Trees feature prominently in all our lives and ours particularly as we are surrounded by some exceptionally stunning examples. We have so many trees around our farm we thought we should share them. So we are creating a tree trail for our guests to follow. They are not all big and grand but all have a story to tell. Starting with our wonderful Monkey Puzzle Tree…
1. Monkey Puzzle – Auraucaria auraucaria
We think that our tree is about 150 years old. There are many planted outside farmhouses in the area at the time – it seems they were quite the fashion in the mid 1800s. We often see tree creepers hopping up the truck from our bedroom window – and occasionally a red squirrel.
This tree gets its common name because gardeners thought its spiny branches would puzzle a climbing monkey. It is the national tree of Chile in South America. Monkeys would in fact be puzzled to find themselves in Chile of course as there are no wild monkeys in this South American country!
Fact: Its seeds are edible, similar to large pine nuts, and are extensively harvested in Chile.
2. Copper Beeches (or Purple Beeches) – Fagus sylvatica Purpurea
Our beautiful purple leaves beech trees mark the entrance to our property and can be seen from the road beside the Albany Burn. Beech trees can make life difficult for other plants to grow but we are encouraging smaller plants that can tolerate the shade and dryness such as epimediums as ground cover. Copper beeches appeared as natural mutants of the common beech in various parts of Europe, as early as the 15th century.
Fact: The nuts (or beech mast) are an important food for birds, rodents and in the past also humans. They are slightly poisonous to humans if eaten in large quantities due to the tannins they contain. The nuts were nonetheless pressed to obtain an oil in 19th century England that was used for cooking and in lamps. They were also ground to make flour, which could be eaten after the tannins were leached out by soaking.
3. Kilmarnock Willow – Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’
Our little tree is in a container by the entrance to Alasdair’s workshop.
It is a charming, dwarf weeping willow, popular and much loved in its native Ayrshire.
Fact: First introduced by Mr Lang, Nurseryman of Kilmarnock around 1850. Mr Lang had originally purchased a few specimens from James Smith of Monkwood, an eminent botanist of the time, who claimed to have found it growing wild on the banks of the River Ayr. It’s heavy pendulous branches form a beautiful umbrella shape which provides great architectural interest in winter. In spring the new catkins cascade gold and silver making a stunning display and also perfect for cut flower arrangements.
4. Goat Willow – Salix caprea
Our goat willow leans over the wall into the drive – not the most exciting of tree but it is an important staging post for the birds in the garden. You can often see blue tits, chaffinches and other smaller birds sitting on it’s branches waiting for their turn at the bird feeder.
Fact: Goat willow and other broader-leafed species of willow (including grey willow) are sometimes referred to as ‘sallows’. Goat willow is known as ‘great sallow’ and grey willow as ‘common sallow’. Both species are also sometimes called ‘pussy willow’ after the silky grey male flowers, which resemble cats’ paws.
There are 25 trees of interest around the Farm … so more information will follow …