The Tree Trail, in the east fields, across from the main campus of the Holcomb Farm, is growing and changing every day. The trail is free and open to all and offers paths for exploring, benches for relaxing, and signage identifying more than the 120 species of trees, including 60 that have been planted there since October 2018. We have asked the Tree Trail volunteers to share with us some of what we should look for on our next walk there.
“A design principle we follow at the Holcomb Tree Trail is to plant trees with spring bloom and/or fall color. When we were doing our several years of due diligence before planting a single tree, we talked to a retired official at Arnold Arboretum. Sitting across from Gordon DeWolfe at his kitchen table in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, he told us ‘Plant trees with pretty flowers.’
Ours is now only about five feet tall and had only a single bloom this year. It is common in England, but not here. It is a rather slow grower, reaching 30 to 40 feet. There is one on Day Street that size, which was planted 35 years ago. It has hundreds of blooms, as this photo shows.
So, we planted a Red Horsechestnut sourced from Whitman Nursery in Salem, Oregon. It’s a hybrid of the American Red Buckeye (Aesculus Pavia) and the European Common Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastrum). Our lone tree is an old cultivar from the mid-1800’s called Briotii. It has deep red flowers occurring in inflorescences as long as 10 inches.
It is a wonderful tree in bloom, according to leading authority Michael Dirr in The Tree Book, one ‘that every arboretum should include.’ The only downside is that its leaves are subject to leaf scorch in the dryness of late summer, as are most horsechestnuts.”