Tree hunting

7 December 2016

In the South East corner of the Netherlands, countless trees grow in countless rows in countless hectares of soft, fertile and very very flat land. The soil here is made for growing. The secrets of producing quantities of large and characterful trees have been guarded by dutch nurserymen for centuries, using the extensive local canal networks to export to neighbouring European countries before articulated lorries came on the scene.  It is here that you find top-dressed, pleached, bonsai, umbrella and table-top trees, as well as the simple standard.  It is the perfect place to find the perfect tree. 

So it was in the vast fields of these rural lowlands that we found ourselves recently, on the hunt for a scattering of stand-out trees, the keystones of a current project.  Even when on the hunt for something very particular, nursery visits are also a vital source of inspiration to garden designers.  In situ it is so much easier to discover new varieties and get a sense of scale and sensation than one can through any number of photos.

With its twisted trunks swirling up in to a graceful tornado, a Magnolia loebnerii was hard to resist, or the strangely beautiful pockmarking on the bark of a Zelkova serrata.  It’s easy to get distracted.  Vast avenues of Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’, with autumn leaves the colour of a bright egg-yolk, caught our eye, perfect for a grand entrance in the West Country.  These trees have taken years to grow, watched and tended by the nursery workers.  Once neatly scooped out of the ground, their rootballs will be carefully wrapped and their branches tied in preparation for the long journey ahead.  Trees from these nurseries travel far and wide, to England, Germany, Scandinavia and beyond.  They go to big and small private gardens, to street-sides and public parks.

 -Elizabeth Tyler


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