All can now be revealed. After weeks of searching for a new tree to follow for 2017, I have made my decision.
Along the way I have encountered many characterful trees. There were other trees in Llandaff Fields, like my first tree, the hornbeam. There were other trees in Bute Park, like my second tree, the Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa). There were other trees in Thompson’s Park, like last year’s oak, The Pigeon Tree.
But part of the fun is exploring a different field or park every year. That’s why I went walking in the Blackweir area along the River Taff in Cardiff.
I realised that was too far from home to commit to a visit every month, but on the way back, across Pontcanna Fields, I made my decision. Being greedy and disobeying all the unwritten rules of tree following, I have decided to follow 100 trees! But they are all, I suppose, clones, so maybe I will get away with it.
It was late afternoon when I took these pictures and the light was fading so they may look a little unreal (after tweaking with Photoshop).
I had walked between these trees a few weeks earlier, and was puzzled by what species they were. I tried to work it out from fallen leaves, but there was no real clue, I thought at the time…
I considered cherry, but I had never seen any blossom on these trees and the buds weren’t arranged terminally like cherry buds…
The trees were also more or less “tree-shaped”…
But before this second visit I had done my research, so now I do know what these trees are. The information was available all along on Cardiff Council’s wonderful plant guide website. This is what I found out…
They are elms – specifically a disease-resistant hybrid cultivar called Ulmus ‘New Horizon’. These trees were planted in November 2004 – 12 years ago yet I hadn’t really noticed them before. The avenue was offered as a trial site to Hilliers Nurseries, who provided 80 free trees, altogether worth £6,000. As it turned out 100 trees were needed, so the council had to pay for 20 more at £75 each.
In a way it’s quite surprising the trees are all flourishing, as in 2008 some of them at the river end had their feet under water after floods – again there are images on the council plant database website.
I never thought to see elms again, after the devastation of Dutch Elm Disease in my childhood – in the late 1960s or early 1970s. At the end of my village was a place called 10 Elms Farm – and, you’ve guessed it, there were 10 elm trees nearby, growing in a hedgerow. It was tragic when they were felled.
The common British field elm was Ulmus Minor. I remember it as top-heavy and some people describe the shape as an hourglass.
Wikipedia says that Ulmus ‘New Horizon’ was raised by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), by crossing a Japanese Elm clone ‘Reseda’ (female parent) with a Siberian Elm clone grown from seed collected from a street tree at Yankton, South Dakota.
It was patented in the USA in 1994 and in Europe it is one of the ‘Resista’ elms protected under EU breeders’ rights. Hilliers are the exclusive partners for these elms in the UK and Ireland – hence their trial with Cardiff Council. A picture of the Cardiff trees in summer is featured on the Hillier information page here.
Now knowing they were elms, I looked closer for a distinctive asymmetric leaf…
I doubt if I will have much to report about these trees during the year – I’m not sure if they are old enough for flowers and fruits and these are small anyway, but we shall see. One thing they do have is lots of lichen.
So that’s sorted then, I have my 100 trees to follow in 2017. If all else fails they should at least be good for some “general views” as the seasons change.
See you again in March.
If you like, you can look at all my posts about trees here.