We recently spent a morning at Bluebell Arboretum in Leicestershire, a return visit in fact as we visited it many years ago. It is a young arboretum and small as arboreta go which gives it an intimate, manageable feel.
As we approached the wooden cabin that acts as reception, the door creaked open, “I see you have your walking boots on! I wouldn’t recommend you go around if you hadn’t.” Apparently we had arrived the day after a foot of snow had melted onto already water-logged ground. It was wet so we splashed and slid with great care around boggy pathways, but the trees that greeted us made it all worthwhile.
We are great fans of Betulas (birches) and Acers (maples) and here we found many to admire. We admired them for their profile, their bark texture and colour.
Acer griseum is a classic winter garden tree, with its silky-smooth, shiny mahogany bark. the thinnest of slithers peel off, curl and catch the low winter sun. It has a perfect common name, the Paper Bark Maple. It appears to be wrapped in sparkling, shining and very fancy wrapping paper
Another Acer that caught our eye, similarly had beautifully coloured bark, was Acer x conspicuum “Phoenix”. The bark on this Acer though was silky smooth.
The celebrated Snakebark Maples need to be studied close up where the delicately textured and multi-coloured bark can be fully appreciated.
The type of Acers most frequently grown in smaller gardens and arboreta alike is Acer dissectum, grown for its leaf colours, the fresh young growth in spring, the rich summer colour and perhaps most of all for the extravagent autumn colours. But at Bluebell Arboretum we discovered this variety, “Eddisbury” which had another layer of interest and an extra reason for growing it, the beauty of its stems.
I am not a great fan of conifers but two caught my eye, both Piceas. One had bark with eye shapes and the other an amazing profile.
If the amazing trees of Bluebell weren’t enough for the gardener to delight in, other points of interest are there to catch the eye. An archway of clematis, a petrified tree stump, a kettle Robin nestbox, a logpile for beetles, an interesting old stump and another stump with rings making a picture reminiscent of an ammonite fossil.
There were too many examples of my favourite family of trees, the Betulas, so they deserve a post of their own. One to look forward to!