Tree seedlings sought for local Community Tree Nurseries

Do you have any spare tree seedlings in your garden that you can donate to the Community Tree Nurseries being set up at Kingston Maurward College and at the Community Farm in Dorchester?

One of the national responses to the climate and ecological emergency has been a call to plant more trees and hedgerows in suitable locations across the UK. This has led to a number of voluntary groups setting up local tree nurseries to help meet the growing demand for young trees and hedgerow plants. Kingston Maurward College and Trees for Dorset have set up a new tree nursery at the College this autumn, as has Transition Town Dorchester at the Community Farm in Poundbury.

Both tree nurseries are keen to receive donations of tree seedlings, particularly those suitable for planting in hedgerows such as Hawthorn, Hazel, Field Maple, Holly, Guelder Rose, Common Dogwood, Spindleberry and Blackthorn (being very careful with the thorns). We can also find suitable homes for small trees such as Cherry Plum, Crab Apple and Rowan which are excellent for wildlife and which seem to do well in the Dorchester area.

Tree seedlings are best moved when they are dormant in the winter months (late November to early March) and when they are about 15-25 cm tall (6” to 10”). The seedlings can either be transferred to a pot (not too big as tree seedlings seem to do best when their roots are a bit cramped) filled with garden soil or with a 50:50 mix of peat-free compost and sharp sand or horticultural grit (which helps with the drainage). Alternatively, they can be relocated as ‘bare root’ seedlings in a loosely sealed plastic bag as long as the roots are kept cool (ie. frost-free), and damp (eg. accompanied by a damp kitchen towel), and the seedlings are replanted within a couple of days.

We have collected and prepared about 2000 seeds and berries from local trees this autumn and, hopefully, some of these will start to germinate in spring 2022 and others in the following spring. All being well, these saplings will be ready to plant locally from winter 2023 onwards. 

In the meantime, the local tree nurseries would love to receive tree seedlings from your garden as they should be ready to plant earlier than the seeds we have collected! If you have lots of spare tree seedlings (of the species listed above), and feel daunted by the prospect of moving them, we might be able to arrange a volunteer from the tree nursery to help with the task.

To donate tree seedlings, to volunteer at one of the Community Tree Nurseries, or if you would like more information, please get in touch using our contact form

For more information about Community Tree Nurseries in Dorset, please see

“Autumn is like a second spring when every leaf is a colour” (Albert Camus)

As October firms up its grip on Dorchester, we can again delight in the wonderful autumn colours that the month brings to our trees around the town. Reds, yellows, pinks and purples replace the green canopy of summer. For a few precious weeks the gold, bronze, copper and amber above shelters us before getting under our feet as we move about the town.

For some, autumn is their favourite season. Recent research, commissioned by the National Trust, suggests British people are increasingly finding solace – at what can be a tricky time of year – in the joy of autumn colour. According to the research, almost three-quarters of people say they take note of how the trees change through the year with more than a quarter saying they notice trees more now than at the start of the pandemic.

Weather patterns through the year are key to the range of colours we can see each autumn – particularly the levels of sunshine, but also the air temperature and the amounts of rainfall and wind through the summer months. As the weather cools in autumn, the leaves start to receive less sunlight. As autumn approaches, lower levels of sunlight triggers the green chlorophyll in leaves to break down (and the tree does not replenish it) revealing the new, colourful pigments underneath and treating us to beautiful autumn yellows and oranges. The yellows and oranges which were previously masked by chlorophyll are called xanthophylls and carotenoids. These pigments are present year-round in the leaves, but are usually masked by the green chlorophyll.

Thanks to some thoughtful planting by earlier generations, Dorchester is blessed with a wealth of trees that display spectacular autumn colours in most years. The Walks, based on the line of the earlier walls enclosing the Roman town and first planted as avenues of trees in the early 1700s, show off their yellows and golds to those who enjoy their company. The Lime trees along Colliton Walk, with their yellowing heart-shaped leaves, are a picture at this time of year.

Borough Gardens is well worth a visit to see the full range of autumn colours. The Tulip Trees and large Maidenhair Tree look particularly colourful when seen amongst the magnificent Copper Beeches. Once you tune your eye in to the autumn colours and shapes of these trees, you may find yourself spotting them in other places around Dorchester – particularly the Maidenhair Tree which turns an almost fluorescent yellow in a good autumn.

Autumn is also the time of colourful berries and fruit – nature’s wild harvest time. In sunny places, the rich-red berries of Hawthorn shine out, the orange rose hips are softening, their colour deeping to crimson. Look out for Rowan trees around Dorchester this autumn, with their fine feathery leaves and orange or red berries. Also known as the Mountain Ash, this tree is believed to protect households against witchcraft and enchantment, and its flowers are a great source of food for early pollinators.

As the days shorten, why not take the opportunity to see wonderful autumn colours along the Millstream walk and in the adjacent Riverside Nature Reserve. As a bonus, the Mallard are once again gathering noisily on the Millstream to the amusement of those that pass by – another of nature’s annual cycles just starting over.

Guest post by Richard Bradford. Written for, and first published on, the Discover Dorchester website.

New Community Tree Nursery for Dorchester

A new Community Tree Nursery is being set up at the Community Farm in Poundbury by Transition Town Dorchester. It is early days and there is a big task to do just clearing the area for the nursery and stock beds! 

The long-term plan is to collect seeds of a finite number of native species of good local provenance that we want to encourage people to plant in the Dorchester area. We plan to raise the trees and shrubs from seed and/or cuttings at the nursery (or with foster parents) until they are ready for planting in their final destination. It might take 3-5 years to reach a time when the first trees raised locally are ready to plant out.

In the meantime, we are thinking of buying in some young stock of native trees and shrubs that would be good for pollinators in gardens around the town eg. Crab Apple, Cherry Plum, Rowan and Field Maple. We would grow these on for a few more years and then offer them to residents (with suitable gardens) around the town, possibly in return for a small domination. As well as helping pollinators in Dorchester, this initial activity might help to raise the profile of the Community Tree Nursery around the town.

Kingston Maurward College has offered space at their Lower Nursery site for a second Community Tree Nursery to be run by Trees for Dorset. This site should be easier to clear as it has been used as stock beds in the last couple of years and we might well be able to encourage students to help in the nursery as part of their studies. 

The current plan is to have set ‘volunteer working days’ at each nursery, plus ad hoc visits when particular tasks need to be done. We have just started working at the Community Farm weekly on Wednesday mornings and plan to work at Kingston Maurward College on alternate Tuesday afternoons. 

We would love you to get involved in setting up and running these Community Tree Nurseries – there is plenty to do! We have not made a full list of the volunteer roles and tasks yet but they are likely to include:

  • Site clearance and ongoing maintenance of stock beds, paths, fences etc – the most physical of the tasks!
  • Seed collection – seasonal, outdoors 
  • Seed preparation and taking cuttings – skilled work, can be messy, patience needed!
  • Planting out and/or potting on seedlings/cuttings – can be a bit monotonous but fun in a group
  • Weeding pots and stock beds – physical work
  • Preparing trees for distribution to final recipients – requires coordination, working to a timetable/schedule, physical work
  • Promotion of the Community Tree Nurseries – in the press, social media, at local events etc
  • Administration – organisation of volunteer work days, nursery schedules and timetables, finance (hopefully!)
  • Running a foster tree nursery scheme (where people look after trees and shrubs that are not accommodated at the nursery) – offering help and advice, coordination of ‘foster parents’.

Please get in touch if you are interested in helping with any particular aspect of the Community Tree Nurseries eg. the physical work on clearing and maintaining the nursery sites, seed collection and preparation, or running a foster tree nursery scheme.

For more information, please see:

Guest article by Richard Bradford, volunteer with Transition Town Dorchester, which first appeared in the Trees for Dorset Newsletter in October 2021

Getting started…

I recently came across some ideas I had written about Dorchester Trees and was a bit alarmed to notice the date 17/12/2018 alongside them…! What have I been doing these last 12 months? But then a year in the life of many of the trees around Dorchester is but a blink of an eye…

Why trees…? As I get older, I sense that I am getting more and more attached to trees and feel we need to shape our future together if we are to tackle the climate and extinction emergency. We hear a lot in the news at the moment about the need to plant more trees in the UK and, in the lead up to the general election, many political parties have set ambitious targets to increase the UK’s tree cover.

I moved to Dorchester in 2018 and hoped to get involved in a local, tree-based initiative along the lines of Andover Trees United, Sidmouth Arboretum or Tottenham Trees. I am a member of the Woodland Trust and Trees for Dorset (and both of these organisations do good work in Dorset), but neither of them are quite what I was hoping to get actively involved with. Being unsuccessful in finding an initiative that ticked all my boxes in or around Dorchester, I thought the next best thing I could do was make a start on something in the hope that others might like to get involved – hence ‘Dorchester Trees’.

Dorchester has a rich heritage of trees, including the avenue along West Walks, which were set out to follow the line of the old Roman walls around the town and were first planted with Lime and Sycamore in the early 1700s.

It is very early days for the Dorchester Trees initiative (and I am a novice in website development), but if you have any bright ideas about what we should be doing for trees in or around the town, or would like to get involved, then please get in touch using the ‘Contact’ page.

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