During two weeks in May, I represented Observatree at two shows and at each event there was a first for the project.

The first event, was the Arboricultural Association (Arb) Show, held at Westonbirt. This is not a new event for Observatree and we have attended this on several occasions because it provides an excellent opportunity for us to speak to arboriculturalists and foresters. Once again, we teamed up with the Forestry Commission’s Biosecurity team (who were promoting their ‘Keep it clean’ campaign) to provide a one-stop-shop for all things related to tree health. 

Whilst we spoke to some visitors who were unaware of Observatree, increasingly I heard comments such as ‘oh yes. We know all about Observatree. We use the resources on the website all the time. They’re really good’.  Within the project, we like to think that our resources are regularly watched or downloaded, so it’s always nice to have this reinforced when speaking to members of the public.

One of our volunteers (thank you Brian) joined us at the stand to help us tell others about the project and his role as a volunteer. But this year, when visitors were admiring our pest and disease field identification guides and asking, ‘are these for sale?’, we were able to say YES!  For the first time, bound, waterproof copies of the guides were available for purchase at the show.

We have only printed a small number of each as a pilot study and we are working with Treesource who will distribute them for us during this trial period. All of the guides remain freely available for download from our website. Because Observatree is a non-profit making partnership project, all proceeds received by the partnership from the sale of these guides will be used to cover costs and support the continued provision of our educational resources.

A few days after the Arb show, I attended the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. This was not only a first for me, but also a first for Observatree. The Gold Medal-winning Resilience Garden was a multi-partner initiative, to celebrate 100 years of forestry and to look to the future of our forests, woodlands and trees. Part of this latter messaging included raising awareness of tree health and the current and potential threats from pests and diseases. Observatree was therefore invited to participate. Information about Observatree was made available to all visitors to the garden. Visitors I spoke to were certainly very interested in the Observatree project and agreed that tree health is an important issue.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me most about the gardens at Chelsea, was the fact that they all looked so well established and natural. It was hard to believe that most had been constructed on site in the weeks running up to the show. With the large trees, the reused silo, the substantial stonework and that long established feel, it was perhaps not surprising that the Resilience Garden also won the Best Construction Award (Show Garden).

As biosecurity was a key message of the garden, it was important that appropriate steps were taken during its construction to reduce risks of spreading pests or diseases. Biosecurity and tree health were important messages of the show. Let’s hope that high profile events such as Chelsea help to disseminate those messages further.