Nestled in the Carrifran Valley stood a symbol of hope. At the turn of the milenia, Borders Forests Trust embarked on one of their first natural regeneration projects achieved in the Carrifran Valley. Their campaign, based on the slogan “Where one tree survives, a million trees will grow,” a lone rowan stood clinging to a stream bank in the valley.
Today the survivor tree is surrounded by a little forest of its children, no longer lonely. A symbol of the 20-year journey to revive the wild heart of Southern Scotland.
In addition to its children, the survivor now has over half a million other native Scottish trees for company, some of which Alba proudly supplied.
You can find out more about The Carrifan Wildwood buy purchasing the book here.
If the recent lockdown has taught us anything it’s that we don’t need nearly as much as we are used to having. Although going out for dinner and drinks at the weekend are still a welcomed treat, more and more of us connected with nature over the lockdown months and if you are anything like us, enjoyed the local woodland walks full of fruit and nut trees. Foraging for food is also a great way to save on money, before you do however we’ve pulled together a code of conduct for foraging within public woodlands:
Crab apples, blackthorn berries (sloe), rowan, hawthorn, elderberrys and hazel are all great species to forage. These native trees and shrubs grow well in both urban and countryside areas.
Rowan and crab apples are small deciduous trees that grow well in urban green spaces and are perfect for a small- medium sized back garden. Cooking with crab apple will get you some delicious apple crumble/ pie and rowan berries can be turned into jelly (that goes great meat like lamb and venison).
Blackthorn and hawthorn are often used as hedging plants and can be seen along the edges of fields and public walkways, a perfect excuse to grab a bucket and take the kids on a walk. Hawthorn berries can be made into a jelly too, making it a great accompaniment to cheese (and wine – if you are over 18!). Blackthorn & elder berries make wonderful liquors, both go very well with gin.
The hazel tree you will find in local woodlands but you may be lucky to get a handful as they are the squirrels favourite. If you are lucky enough to get some you can make a whole host of tasty treats, our favourite is a chocolate hazelnut spread.
Re-branding and launching a website during a global pandemic has been a challenge and one of the main road bumps was photography! With it being such a crucial part of a new website we knew we couldn’t launch without getting great imagery of our new product.
Luckily for us, Nic Cameron was still offering his photography services and prior to meeting we discussed at length the measures we would put in place during the shoot. It was imperative that we, as the client, sent a shot list to Nic so he knew exactly what shots we wanted. We also sent a vision board so he knew the kind of style we were looking for.
With regards to safety; Nic wore PPE throughout the shoot, props were cleaned before and after touching and he set up a laptop so we could easily see the photos he was taking without having to look through the screen of his camera.
We highly recommend using Nic, he was friendly and professional and had the photos back to us in what felt like no time at all. You can read his blog post about the work he did for us here.
At the heart of it, gin is basically neutral spirit flavoured with juniper berries so it’s no wonder its so popular with distillers. The term ‘bathtub gin’ is often used when describing gins that originated during the Prohibition era. In the 1920’s, when the sale of alcohol was illegal, people would to go great lengths to mask the flavour over their cheap over-proof spirit by mixing up herbs and spices in their bathtubs to sell at speakeasy’s and holes in the wall. Lucky for us gin is far easier to get your hands on nowadays and with it recently overtaking whisky in terms of the amount of distilleries there are in Scotland it’s obvious that we love it. We’ve created a simple recipe for you to follow, most of these ingredients can be either bought, foraged or grown in your very own back garden!
750ml (1 bottle) good quality vodka
2tbsp juniper berries (minimum)
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamon pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
lemon & orange peel (no pith)
Sterilise a bottle & add vodka and all ingredients except from the lemon and orange peel.
Close and store in a cool, dark place for 24 hours.
Taste (determine if it needs anything else – makers discretion).
Add the citrus peels and store for another 24 hours.
Take it out and taste again, you don’t want to over brew it (think tea!).
Using a sieve filter out all the botanical’s, if you want a crystal clear gin, re-bottle & leave for a further 24 hours then filter with a muslin.
Bottle and enjoy!
In recent years there has been a lot of emphasis of the importance of bees. To celebrate World Bee Day we wanted to tell you why bee’s are so important to our ecosystem.
The main reason bee’s are so important to us is because they pollinate the vast majority of the food we harvest. Approximately 80% of all flowering plants are pollinated by animals, mostly insects (which includes bees). Pollination is crucial because many vegetables, fruits and the crops that feed livestock rely on it to be fertilised. Veggies like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower reply solely on honey bees and solitary bees for pollination so without them, we could have serious crop problems. While there are other methods of pollination, like the wind, birds, bats and other insects, wild bees are among the most important pollinators because they are capable of pollinating on a much bigger scale.
As pollinators, bees play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers, and other plants, which serve as food and shelter for a number of creatures both big and small.
Our bee mix is a great addition to any garden, this mix will provide interest and activity all year round and help our fuzzy friends continue to strive.
Pick up our ‘save the bees’ pack here!
You don’t need to be a landscaping professional to plant a hedge, we’ve pulled together some handy tips and tricks of the trade to show you how easy planting a hedge can be.
To decide how many trees you need for the space think about the following:
1. Decide how dense you want your hedge. Do you want a slim-line, single-row hedge or a thick, double-row. If you have space, we would definitely recommend going for a double row so you get a really luscious, dense look.
2. Measure the area you want your hedge to cover. Pace the distance out in metres and remember, it pays to be a bit generous.
3. Do some simple maths!
(Number of Plants/Metre) x (Number of Metres) = Number of Plants you need!
If you prefer feet, then 1 metre = 3.3 feet (very roughly!)
When thinking about planting densities, hedge species can be split into a couple of categories:
Use 3 plants per metre (1 per foot) in a single row, or 5 (1.5 per foot) in a double row.
Hedge Trees include: Field Maple, Hazel, Hawthorn, Holly, Blackthorn. Planting Dog Roses in addition to some of your other trees lets them ramble through the hedge, allowing pink flowers to pop up randomly along the length of the hedge.
These trees can create a wonderful hedge, but need to be planted a little closer together and should be pruned in a slightly different way.
Use 4 plants per metre (1.2 per foot) in a single row, or 7 per metre (2 per foot) in a double row.
You can grow a hedge from almost any type of tree, so if you are using a non-traditional species as a hedge, then plant slightly denser than this.
The short answer is: prune back 1/3 of height growth every spring until the hedge gets to your desired size and then as often as it needs it during the summer. This will work well enough for all hedges and you will get a height gain of upto 1ft per year (after pruning) for most types of hedge. Just prune the sides of the hedge once it gets to your desired thickness making sure it is narrower at the top than bottom.
Hedging species can be split into groups for the very best care:
These trees make great hedges, but need care in the first years to promote bushiness at the bottom. Start by pruning the plants back to 30cm when planting then during the first summer, trim off a couple of centimetres from the sides to promote side-growth: you are really just trying to nip off the buds. Make sure the hedge is thinner at the top than the bottom so that light gets to the bottom of the hedge as side branches will die if they get no light.
In the second year in February/March, give it a really good prune, down to half its height. This will really get the bottom nice and bushy and once those side shoots have grown in then you have achieved your aim of avoiding gaps. Keep lightly pruning the sides to a taper so that lights gets to the bottom, but you can let the hedge grow in height throughout the second summer and then prune the tops in the Autumn. From then on, you need only to prune the hedge to your desired shape and it will gradually fill in and become bushier.
These trees are naturally far bushier at the base than the hawthorn group so there is less chance of getting it wrong. Cut them back to about 20cm when planting (or just nip the top bud out if they are already small) to get a bit more bushiness at the base and then again during the following winter. After that, just let it grow and trim the hedge to your desired shape in July, keeping that taper shape so light gets to the bottom branches.
If you want flowers and berries on your hedge, then still follow the guidelines above but just prune after the blossom or berries have finished. Lots of people like to put native roses through their hedge (Rosa canina), which can looks great but they flower on last year’s growth, so only prune once a year after flowering.
There isn’t anything much more satisfying than harvesting your own fruit. The feeling of knowing you’ve grown something and being able to share it with your loved ones is what makes most foraging farmers like us tick!
When buying our cell grown saplings, whether it’s a gift for someone special or indeed for your own garden, planting them young makes for a greater established plant. Once established, you only have to wait a couple of years before they will start to produce flowers, and in turn, fruit!
Below we have offered up two of our favourite recipes. One for a delicious rowan and apple jelly and the other is a scrumptious elderberry jam.
1.5kg rowan berries
1.5kg crab apples
White sugar – 450g for every 600ml of strained liquid
Juice of 1 lemon
Chop the apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a large, heavy saucepan with the rowan berries.
Cover the fruits with water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the fruits are soft and broken down, this takes about 20 minutes.
Using a muslin cloth or any clean, cotton cloth, lay over a large bowl.
(now for the tricky part) Tip the pulpy fruits and liquid into the cloth and gather the edges of the cloth up together.
Tie the cloths above the bowl, you can suspend from a chair on a table or a beam.
Allow the liquid to drip into the bowl for at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight. Remember not to squeeze the cloth or the jelly with be cloudy.
Measure the juice in a jug, the pour into a pan. For every 600ml of liquid, add 450g sugar. Add in the juice of the lemon and bring it to a boil.
Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes and then test. Spoon a little jelly onto a fridge-cold plate, let it sit for a minute, then push the blob with your finger. If the surface of the jelly wrinkles then it has set. If not, boil for a few more minutes then test again.
Once it’s reached it’s setting point take it off the heat and pour into clean, sterilised jars and seal.
400g Jam Sugar
1 tbsp of Lemon Juice
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.
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 😊
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.
As today is officially the gloomiest day of the year we thought we would lighten your load with some interesting facts about one of our coniferous trees, The Blue Spruce.
Pincea pungens glauca is an evergreen tree native to the Rocky Mountain regions of North America. The tree has a mature height of around 75ft when grown in the wild & while it grows relatively slowly. It is long-lived and may reach ages of 600 – 800 year.
The tree was first discovered in Colorado on top of the Pikes Peak in 1862 and got its name due to the unique silver-blue colour, attributed to the white powder that forms on new, young needles.
Its needles are 4 sided with a very sharp point, which gives the species its name ‘pungens’ meaning sharp in Latin. The tree itself grows in a columnar form which means it grows up like a pillar with dense, horizontal growing branches.
The blue spruce was adopted as the official state tree of Colorado by the State’s school children in 1852. Today the blue spruce is often used as ornamental evergreen trees and makes a beautiful addition to any decent sized garden, its also a favourite with Christmas tree growers in the UK.