Helen Reeley’s best places to hug trees in Herts
Hello March. This morning the sky was ribboned with rhubarb pink and my garden was spangled with frost. What better time to warm up for spring by getting out to embrace the wonders of our county. Helen Reeley, garden designer and lover of all things arboreal, has kindly shared some things to look out for, together with top tips about the best places to see them. Over to you, Helen!
Early spring and winter trees can be enjoyed for their natural form and bark once the leaves have dropped. But it’s is all about the bark isn’t it? Get close, reach out and touch the silky smooth surface of Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry) and be amazed by the colour. Is it red? Raisin? Or maybe boysenberry? It could be any of these shades depending on the light but this one is definitely worth a stroke.
The white bark of Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii (silver birch) looks rather ghostly in low light. It has graceful drooping branches and warm yellow leaves in the autumn but the delicate peeling white bark makes this tree a March winner.
The winter flowering Hamamelis (witch hazel) isn’t exactly a tree but it’s a very large shrub and needs the space of a small tree to be appreciated. Its spicy scented spidery flowers remind us that spring really is on its way.
Here are some of my favourite places for walking, and tree hugging:
Heartwood, St Albans
This is a newly planted forest in Sandridge, near St Albans. Get there soon and then visit regularly, or just once a year, to see how this new forest develops.
The Beale Arboretum, West Lodge Park
This is in the grounds of a hotel in Hadley Wood but it is open every afternoon to members of the public. You can also book for afternoon tea.
Ashridge Estate, Berkhamsted
Look out for the ancient tree guided walks. Free public access.
Brocket Hall, Welwyn
Public footpaths through the Estate – but why not stop for tea?