Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a tour of the Meersbrook Park Walled Garden, Sheffield, in the company of Kaktus, a volunteer and fellow tree enthusiast. This visit was in preparation for a walk that I will be leading here next year. Along with the park itself, the walled garden makes a wonderful place for a tree walk on account of the species variety, many of which are seldom seen in this part of the world.
Upon entering the walled garden from the park the first highlight is the ghostly Himalayan birch (Betula utilis), the white bark of which is especially stunning when all the leaves have fallen. Immediately to the right is a tunnel formed from flexible white willow (Salix alba) that is identifiable, even without its leaves, by the yellow stems of younger growth. This tree’s common name comes from the white underside of the leaves, just to clear up any possible confusion.
One of the trees caught me out. It was an oak-leaved cultivar of hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Quercifolia’), which I have never encountered before. A few minutes were spent scratching my head: the leaves were saying ‘oak’ but the bark was something else altogether and I will admit to being thrown off the scent. Only when Kaktus confirmed it was a hornbeam did all the bits of the puzzle fall into place. Even when young the bark has the characteristic striated appearance that is best evoked by the North American name ‘musclewood’.
One of the more exotic specimens found here is the foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa) and, despite hailing from Central and Western China, it grows surprisingly well in Northern Britain providing it gets enough shelter from the wind. I will be back in May to check out the spectacular lilac-coloured flowers. For now it can be recognised by the unusual, pointed, seed pods, each apparently containing 200 seeds, which contributes to this beautiful tree being regarded as an invasive weed in North America.
There are many trees of note elsewhere in the park, some of which I have mapped already, however it is a huge space and I will have to return to complete the rest in the New Year. On my way back to Meersbrook Park Road I spotted a yellow-berried holly, right next to this entrance, which was truly resplendent in the slanting winter sunlight. The birds tend to favour red berries first and so the yellow berries will likely remain throughout winter.