Six New Trees and More to Come…


The Gardening Group had planned to pay for these trees, but the Islington Tree department have very kindly found Section 106 money for them; courtesy of John Ryan, Head of Department; so the Friend’s Group can now spend that money allocated for the trees on other planting – which is amazing!

All trees, with the exception of two Prunus Avium Plena are now planted, these two will go in over the next week or so.

DUNCAN TERRACE GARDENS                        

Acer Cappadocicum                                                                               [ x 2 trees]

Location: Duncan Terrace side, between 28 & 29

and 31 & 32 Duncan Terrace

A lovely medium-sized tree [a wonderful example can be seenin the Cambridge Botanic Gardens]; a golden orb in Autumn as each of the opposite, palmate leaves turn a rich yellow. The lobes of each leaf are very elegantly pointed. This tree is native to Turkey and Asia.

Another distinctive feature of the tree is the bright red young leaves that emerge in early Spring, before turning green in summer and then back to red, gold and yellow in the Autumn. It likes a sheltered position so does well tucked away in park and woodland collections.


Parrotia Persica, Vanessa [Persian Parrot] RHS Garden of Merit Award 

Location: Colebrooke Row side; exactly opposite Wideford House entrance 

Tree Description:

Incredible autumn colour and large glossy, deeply-ribbed mid-green foliage that turn vibrant shade of yellow, orange, red and purple in autumn making a magnificent kaleidoscopic display. Holding its leaves for a long time, the autumn display is often extended for several weeks.

This stunning show is followed by clusters of witch hazel-like ruby-red flowers on bare branches from February-March that will still look fresh after a heavy coating of snow. The flowers are actually petal-less and what you see is the red stamens. The bark is silvery grey and as the tree reaches maturity it flakes, revealing shades of pink, green and yellow young bark. This beautiful short-trunked, spreading tree will grow to 6 x 4 metres in 20 years and has almost horizontal branches. Parrotia persica is an absolutely spectacular specimen tree that is comfortable in low light and therefore perfect for this situation.


Prunus Avium Plena; Spectacular Double-flowered cherry   [2 trees to be planted]

Location: Wideford House bed [Colebrooke Row side] and opposite no 8-9 Duncan Terrace                                                                      

Tree Description:

Prunus avium ‘Plena’ is a striking flowering cherry tree with big, double white flowers that droop in clusters all over the branches in April-May, complimented by a canvas of dark-green leaves which turn a vibrant crimson before falling in the autumn. These blousy flowers are followed by small reddish-purple fruits in the autumn. One already planted in Duncan Terrace Gardens opp. 6 Duncan Terrace. Prunus avium ‘Plena’ can grow well in urban sites as it is pollution tolerant.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Prunus x Subhirtella Autumnalis –  Winter-flowering cherry       

Location: Wide bed, Colebrooke Row side,  at the City Road entrance.

Two trees are proposed either side of the current plum cherry which has had to be severely cut back, given die-back; this tree is likely to need to be replaced within 3-5 years. One P. S.A tree to be planted now – Winter 2018, a second in due course following the 3-year review.

Tree Description

Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ has rosy pink flowers opening from dark pink buds, fading slightly to soft pink as they age. The semi-double blooms appear intermittently from November-March creating a long-lasting display in winter months. Flowers are followed by small fruit popular with the birds.

The dark-green foliage of this small tree makes a good foil for other plants before turning to fiery yellow, orange and red in autumn. Ideal for smaller spaces, ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ will grow to 4 x 4 metres in 20 years. Tolerant of pollution, this pink flowering Winter Cherry tree is ideal for an urban situation. A fantastic tree giving spectacular year-round interest.


Generous Gardeners

Thank you so much to our 20 generous gardeners who were out in force on Saturday. Our 3 parallel teams worked on Duncan Terrace Garden, Colebrooke Row Garden and the Colebrooke Row bank. The progress made in the gardens would not have been possible without all of your help!

Thanks also to those who came bearing gifts of plants. These are now happily living in the gardens.

We planted winter flowers including honeysuckle, euphorbia and an acer, put down lots of mulch (courtesy of a kind donation), pruned, weeded and all this before the heavens opened just before 3!

We will be in touch with updates on how the plants are doing, along with information and future dates for garden days.

P.S. The generous gardener is a type of rose – picture attached below!

generous gardener.jpg

Bloomin’ Marvellous!

Woodland GardenGreat news! Duncan Terrace Gardens has won a Silver Gilt award in this year’s RHS London in Bloom 2108 Awards|Small Parks category. This is a really tremendous achievement and without the  help and commitment of our volunteers, it could never have been happened, so thanks to everyone who has helped us achieve this, in so many different ways!

The different categories are listed here, so you can see that Silver Gilt is quite an achievement!

Gold – Outstanding – (85% and above) (overall 170-200 points)

Silver Gilt- Very good – (70-84%) (Overall 139-169 points)

Silver – Good – (55-69%) (Overall 109-138 points)

Bronze Average – (39-54%) (Overall 78-108 points)

Certificate of Commendation Fair – (0-38%) (Overall 0-77 points)

Look forward to seeing you at the next Garden Day in just over a month’s time to help prepare the Gardens for Winter and a good Spring!    Saturday, November 10th.

Tree Stalking

A few random sources, perhaps for Christmas or birthday presents:

Why Willows Weep


A beautiful collection of short stories edited by Tracy Chevalier (best-selling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring). Each of the 19 stories is inspired by a British native tree and is written by some leading British novelists. It’s published by the Woodland Trust, link here.

The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees

Man who made things out of trees

This second book, a recommendation from Jonathan, one of our tree-walkers, is written by Robert Penn. It is a lovely story about a man who sets out to discover all he can about the ash tree, including seeing how many things he can make from it! He uncovers the ancient skills, traditions and knowledge associated with the ash, and reveals how these are very much still alive today. This is a review from the Guardian.

Tree ID App

On a more practical level, from the Woodland Trust, here is a link to an app that will help you identify trees:

Woodland Trust

There will be others books and ideas out there too, let us know if you find something!

Tree Walking

Many thanks to Patrick Richardson for his interesting and insightful talk and to all those who came, it was a great session; thanks also to Karon Hollingsworth, GreenSpace for organising the event!


We learnt many things. Read on and check out the links that provide more interesting detail.

 How to Establish the Age of a Tree

The age of a tree can be loosely estimated as its circumference in inches, expressed as years; eg. A hundred inches – a hundred years… In metric, take the circumference in centimetres and divide by 2.5 to give you the tree age. Not always true, but a good rule of thumb…

Inspiration from the Victorian age and beyond

Duncan Terrace Gardens is famous for its London Planes. The Victorians planted Plane and Lime trees because they were very tolerant of pollution; the leaves are able to trap particulates which are subsequently washed down to the ground when it rains, essentially filtering our air.

Plane Sailing


We tried to work out the age of the giant London plane trees in the Gardens – Platanus –  [largely situated around 11 Duncan Terrace [DT], but another  fine example at 1-2 DT; we estimated 150-200 years. To correlate, we dated some of the houses on the Terrace back as far as at least 1799; we know for much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that the New River, which brought water into North London from Hertfordshire, ran the length of the Gardens, but in the mid-nineteenth century the space was enclosed [1861], the river bed covered up and the space planted as gardens in about 1871 so it is likely that they are at least 150 – 160 years old and they may be 50 or so years older … We are going to contact Robin Hull a local London plane tree expert based at Highbury Fields.



Fine examples of the limes are to be found opposite 24-26 and 14-17 Duncan Terrace [DT] and of course elsewhere in the Garden, see if you can now spot the other locations.

The Tree of Heaven, or Hell?


Looking up through the trees around 7-8 DT was an amazing sight – the tree tops of the Planes merging with the branches of the impressive and fast-growing Tree of Heaven[ Ailanthus Altissima]. Its distinctive ash-like leaves and spreading branches are an impressive sight, but all is not as it seems, this species can be highly invasive, and is now rarely planted. Nestling between two dividing branches is the wonderful architectural birdhouse structure, Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven held high in the branches.

The Sycamore [Europe], Sycamore Maple [US] : from the genus Acer

Known simply as the Sycamore here in the UK – trees are called different things in different places and why we sometimes resort to Latin….

Acer pseudoplatanus – translated simply means Like a Plane Tree.


The sycamore or sycamore maple, is native to central Europe and south-western Asia. It has a superficial similarity [leaves] to the plane tree [platanus genus],  which is what led to its being named “Acer pseudoplatanus,” from the Greek “pseudo-” for “false.”


Acer campestre, or the Field Maple sits outside 5DT [photo below] and further down, on the Colebrooke Row side, two Cappadocian maples or Acer cappadocicum [at 1 & 3 CR] are easily identified by their leaves. Nearby them is another Prunus, the purple plum tree [now half it’s previous size because of a fungal infection – we may have to lose it completely…] and  a large shrub with black berries which is a cherry Laurel – Prunus laurocerasus.


Snake-Bark or Acer capillipesis found at 19 DT– is a remarkable and distinctive snake-barked acer.

 Hollies – male, female or other?

Other trees abounding in the Gardens [near the grassed area, opposite 27-28 DT] are Hollies – Ilex aquifolia – trees are either male, female, or both! Female trees bear berries and this is how they are identified. Other Holly types – variegated, are found elsewhere in the Garden, some in the woodland area [at 17 DT] and others right down by the City Road.


Up by the Grass on the Colebrooke Row side are native Hazelnut trees [opposite 27-29 DT] .

Tree or a Shrub? The long and short of it…

There are multiple examples of the confusion between a tree and a shrub in the Gardens, not least the pyracantha. Near the grassed area it is a huge orange-berried Pyracantha tree [at 26 DT], at the Duncan Terrace entrance [on the right and left as you enter] it is a mild-mannered shrub formed into a hedge; similarly, the red-berried Cotoneaster can be seen both as shrub throughout the Gardens and at 28 DT as a tree.


Cherry or Prunus is a huge genus of trees and shrubs, which includes the plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds. Native to the northern temperate regions, there are 430 different species classified under Prunus. Many members of the genus are widely cultivated for their fruit and for decorative purposes.

The trees have distinctive bark – lenticels that sit in parallel rings around the trunk; these are used for gaseous exchange.

Prunus cerasifera, a purple-leaved plum tree sits at 23 DT, it has beautiful bark and rick purple leaves with pink blossom [I think! Check this Spring…] and another cherry at 1-2 DT, again on the CR side, although as above, this one is struggling badly and may have to be removed.

Another, unidentified  large prunus is at 17 DT [on the CR side]; Then further down towards the City Road is a beautiful small spring-flowering, white cherry [at 10 DT on the DT side]; all to be identified over the next few weeks!

“Self-optimising mechanical structures” (Mattheck & Bremoer 1994).

In plain English, a tree! That is, something that will adapt to its conditions and surroundings!

 Finally, Succession Planning……

Not just for boardrooms and companies! Over the coming months, we will be working with Greenspace and the Tree Department to ensure we have a succession plan in place for our trees; this will stretch forward over the next twenty years, so that as trees inevitably die, through age, disease or for other reasons, we can replace them in a sustainable and thoughtful way.


August Gardening

We had a great day in the Gardens on Saturday, many thanks to everyone who could make it!

In Colebrooke Row Gardens we managed to do most of the long bed – there is a little more left to do, but we will get there over the next week or so.

Then in Duncan Terrace Gardens we did a brilliant job on all the deep beds adjacent to both of the Colebrooke Row entrances, including the Woodland Triangle.  Finally a huge effort down at the City Rd entrance, cutting back and organising the perennials that failed to survive the drought conditions.

Look forward to seeing you on the next Gardening Day – September 15th!

Changing Climates

: Summer temperatures over northern hemisphere land regions (1850-2017)

Weather patterns are changing. Wetter and windier winters together with longer, drier summers, have now become part of our new norm. These increases in winter rainfall and hotter drier summers have an impact on our and many other gardens and like others, we are trying to evolve our ways of managing the Duncan Terrace & Colebrooke Row Gardens in ways that minimise their environmental impact. This includes planting shrubs and plants that are drought-tolerant and yet can survive the wet winters. We are getting help from lots of sources including the Cambridge Botanical Gardens and Beth Chatto.

Check out Climate Scientist Ed Hawkins’ warming stripes images: