Did You Hear About the Coronation Living Heritage Fund?

The Coronation Living Heritage Fund is a £2.5 million kitty for local authorities to plant more trees in honour of King Charles III’s coronation; applications closed last September. And we completely missed it.

In our defence, we have absolutely no excuse. Sure, our failure to inform you in time probably won’t make any difference, because the fund is not open to the public, and if you are already well involved in the life of your local council, then you have probably already heard of it.

But seriously, we are supposed to be in the business of selling trees here, and we missed the biggest piece of UK tree planting news in 2023? What were we doing? Napping under a hedge all year?

Yes, apparently we were indeed doodle-napping under a hedge while all this was going on.

So, it’s a bit late for this blog post, and that is something we will have to live with for at least as long as it takes for us to get distracted and forget.

However, there is something worthwhile to glean here: the promotion of Dr Akira Miyawaki’s (1928-2021) vision of regenerating small patches of urban land into lush forest using very close planting (around 3 to 5 plants per square metre: just like a hedge!) of a diverse range of native species.
This shades the soil, thus suppressing weeds and preserving soil moisture, keeps human intruders out, and encourages the trees to grow taller faster, because they are shaded on all sides by their neighbours and only receive sunlight from above.
There really isn’t much more to it than that, apart from all the woodchips (if you are new here: woodchips make some of the best mulch around, and quite rapidly recreate the forest floor soil conditions that most trees and shrubs love).

We’ve skipped the intro for you on this introduction to Miyawaki’s work in Japan, where you can see some impressive before & after footage of his oldest projects.

Many (perhaps most) Miyawaki projects dig or plough the soil down to a depth of up to a metre, which is easy enough for the council to do with a digger, but won’t be practical or affordable for most home gardeners.
Soil preparation most definitely helps tree roots to reach deeper soil faster, and thus reduces the need for watering, but as long as your trees are well watered in their first year after planting, it’s not as essential as the other parts of the Miyawaki system. Indeed, cost is the main objection to his method, and the ideal soil preparation that he recommended is one of the most expensive elements.

This video from the UK is a bit light on the details for such a long video (at one point they tell you about using mycorrhizal fungi while the video shows them playing with woodchips – says us with our tree planting video that manages to mention neither, ahem), but it’s great to see the system working over here:

So, what sort of trees do you need to go about making your own Miyawaki style forest? That’s easy: native ones (or at least long since naturalised here – looking at you, beech), and the more, the merrier. Ten species is a nice minimum, and we’ve read about projects that use up to 40. You can adjust the mix to your local area for best results, but if in doubt, go for more (e.g. should you use Common Oak or Sessile Oak? They are both native, so who cares, bung ’em all in!).

My starter Miyawaki forest of over 20 species would probably start off with a conservation hedge mix (all the plants are either trees or large shrubs when allowed to grow freely), which gets me 6 species about as cheaply as possible (including plenty of hawthorn to deter intruders), to which I would add some other common hedge plants:

Then list of trees that aren’t typically used for hedging:

And some native evergreens:

And what native forest could be complete without native bluebells?

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