On the wild side

A SIZEABLE crowd of SWT members gathered for a recent evening visit to Cheviot Trees at Foulden.

The nursery is half-hidden from view but having arrived on site the full extent of this exceptionally impressive and flourishing business immediately became apparent.

We were privileged to be witnessing one of just a handful of huge outlets which supply trees and bushes to the wholesale market. 125 different species are grown and of these roughly a third are conifers and two-thirds broad-leafed trees.

Customers based at home and abroad include The Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust, Regional Councils, Country Estates and Garden Centres.

Cheviot Trees hold stocks of 5-6 million trees at any one time.

The company is headed by Harry Frew but he attaches great importance to the calibre of his 32 members of staff.

Operations to produce young trees commenced back in 1991 using expertise acquired from growing vegetables in plugs. That success has been further developed and instead of producing bare-rooted plants, heavy duty trays provide the necessary support for groups of individual large plugs known as ‘cells’.

Production has been fine tuned to the extent where three people can sow 100,000 conifers in just one day.

Well established plants are held out of doors but to establish these trees use is made of enormous glasshouses. Temperature and humidity control are aided by roofs which open and close whilst watering is carried out by a series of automatic booms which pass back and forth.

Some seeds such as aspen, willow and birch are tiny and need to be grown and picked out but the majority are sown straight into the trays. These young plants are typically sold when between 6 and 24 inches (15-60cm) high.

Plant food is incorporated into the growing medium and topped up using soluble solutions that are added to the water.

With the young trees spending most of their early lives under cover, pests and diseases pose little of a problem.

Once outdoors then rabbits can be a nuisance and roe deer have been known to be particularly destructive.

Full attention to detail is vigorously pursued at every stage of the production process and even the waste compost is transported away to a worm farm.

We gazed in awe at the trees in their massive orderly ranks, rather like the battle formations of Napoleonic troops – with every one conforming to the highest of standards for vigour and health.

Here we saw young Scots pines destined for the Scottish Highlands and oaks with French Connections.

Some of the produce from this nursery was destined to provide future stocks of commercial timber whilst other species will provide welcome variety to amenity plantings.

The next time you paused to inspect a newly established hedgerow, the replacing of a felled forest or an imaginative creation of community woodland then there is every chance that what you are admiring began its life with Cheviot Trees at Foulden.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is a Scottish registered charity, number SC005792, and is based in Cramond, Edinburgh.