Tree Audit finds 1,500 Oaks 

By Kevin Martin 

The past few months have brought some considerable changes to life here at Kew… 

2021 saw many changes to the management of Kew, with a new Chief Executive and other key appointments. I am now responsible for delivering the tree syllabus for the Kew Diploma. This is an internationally recognised qualification run by Kew Gardens. I have been busy writing and delivering lectures and also writing and marking questions. The course consists of six blocks of three hours of lectures, and my own input is complemented by contributions from guest speakers including Peter Thurman, a very experienced garden designer, and Dr. Glynn Percival. Updating material has been a major project for me. 

One of the changes is a renewed focus on research and education, and in addition to my teaching work, I’ll be running trials exploring aspects of management such as combatting compaction in tree roots and monitoring the vigour in growth of newly planted trees. 

Storm Arwen caused many problems across the country, but thankfully, none of the trees at Kew were affected. The storm was less severe by the time it reached Kew, being down to 40mph (compared to 100mph further north). If there is a storm with potential for trees to be blown down, we have to close the Gardens. . 

The audit which I referred to previously is on-going. I have completed the oaks, and found that we have 1,500 specimens! I am presently working on the Beech and Limes. 

One of the reasons for the audit is to update the tree database to enable new tree plantings to proceed on an informed basis. I am looking to map parts of the Gardens where fungi are known to be present. For example, Honey Fungus is present in one area, and this is associated with causing problems for Silver Birch suffering drought stress. It will be important to avoid planting that tree in such areas. 

A new climber joined the team in January, so we now have three climbers and one arborist working on the ground, supported by two apprentices. 

Last year, we were busy working with Channel 5 to film A Year At Kew, four one hour documentaries and a Christmas special. They have been very popular, attracting audiences of five million viewers, and so a second series has been commissioned. Filming will start soon. Watch this space! 

Kevin Martin, from Kew Gardens 

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