Frances Jannaway, coordinator for Suffolk Tree Warden Network, shares an update on their fantastic work creating community tree nurseries
The seed of establishing Community Tree Nurseries across Suffolk has been germinating in my brain for a long time. Finally, inspired by the enormous demand for locally sourced and grown trees & shrubs, especially for hedgerow planting, now and in the future, Suffolk Tree Wardens are making this dream a reality, establishing Tree Nurseries in their communities across the county.
A seed of an idea germinates…
The project got started following discussions between members of Suffolk Tree Warden Network (STWN) committee and Suffolk County Council’s Woodland Adviser to fund Suffolk-wide Tree Nurseries in summer 2020.
I gave a Tree Nursery progress report at STWN’s third AGM which was held online on 1st October. The response from Tree Wardens was amazing and the project was so enthusiastically taken up that by the end of October we had held two online Tree Nursery meetings and Tree Wardens were already collecting seeds! The group keeps in touch in Covid-safe ways using WhatsApp to share tips and photos and meeting regularly on Zoom to share information, ask advice and discuss the way forward.
To date, sixteen Tree Wardens across Suffolk have set up tree nurseries in their communities, ranging from small gardens to medium-sized nurseries at secondary schools to larger ones at a wellbeing hub and a community farm. People other than Tree Wardens are also involved, from the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich to an open prison in East Suffolk. This year, we plan to involve more Tree Wardens (we’re calling them Tree Nurses!) across the county as well as junior schools and community centres.
Finding creative ways to make seed nurseries
Various materials and propagating methods are being tried out by seed nursery, such as deep modular trays (cell grown), large pots, raised beds and moveable raised beds designed by a young student using recycled materials. Recycled materials are also being used to protect seeds from animal attack, including a large pet cage! Funding for deep modular trays, large seed trays, deep pots, compost and tree growing books has been provided by Suffolk County Council.
Seeds are collected locally mainly from native shrubs and trees, especially ancient pollards to maintain local genetic diversity. So far, more than 14,000 seeds from 39 species have been collected and sown. We are also taking cuttings from native black poplar and willow and collecting self-sown saplings. Spreadsheet records are being kept of all seeds collected, cuttings taken, location, species, number and method.
Each year, more seeds from more species will be collected and sown to provide an ongoing supply. The first trees and shrubs will hopefully be ready by winter 2022/3 for planting in the community and others will be offered to Healing Woods around Suffolk.