




The pine tree at the nursery before the move

The pine tree at the nursery before the move

Here is the tree at the nursery in Belgium. The tree was last transplanted two years ago. On arrival, we started the excavation to prepare the rootball of the pine tree. We then raised the pine tree, wire wrapped the rootball with wire and hessian and transported the tree to Oxfordshire for replanting. 

The time lapse video below shows the stages involved in moving and preparing the tree.

Psssst... by Charlie Noton

There's nothing online about this yet but we heard about an interesting lecture coming up on 19th January 2017 on Soil Functions at UWE.

What we have gleaned so far is that it is intended to present a demonstration on gas exchange and speak about microbial functions - eg decomposition in relation to specific environmental issues such as climate and land-use change.

Dr Sam Bonnet is a Senior lecturer in Environmental Science in the Department of Applied Sciences at UWE (University of the West of England). He is a process ecologist with 10 years of postdoctoral experience. His research is focused on understanding plant-soil interactions and soil decomposition processes. In particular, biotic and  abiotic controls of extracellular enzyme kinetics and relationships with microbial functional diversity, plant productivity, carbon storage, greenhouse gas production and other ecosystem services. Find out more.

For more information, contact:

“I know a guy who knows a guy…” by Charlie Noton

We’ve been talking in the office recently about the Platipus guying systems for underground tree staking. Developed in 1983, their system has had a foothold in the market ever since..and with good reason. Greenleaf brought in Arborguy with a ratchet system and a more recycled option. Contractors love a purpose-built package that is easy to price for clients and has a good reputation. Plus high costs mean a higher mark up on supply and install. 

In many cases, it is the best system to use, however we have a few hang ups: The kit costs  a lot of money, including the driving bar to force the barbs in along with the other specialised kit that is normally required… an investment if you need to plant a few trees as a landscape company for a line off job. As well as this, we find the recycled heads of Arborguy can crack when being driven in, especially on flint or brash soils. On clay soils it is also hard to get the heads to lock out, as they end up sliding up and down when soil is wet - so neither system works well. 

We came across a great cost-effective system from a nursery in Holland a few years ago and have evolved the technique for our own specific site use. It’s simple: stakes are inserted with a digger or knocked in by hand tight against the root ball. As the straps are ratcheted tight, the tension pushes down on the rootball, drawing the whole configuration downwards and inwards, fixing it solid. 

It can be used in conjunction with overground supports if required in exposed areas at risk of severe wind rock. We’ve used this system on a large planting of 20-60cm girth parkland trees at Newnton House, without any overground support. The project was a great success and benefitted aesthetically from the lack of overground visual structures which was a priority for the design.

On rock, replace wooden stakes with pointed angle iron. Steel marquee pegs are more expensive but can be driven into solid rock.

We'd love your experiences of tree staking; overground and underground? Has anybody else come across alternative solutions?

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Soho Farmhouse article by Charlie Noton

Dezeen Magazine recently published a great article on the transformation of Soho Farmhouse, for which we were the key contractor for tree planting. Being an architecture and design magazine, they missed the REALLY important bit: the transformation of the landscape! Read on for the inside scoop on the outside story.

Soho Farmhouse was transformed in just 15 months, from a derelict farmhouse with a collection of outhouses, to the newest of the Soho Houses – luxurious but laid back urban and rural hideaways and exclusive members' clubs.

Central to the Farmhouse is the ‘farmyard’, a central courtyard around which many of the buildings sit. The planting design of this area was based on a historic working French courtyard, with mature fruit trees chosen to soften the expanse of stonework, and to provide a sense of the farmhouse having been there for decades.

The trees were carefully chosen from nurseries in Belgium and Germany and were picked for their wealth of character, strength of presence and age.  We included fruit trees ranging in age from fifty to seventy-five years old, and a large evergreen oak that would provide shade and greenery throughout the year.

Lifting and preparation of veteran pear tree, bound for the main courtyard at Soho Farmhouse

Planting of the main feature tree, an evergreen oak, in the central courtyard

We also planted the orchard, which provides the principal view for the farmhouse restaurant and is beautifully lit-up at night. For this, we used mature and semi-mature trees, with a mix of heirloom varieties that give a feel of a well- established orchard that can provide fruit for the hotel kitchens. 

Trees Talk To Each Other! by Charlie Noton

Trees CAN talk... don't miss this FASCINATING TED Talk by a Canadian Forest Ecologist... How Trees Talk To Each Other.

In between dodging mother Grizzly Bears, she has discovered that "mother trees" not only nurture young saplings but that they favour their own seedlings.

"A forest is much more than what you see," she says. Her 30 years of research have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances.  Prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.

Can you hear what they are saying...?

Can you hear what they are saying...?

Journey of A White Mulberry pollard by Charlie Noton

The client brief was to find a broadleaf spreading feature tree that one could sit beneath and that would provide shade in the vegetable garden parterre. After much searching I landed upon an old white Mulberry pollard. The tree has a girth of 120cm giving an air of maturity with the added bonus of fruit which links it in to the ultimate purpose of the kitchen parterre. The tree weighs 1.6 tonnes and had to be lifted from the front of the house to the rear over a newly installed glass house. The tree had travelled some distance coming from Northern Italy to the Oxfordshire area. Now in place the tree gives an air of maturity in to a relativity new space and provides an interesting strong visual element in to the garden and the outlying areas.

Welcome to the Journal by Charlie Noton

‘I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for they have no tongues’ Dr Seuss (The Lorax)

This journal will be providing an opportunity for the sharing of thoughts and inspirations as well as notes on our latest work.