20 Feb 2019

Re-imagining the Whitebeam Grove: Part 3

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

Three weeks after the first tree was dug up from the Whitebeam Grove, we’re finished! The final tree (a little Sorbus aria, the most widespread whitebeam in the UK) was planted on Friday, completing the planting stage of the redesign.

We’ve just managed to squeak the trees in on time, as spring will soon be upon us. Trees can generally only survive this sort of treatment in winter whilst they’re dormant. With no leaves and very little growth going on, we can dig them up, chop some of their roots off, and move them around with near impunity. Come spring, they’ll send out roots to replace those they’ve lost and the sap will rise to put on new, vigorous growth where we’ve cut away old, damaged branches. It’s almost like magic.

So how have we changed?

The most major change is that you can now walk amongst the Whitebeam trees. For now, there is a simple grass path marked out by stones that can either lead you to the Canolfan Tyfu classroom or the Conserving Welsh Plants Area. The walk begins opposite the entrance to the Orchid meadow, snaking through a belt of large Ash trees. You emerge from a sea of Dog’s Mercury to find the first group of Whitebeams- the path is surrounded on both sides by species found in the Avon and Cheddar gorges, then directly in front of you are trees found in the Brecon Beacons.

Following the left path you will walk through all the species endemic to Wales, with those on your left growing in the North West and those on your right found on the border. However, if you take the fork on the right hand side you’ll see a much wider variety of species from Devon, Cornwall, Lancashire and Ireland.

You might also see some rather unusual flowers popping up- we’ve been painting white saxifrage flowers onto the pavement! you can find them leading from the stable block towards the Conserving Welsh Plants area. We appreciate that it can be a little tricky to work the route out from the map, so we’ve stenciled these helpful little blooms to lead you in the right direction.

The best times to visit

Whitebeams usually flower between May and June, but we’re actually hoping our trees don’t flower too much this year so that they can put more energy into sending their roots out! Still, a visit in spring will be a great opportunity to  compare the wide variety of different leaf shapes that can occur in Whitebeams, up close. Make sure to check underneath each leaf as well for the downy white underside that gives these trees their name. Throughout the year there will be lots of new developments in the area, including some benches so that you can relax amongst the trees, and make sure to come back in autumn to check out the colourful fruits that resemble tiny apples.


For a full list of the species of Sorbus we grow, search Garden Explorer for ‘Sorbus’, with the country of collection set to United Kingdom