Happy International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day is all about the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future – so what better way to celebrate than by applauding the amazing women who work at Alba Trees. Since 2017 the number of female employees at Alba has increased 100% and now make up about one quarter of the team – although the external nursery team are still predominantly male. I spoke to some of the key women in Alba about what their jobs involved, how they felt about the industry as a whole and what it’s like to be a woman in the forestry sector. 

I gathered everyone for a picture – something most of us weren’t too keen on! It was a rare opportunity to sit as a team and take 10-15 minutes to discuss what it’s like to be a woman in a predominantly male sector The good news: the consensus is that it’s never felt like an issue or a problem at least within the company, even to those having worked in the industry for over 30 years like Anne White, the Accounts Administrator who started with us in 1989, now our longest serving member of staff.

Top: (L to R) Carol Frazer, Jackie Watson, Margaret Allen, Jill Gracie, Jayne Grieg & Anne White
Bottom: (L to R) Beki Scott, Lauren Glass & Amalia Costin

Carol Frazer started at Alba straight from school, and she’s now our Production Supervisor responsible for overseeing the transplanting of all our stock. She told me ‘I’ve always been an independent woman; I was brought up that way, but I just feel like part of the team here.’ When I asked how she felt attitudes towards woman have changed, she said ‘I feel like there is more respect for women now, general attitudes have changed. I’m listened to more!’ she laughed. Amalia Costin, Office Administrator, has been with Alba for over 2 years and is responsible for managing reception and all office admin duties. She told me ‘I’ve always worked in an environment that employed predominantly woman, so I’ve never really felt inequality within a workplace.’

Beki Scott, Management Accountant joined Alba Trees 4 months ago and is aware of how horticulture is playing an increasingly important role in the contemporary world due to climate change and is excited to be part of it. She said ‘Alba Trees has seen fantastic growth in recent years, and we expect that to continue – as an accountant I cannot think of anything more exciting. I love working here!’ Beki added – ‘Most of my career has been spent in industries which are either male dominated or where men occupy all leadership / management positions and here are some of the key things I have learnt

Generationally I think women see things differently now, speaking as a millennial we have been brought up to be hyper-aware of the inequalities within gender and been encouraged to challenge that behaviour – something that simply couldn’t be done 40 years ago due to workplace laws and general attitudes.

Jill Gracie & Jayne Greig are two key players within the nursery team. Jill has been with Alba Trees since her school days, she worked over the summers then was offered a job when leaving school and has been with us for over 16 years now. Jill is one of the Nursery Workers (which basically means she does a bit of everything) but her most important role is controlling pests and disease and ensuring all our trees are healthy. Until 3 years ago Jill was the only female worker on the nursery, a ratio that has been improving steadily over the past few years. Jayne Greig is our Head Propagator and joined Alba 4 months ago as part of our business expansion, Jayne oversees all seed sowing and manages a team of up to 12. Both ladies feel the workplace is welcoming and supportive and when asked about the work Alba Trees does, Jayne told me ‘I love being part of something that will provide a sustainable future for our woodlands and forestry, I enjoy my role and look forward to coming into work each day knowing I will doing my bit to make a difference.’

The Alba Sales team have over 20 years of experience within the company and have a great insight into female roles within the forestry industry. Sales Manager Margaret Allan said ‘When I first started working at Alba there were only of handful of women, including the office staff. It was quite apparent when attending shows and events that we were the odd ones out. That has changed over the last 10 years and there are now many more women in the industry. It’s always more difficult to be heard or stand out in a predominantly male sector, but hopefully that is slowly changing.’ Margaret and Sales Executive Jackie Watson have spent the last two decades building customer relations, hosting nursery visits, attending shows and events as well as preparing tenders, placing orders and advising customers. Their contribution to Alba has been critical to Alba’s growth and success.

I started with Alba Trees last August, coming from a sales and events background there was a lot of completely new information for me to take in.  My E-sales, Social Media & Marketing Manager role was created in line with the company’s expansion, which seen 6 new key roles created, 50% of which have been filled by women.

It’s safe to say that the women fill many of the key roles within Alba Trees. Although the Forestry sector is still largely dominated by men, more and more women are being attracted to and welcomed into the sector and it’s encouraging to see a more equal workplace balance starting to develop.

If you would like to learn more about what the industry is doing to celebrate women in the forestry industry head over to https://www.charteredforesters.org/category/women-in-arboriculture-forestry/ where a number of female members who are excelling within the industry were interviewed. 

Having survived January, February is always welcomed with open arms. Dry January is over, people are no longer holding their resolutions and the balance of the universe seems to be truly restored. The days are getting brighter and although February tends to be a wet and often dreich month there are signs of life appearing everywhere you look. In February we, on average, gain an extra 2 and a half minutes of sunlight each day, meaning by the end of the month we’ll have gained a whole hour and 10 minutes! Which is great news for us but also wonderful news for our plants 😊

Cherry Laurel

With more daylight hours the promise of Spring creeps in, you can see daffodils start to open and the Easter Eggs are firmly in the seasonal isles but with the mild winter weather is this a good time to plant? The answer, quite simply is, of course! Our cell grown plants can be planted all year round if the soil is properly cultivated so have a look at our favourite February shrubs & get planting!

Blooming from January to June, common gorse can grow in all kinds of habitats including coastal grasslands, towns & gardens. Common gorse is a large, evergreen shrub, covered in needle-like leaves and has a very distinctive coconut-perfume. Its deep yellow flowers are a great source of nectar for birds as it’s in flower for long periods of time, making it easily recognisable and are a great food source, even in the Winter months.

Another February favourite is Cherry laurel (pictured left), this evergreen scrub has handsome glossy dark green leaves that can grow up to 15cm in length. This shrub is great for heading as it tolerates cutting and regenerates well. It can last in extreme coldness and tolerate temperatures as low as -20C. The Cherry laurels flower is a beautiful white upright raceme that blooms from May – June & fruits cherries that turn to black. Careful though, the shrub leaves and fruit are toxic to humans if digested.