"This is my first time here, but it won't be my last" Sara, Plymouth

Valley of the Champion Trees

Added 5 yearss ago

The garden team at Trebah Garden have cause to celebrate this month as several of the trees in their care have officially been awarded Champion status by the National Tree Register.

The Tree register is a historic document that holds records of the country’s tallest trees as well as those with the biggest girth. The register was originally established by the acclaimed dendrologist Alan Mitchell and includes records that have been in existence for over 200 years. It is now in the form a database that includes more than 50,000 trees and includes many rare and exotic specimens.

Nicky Wharton, The Plant Archivist at Trebah, submitted the measurements of several trees to the National Tree Register of what she believed to be the largest specimens of their kind in the country. The trees’ heights were measured using an instrument called a clinometer that gives a high degree of accuracy using trigonometry-based technology. The girth of each tree was calculated by measuring its circumference 1.5m from ground level.

In late June, David Alderman visited Trebah to verify the submitted measurements and confirmed Trebah the proud guardians of 9 UK Champions, 10 Country Champions and 19 County Champions.

Trebah’s iconic Chusan Palm proved rather tricky for the Clinometer due to its jungle-like location and was finally measured bravely by hand. Head Gardener Darren Dickey was tasked with the job and rose to the challenge by balancing aloft a ladder holding two enormous bamboo canes that had been strapped together with a tape measure on the end. “It was quite a Dare-Devil stunt!” commented Nicky “ But that is the spirit of Trebah, we are a real can-do team.” The Chusan Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) that stands at the head of the Rhododendron Valley measured in at a whopping 14.75 metres. It is approximately 150 years old and may even be from the earliest distribution of this palm in the British Isles.

Other impressive champions include the Magnolia campbellii that stands at the top of the Chilean Combe. At an impressive 24 metres this giant tree heralds spring by producing a mass of vibrant pink blooms on its leafless mega structure every year in February. An awe-inspiring sight at the end of winter, that ushers in the early Cornish spring.

Also to note is a Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) which would usually form a large shrub or small tree in the UK. Trebah’s example has thrived in the unique sub-tropical microclimate of the valley and has reached an astounding height of 19.30 metres.

Darren Dickey, Head Gardner said “ There are many even larger trees in the garden that aren’t champions such as the Douglas Fir, Trebah’s tallest specimen tree originally from North America. It is easily beaten by ancient specimens growing in the deep ravines of Southern Scotland, where their growth isn’t retarded by wind burn.” He added “We do run an adopt a tree programme for those interested in nurturing a future champion or wishing to leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy.”

Nigel Burnett, Director of the garden commented “ Vistors to Trebah marvel at our vast array of tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica). It is fitting therefore that we have a champion, ours has a girth of almost 2 metres that has an huge epiphytic pale pink Rhododendron growing out of its trunk. It is remarkable!”



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