I have been thinking more and more recently about how I can garden in a more environmentally friendly way. I have been spending time on the internet searching for ways I can limit my impact on the environment. One of the ideas I have come across is using coppiced products in my garden and on the allotment.
Coppicing is a traditional way of managing woodland in Britain where trees are carefully cut to ground level and the new shoots that emerge are managed until they are the right size to be cut down again. I always thought it was only trees such as Willow and Hazel that were coppiced, but most deciduous trees and shrubs can be coppiced including chestnut and oak. However, the time between coppicings can vary greatly from 1-3 years for Willow and up to 20-40 years for Chestnut and Oak. Coppicing is an excellent way of producing timber without having to replant and it is also incredibly important way to manage habitats. The cutting down of trees in small areas of woodland allows light to reach the woodland floor encouraging herbaceous perennial plants to grow, this in turn supports a whole ecosystem of mammals, invertebrates and birds. As the shoots grow from the coppiced stumps the open glade is gradually shaded out but then in another part of the wood a new glade is opened up as a different section is coppiced. Creatures such as woodland fritillaries and dormice thrive along with bluebells and primroses. Unfortunately, Britain lost 90% of its coppiced woodlands during the 20th century (figure from http://www.beanpoles.org.uk).
This is where gardeners can come in. What gardener hasn’t got a stash of bamboo canes in the shed? I have, although I have never been much of a fan of bamboo. I appreciate it is an amazing plant that has many uses but it doesn’t really blend into a Welsh cottage garden. I have always been envious of various TV gardeners and their supply of Hazel poles or twiggy pea sticks but I don’t have any trees to provide me with these alternatives. Then I came across the website http://www.beanpoles.org.uk, which was set up to support the coppice business in the UK. The people behind the website want gardeners to buy locally grown, ecofriendly beanpoles instead of bamboo canes. By buying coppiced products you can support the local environment, wildlife, rural jobs and ancient skills and traditions.
To promote knowledge of coppicing and the products that can be purchased for the last 4 years there has been a National Beanpole Week. Next year this week is to be held from 21st April to 29th April. I have found a local coppicer who is holding special events during that week that the public can go along to and best of all I can get hold of my own supply of beanpoles and twiggy peasticks. Even better than just minimising my impact on the environment I will actually be helping it by supporting an important part of habitat management.
For more information and to see if there are any National Beanpole Week events taking place near you take a look at the following websites: http://www.beanpoles.org.uk/ and http://www.coppice-products.co.uk/.
Not a big fan of bamboo either. Coppiced Hazel is lovely and rustic looking and if you put them in the shed over Winter they should last quite a long time.
I’ve been trying to get locally coppiced hazel or similar. The local council are producing them but not in large enough numbers yet. I can’t get them anywhere else so far. I like bamboo growing in the ground but ironically we have enough of it to pick our own canes…
The Green Lady said:
What a great post. I worked for Craig Sams last year (invented Green & Blacks chocolate with his wife Josephine Fairley) who owns a wood that is coppiced. He has been making biochar and his plan is to teach young men who have been in trouble the skills of coppicing. It’s something really worth supporting and the canes do look lovely. Thanks for the products link, I didn’t know about that!
Ps I’ve just looked up the beanpole site and there are a couple of suppliers in the area.
Thanks for the info.
wellywoman, just wanted to pop by to say Hello and say thanks for being a ‘new’ commenter on my blog 🙂
This is an interesting post. I do hear what you are saying. Recently (in my own garden) I have moved a couple of small trees around and the light dispersal in the area has changed. Next year it will be interesting to see how the plants abapt.It’s not hard to imagine this on the larger scale of woodlands 🙂
Like Janet we have Bamboo in the garden we can cut for canes (a clump forming variety) althnough not quite as much as she has. I also followed your link and will make a note of this to return another day.
Pauline Mulligan said:
Really interesting post – we have just 2 hazel bushes in our little strip of woodland and do use these when necessary, cutting them in alternate years. Because of the small area of woodland we are so lucky to have Silver washed fritillaries, Speckled wood, Commas and Dormice (or is it a dormouse) living with us.
Also 3 ash trees are coppiced for firewood when the many trunks are thick enough for logs for the wood burner. Many thanks for the links – will now explore them.
What a shame, there aren’t any events taking place in Yorkshire. I’ll keep checking back though in case some are added later.
i love coppiced hazel and we have been growing some with the intention of coppicing our own. This year will be the first time we have cut and I need to check as to timing. I see you are in Wales – if you are anywhere in North East Wales you could have some if you like!
Thanks for your comment on my blog. It’s great to meet new gardening friends!
hi Welsh Hills,
Thank you for the kind offer unfortunately we’re at the bottom end in south east Wales. I’ve very impressed that is real sustainable gardening growing your own hazel.
I was slightly alarmed when I saw the title of your post WW as I thought that it surely could not have been a year since the last ‘National Beanpole’ week 🙂 Unfortunately there are no suppliers on my doorstep yet although promising signs. I stocked up with beanpoles at the Malvern Spring Show this year and will be hoping to do the same next spring.
Luckily our allotment site has an ancient hedgerow as one of its borders. I’ll be doing some light coppicing over the winter months 🙂
Thank you for that interesting post and contact details. I love hazel poles in herbaceous borders as supports for sweet peas.
It’s something that I’d like to do and will give it serious consideration when I have to replace my bamboo canes! xx