Trees are powerful symbols of life in many parts of the world and planting them is a statement of commitment to the future. This month we are urging everyone that can to get out there and plant a tree themselves. In your garden, at your child’s school on the village green or community space – look about you and decide where would benefit from a new tree.
Now is the perfect time for tree planting, even better than spring, because trees planted now will have all winter to settle in to their new homes before bursting into life when longer days and higher temperatures return. Try to pick a time when the ground is drier because although trees (like all plants) need to be watered-in, most don’t like being waterlogged!
So you’ve decided on the place where your new tree is going, what’s it to be? Sorbus aucuparia otherwise known as European rowan or Mountain ash is a brilliant choice for a whole range of situations. A vigorous, hardy, deciduous little tree that is native to most of Europe, Mountain ash looks wonderful in many different situations. As well as being a beautiful shape, this tree bears attractive flowers in spring, followed in late summer by glorious berries that ripen as autumn draws on. If you get to them before the birds (redwings, fieldfares, thrushes and blackbirds find them irresistable), you can make a delicious tart jelly from them that makes the perfect accompaniment to lamb, venison or game.
It goes without saying that the Mountain ash is hardy – look at where it comes from. It’s very tolerant of cold and is often found at high altitude in mountains, higher than any other tree at up 1000m (in France it can be found up to as high as 2000m). It can also do well even on thin acid soils – look at how they grow out of cracks in rocks. But what comes as a surprise to many is the excellent pollution resistance that this tree has, making it a superb choice for urban situations.
On the history of the tree, our forebears regarded it as possessed of anti-witching qualities and planting them around a garden or village was believed to ward off evil spirits. More directly, the wood of Mountain ash was also used for making bows and more recently for tool handles, mallet heads, bowls and platters – any purpose requiring a hard wood.
Mountain ash can attain a height and spread of approximately 15m and 7m respectively, although it can be pruned to keep it within desired dimensions. It requires very little maintenance.