Feb 26

Birmingham 13 – If You ‘Dig’ Trees, Then Get Digging Feb 08

One Tree-Loving Moseley Resident Joins Moseley In Bloom To Take Up The Cause

If you live in Moseley you’ll know that beyond the excellent boozers and eateries of our urban village and its vibrant night time economy it is also one of the city’s leafier suburbs with a lot of trees and gardens. Or at least it always used to be, but I surely can’t be the only one to have noticed the trees sadly disappearing?

First there was the tornado that blasted through here that day in July 2005. The damage to buildings was severe, but all of it replaced or repaired within months. Not so the local tree life, much of which was crushed like corn in a crop circle. The quiet cul-de-sac off Church Road where I live became unusually busy with pedestrian traffic as camera-toting ‘disaster tourists’ picked their slack-jawed way through the wreckage and the air screamed and growled with the buzz of chainsaws for weeks on end.

While our buildings are usually insured, trees take their chances with nature and can’t just be replaced like roof tiles. Ten mature trees were lost around the front of the building where I live – a low-rise block of eighteen flats. It left the landscape bare and open, bereft of trees and rather stark and sad looking, as if mourning past splendour. Thankfully, the chances of another tornado hitting Moseley at ground level are slim and any young trees planted, though they may be small now, will eventually grow to replace those we lost.

But in the months that followed the tornado I was alarmed to notice people happily chopping down their trees instead of planting new ones, compounding a recent natural disaster with a worrying man-made trend.

Let’s face it: some people just don’t like trees on their property, and so ‘clean up’ the place by getting rid of them. Sometimes of course, there are genuine reasons why a tree should be removed, but often it’s just a matter of taste or convenience.

Prompted by my alarm at the deliberate felling of several large trees nearby for no apparent reason I turned to Moseley In Bloom to see if anything could be done about this. The most obvious answer is to fight back: through the medium of saplings.

I am a keen gardener with a passionate interest in plants and gardens and perhaps it’s because I live in a flat that I appreciate the importance of shared landscape that gives an area its unique ‘feel’. That means both public space and privately owned front gardens. You don’t have to own it to see it and enjoy it. Just look around you.

I’m pleased to say I’ve been a volunteer with Moseley In Bloom since last summer and am keen to get involved in anything that will keep Moseley alive with green and colourful plant life. I’m particularly keen to see more perennial and semi-permanent improvements beyond the cheery colourful splash of hanging baskets at judging time. I especially love Moseley In Bloom’s palm tree garden on Canon Hill roundabout and applaud the planting of new street trees in Moseley. Natalie Higgins, Chair of Moseley In Bloom, took up this cause by encouraging and enabling Moseley residents to buy and plant a tree in their own front gardens, enhancing the look and feel of our local environment.

Having lost ten mature trees to the tornado I persuaded my fellow residents of ‘Coppice Oaks’ flats to order a small forest of twenty-two trees to plant around the front of our L-shaped building on the corner of Coppice Road and Forest Road.

We now have a copse of a dozen fast-growing, white-stemmed, Himalayan silver birch (betula utilis jacquemontii) plus a pair of betula utilis ermanii, which look similar but grow taller than the other Himalayan type. We are also planting half a dozen spring-blossoming amelanchier (amelanchier lamarckii) trees, a flowering upright crab apple (malus trilobata) and a tall-growing liriodendron or ‘Tulip Tree’ (liriodendron tulipifera aureomarginata, which is part of the Magnolia family).

I would like to thank Landscape Architect, John Cutts, of Landscape By Design, who as a volunteer for Moseley In Bloom generously gave his expert advice and professional consultancy in helping choose the right species and their planting locations.

A mature tree is a priceless asset to any landscape and is about the only thing that can’t be knocked up in a weekend by a Ground Force – style garden makeover. It takes just water, sun and soil to make a tree, but most of all it takes time.

Trees that dwarf us and our dinky stepladders often induce fear and distrust (‘they’re bigger than us!’) as they appear beyond our control. Providing you take care to choose the right type of tree to fit your space (and don’t forget to allow for growth!) you will be fine. Smaller ornamental or garden varieties are available to suit the most modest of gardens and if you choose right you needn’t fear root damage, subsidence or other surveyor’s nightmare tales or the popular myth that trees shouldn’t be anywhere near a house.

Trees aren’t just aesthetic greenery; they affect our environment beyond the obvious visual eye line and skyline. They absorb Co2 and release oxygen into the atmosphere – the exact opposite of what mankind does. God, or nature, knew what it was doing when it created that balance. I loved the graffiti seen in a Moseley car park after a row of adjacent trees were cut down, which proclaimed bluntly:

“People who don’t respect trees should stop using oxygen.”

(It was written in chalk and was long since washed away by rain).

It may even be possible to obtain a Tree Preservation Order to prevent a tree being felled by its owner, though you would need to act before you hear the chainsaws buzzing. For more information on this check out this web page: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/treepreservation.bcc

If you are lucky enough to have a front garden then think about planting a tree next winter. Look out for Moseley In Bloom’s ‘Front Garden Tree Planting’ programme, which starts even earlier this year in spring and do your bit to help keep Moseley green.

Steve Jolly