The ‘Grafters’ at Tring – Grafted purple sycamore!
This article is I’m sorry to say not as the title might imply about the incredibly hard working volunteers at Tring Park but about the little known avenue of ‘grafted’ purple sycamores that runs from the Summerhouse to the Kings Ride. This unique avenue contains 24 trees, 6 planted purple sycamore, 1 planted standard sycamore, 15 purple sycamore grafted to standard sycamores and 2 dead but standing.
The graft lines on the trunks are very prominent and vary in height with the lowest being only 10cm and the highest being just under 2m from the ground. The girths also vary between 1.8m and 2.1m. There are notable differences to the bark textures between trees from fairly smooth to deep segmented with some showing beautiful and unusual swirl pattens. This contrast in texture appears most prominently on some of the grafted trees between the planted section and the upper grafted section accentuating the unusual appearance of these beautiful sycamores.
The Rothschilds loved to introduce colour into their landscapes so the purple sycamore as with the copper (purple) beech that is found elsewhere in the park would have been sought after as a feature in the park. The technical achievement of grafting these trees in the late 19th century is certainly something to marvel at, so why graft? The few purple sycamores that seem to have been planted without grafting may hold the key to the reasoning. It could have been that an avenue of purple sycamores was planned and planted but due to a number failing and possibly the nursery being unable to supply, the decision was made to use the surviving purple sycamores as donors and to graft onto the more accessible standard sycamore to fill in the gaps and finish the purple avenue. The result was a horticulture marvel and has left an avenue of trees with fascinating and very unusual trunk and bark formations that can only add to the beauty and intriguing history of Tring Park.
Geof Howe (lead volunteer at Tring Park)
Feature image – Amanda Brookes
Images in body of text – Geof Howe