Much of RHS Garden Rosemoor’s woodland was planted in the mid 1960s with conifers for timber production; the standard blocks of larch, Douglas fir, Norway and Sitka spruce you would expect to see anywhere. However, we have a long-term plan to restore the majority back to native deciduous trees – predominantly the English oak.
The woodlands are classed as being 'Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites' (PAWS), which means that the site has a long history of woodland cover. The natural woodlands were cleared and replaced by a plantation of either native or exotic species at some time in the past.
After obtaining a grant from the Forestry Commission, this vision has come a little closer to being realised with the delivery of 12,000 silver birch trees (Betula pendula), each 40–60cm (16–24in) high. These are being planted by contractors in an area cleared of larch three years ago. A little while ago we hired in a ‘forest mulcher’ which mulched up all the stumps and undergrowth in no time at all to make the ground ready for planting.
These birches will have the role of a nurse crop to self-seeded oaks; they will be quick to establish and help suppress ground flora but will not prevent oaks and other natives from getting a foot hold in the 2m (6½ft) gaps between each birch tree.
The silver birches will be allowed to reach maturity in about 20 years, some of which will be removed as a crop and then the oaks can really get going. This is a well-established method in Sweden and we are sure that it will work just as well in Devon.
Our hope is to be able to open more of the woodland to the public, and this area of thousands of Betula pendula with their elegant form, white trunks and delicate foliage (yellow in the autumn) should be a crowd puller. Then in many years, long after we have all retired, future generations can look forward to a wonderful area of oak woodland with all the associated wildlife and native plants.
Discover more about RHS Garden Rosemoor's woodland garden.