Significant losses at Kew Gardens

Storm Eunice has dominated life here at Kew, as it has for many, especially across the south of England.  At 70mph, it was a severe storm, the first red warning storm to hit Kew in my time.  We lost 15 trees.  Each of them was one I had noted when surveying as likely to fail in a storm.  Several had individual significance.  

The most notable tree to fail was the champion Pinus Pungens.  When measured in 2010, it was the tallest example of the species here in the UK, and its loss was featured in the Daily Telegraph.  

I was sorry to see the Noble Beech fail.  It had decline among branches in the crown, a sign that the roots were not in good vigour.  I recognised that it had only a short period left to live.  My plan had been to propagate it when it came in to leaf this spring.  Unfortunately, it snapped below the grass to reveal that the roots had extensive decay below ground. This was the only example of the species in the Kew collection, so for Kew, this loss is significant.

Another tree to fail was a fastigiate Hornbeam.  This is a variety of Hornbeam with a more upright form.  It had a cavity and had been subject to at least two sets of pruning in recent years aimed at reducing the weight on the crown.  I expected that it would need felling within the next several years as the decay became more evident.  

Some of the Pine trees that failed were in decline.  They were old specimens, dating from 1890-1900.  

The Gardens were closed on the day of Storm Eunice.  However, with calmer weather returning the following day (Saturday) the gardens soon re-opened.

I was busy identifying where trees had fallen or where there were splits or broken branches.

These areas were fenced off and the tree team has been busy since then clearing up.  I was relieved that I managed to write the examination paper for the students taking the Kew Diploma before the storm arrived, as I have not had time since to do this!

In other news, The Daily Telegraph interviewed me for a feature they ran on the loss of the Champion tree and Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time visited Kew to record one of their programmes.  I enjoyed meeting the team, and answered questions on the timing of pruning and the potential impact of cutting tree roots in order to facilitate the installation of a raised vegetable bed.  Channel 5 visited to continue their series and focused on the damage and the clearing up after the storm.

Next month I’ll be sharing details of research on eco-matching.

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Leaves of the Noble beech

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Decay in the roots saw a premature end to this Chinese Plum

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This spruce was one of the victims of recent stormy conditions

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