The Tree Nursery exists to provide trees for community groups to plant around Hackney. So it was great to get out in the park at Millfields last Sunday with the Millfields Users Group, parents and kids from the local Happitime Playgroup, and the Tree Musketeers. An assortment of adults and kids (with personal plastic spades) planted seven trees, six of which were grown by us:

  • 2 native black poplars in the scrub at the south end of the orchard. These big, fast growing trees will screen the view of the waste station, in due course. The native black poplar is our only indigenous poplar apart from the aspen, and the scarcest British timber tree thanks to loss of the wet riverside habitats it needs for seed germination. Growing them is a Tree Nursery speciality and we have worked with the council and other groups to plant successors to the magnificent but aging population along the old River Lea east of Hackney Marshes.
  • A heartnut tree in the south arboretum. This is a cultivated variation on the Japanese walnut tree. It should bear heart shaped edible nuts in a few years - we're not sure how soon. Sources differ about the exact botanical name: Juglans ailanthifolia Var. cordiformis, Juglans cordiformis, take your pick it seems.
  • A Pride of India near the substation wall - this will provide colourful foliage in spring and winter as well as yellow flowers in summer (left).
  • A field maple and a rowan in the south west corner, forming a group with the two existing field maples. This should develop into a fine sight in the autumn, with the maple leaves and rowan berries. The rowan berries attract birds and it will bear flowers in springtime. Both trees were sponsored by local resident Christine Kings, the rowan in memory of her father Ron.

As always we made sure that the trees were given a good blanket of wood-chip mulch, which keeps the soil moist and discourages greedy grass from grabbing soil nutrients and moisture. Until they build up a full network of roots, they'll need extra watering all spring and summer. Kids (and probably parents) from Happitime will look after the poplars, the heartnut and the pride of India, and Christine and her partner will nip out regularly to attend to the maple and rowan. Millfields folk gave their orchard a fine soaking start a few years ago, so we have every faith in them.

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