The changing face of our woodlands

We're restoring the woodlands to their past glory and encouraging a new landscape full of biodiversity

At RHS Garden Rosemoor we are extremely fortunate to own over 100 acres of woodland which encircles the garden and it plays several important roles.Rosemoor woodland in the autumn The first is in protecting the garden from the elements; it provides shelter from the extremes of the wind and this in turn protects our more delicate plants from damage, helping to create microclimates where temperatures can be higher.

Here, plants not commonly grown in these parts can flourish. Just as important, it provides a stunning backdrop and frames views around the garden. Wherever you are, the woodlands are visible and this helps the garden fit naturally into the Devon landscape; the two complementing each other.

Much of the 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. The long term vision which is well underway is to restore the majority of the woods back to native deciduous trees, predominately the majestic English oak.

The woodlands are classed as being ‘Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites’ (PAWS). Basically this means the site has a long history of woodland cover; these natural woodlands were cleared and replaced by a plantation of either native or exotic species sometime in the past.

Planting silver borch trees

Restoring the woodland

Recently we cleared a site of about 6 hectares (15 acres) of a larch plantation and here we are trying something a bit different; planting around 12,000 silver birch trees. These will establish quickly, forming a light and airy canopy acting as a nurse crop - mature oak trees in the area will be able to self-seed and these seedlings will develop under the protection of the silver birch. This form of natural regeneration is a Swedish method; once the oaks have taken hold the shorter lived silver birch will be removed and a new landscape full of biodiversity will be created. It will take many years to return the woodlands back to their past glory but a job well worth undertaking.

More information

Advice on tree planting
Find out about microclimates
Find out about Ancient Woodlands

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.