Autumn at Consall Gardens is quite an event. These extensive gardens have 6 lakes and a wide variety of different forest habitats. One of my favourite and unusual forest habitats is the Leylandii forest.
Leylandii (Cupressocyparis leylandii), commonly called the Leyland Cypress, is a forest tree which is usually marketed in garden centres as a hedging plant. It makes an exceptionally high maintenance hedge, as the trees have a fast growth rate and will grow very tall. They also naturally shed leaves when they are overshadowed by other Leylandii or garden structures. This is a natural process in a forest environment.
The perimeter of the Leyland Cypress forest is green with fine leaves, giving a dramatic effect all year round. When you enter the forest it is like any conifer forest, having the foliage high in the canopy.
The tree trunks are bare and devoid of green leaves, though, above the browse line, the dead branches still remain attached to the trunks. The inside of the forest is dark and quiet, with leaf litter on the forest floor and a soil which is generally too acid for any other plants to grow in.
There is little usable food here for birds or mammals and few insects are adapted to feed in these forests, so they are very sparsely populated. Their main function seems to act as shelter from the elements.
The trees are a cultured hybrid, originally bred in 1888 from a Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and an Alaska Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). They are specific to the UK and have occasionally been exported as garden plants to other countries. These forests at Consal Gardens are a rare habitat, which is seen in very few places. The gardens are closing to public access at the end of this month, which is a shame. Seeing these forests will have to be arranged by special appointment in future.
Rosies final visit to Consal Gardens