Brighton Christmas Tree Appeal
Christmas came early for many families, as financial company Family Investments teamed up with Tree Appeal to plant five hundred native broad leaved trees into residential gardens across Brighton & Hove.
The Brighton public were able to register online to adopt a tree and collect it in person. In addition, they could enter a prize draw where five lucky winners were selected to receive a personal visit from Professor David Bellamy as 'Eco-Santa' to help plant their tree. We were staggered by the number of folk who were keen to offer a home to a tree and knew that when we took the trees to Brighton, we would meet lots of like-minded people with a love of improving the world around us. We weren’t disappointed.
The Brighton Christmas Tree Appeal was the final event in a year of celebrations to mark the International Year of Biodiversity. Brighton’s ‘Big Nature’ has seen a series of awareness raising activities since its launch in January 2010, including a Window Box Wildlife competition and a ‘Bee Aware’ campaign. Every event and activity was designed to encourage interest in the environment and to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity. Tree Appeal were thrilled to be involved, providing families across Brighton with a different, and very special, sort of Christmas tree.
The first port of call was the home of Michelle & Gordon Kay who, along with their one year old daughter Ariella, had chosen to adopt two Silver Birch trees. Michelle described their garden as a ‘wilderness’ but Eco-Santa was fascinated by the natural diversity growing at the back of their home.
The plot is a haven for local wildlife and during their two years there, Michelle and Gordon have spotted numerous foxes lurking in the bushes and once even found a grass snake on their living room carpet!
The trees were planted adjacent to each other in a place where they will receive plenty of sunlight and will also form an ornamental entrance to the garden as they grow. The garden has an amazing potential for development and the couple told us that our visit has inspired them to do more with their available space. Michelle said, “We were honored to welcome Professor Bellamy and we hope the Silver Birches will become a key feature of our garden.”
Next to receive her tree was keen gardener, Joanne Heard. Joanne welcomed the Tree Appeal team into her home for a chat and a quick cup of tea, before heading out on a tour of her beautifully landscaped garden.
Joanne selected a Rowan tree to complement the existing features of her garden, which include a large pond and several sheltered seating areas that ensure Joanne and her family can enjoy their outdoor space all year round. The sapling was planted in a safe spot along the fence, where it can be easily observed and its growth monitored. Joanne has a particular interest in the effect of the changing seasons and can look forward to creamy white flowers blossoming in early summer and the leaves turning a fiery orange before they shed in autumn.
Joanne said, ‘The whole event really made my Christmas! So much care and thought had gone into every detail of the visit. David was lovely company and made such nice comments about my garden and pond.’
The team’s third visit was to the Durgerian family, stopping off en-route to collect Kate Moore, a representative of the event’s sponsor Family Investments. Youngest daughter Flora applied for the five Silver Birch trees through our Tree Appeal website but, unfortunately, she was unable to attend the planting due to an important commitment at school. On hand to help instead was her sister Rea, who braved the frosty weather despite suffering from a winter chill, along with their parents Pete and Charlotte.
Pete said, “We really enjoyed having David Bellamy, the team from Tree Appeal and the sponsor, Family Investments, come to our house to plant the Birch trees.” Family dog Otis and four pet chickens looked on as the extended team assessed a suitable spot for the new plantation.
Pete added, “It was a timely visit as we had just removed a Eucalyptus tree – definitely not a native species! – so to replace it with trees that are native to the UK was the perfect outcome.”
Madeline Sinclair and her family were fourth to receive an early Christmas visit, with Eco-Santa delivering both a Wild Cherry and a Bird Cherry tree. A little elf had a word in Santa’s ear and told him that Madeline’s friend, Sarah Ryman, would also be there, and that she would like to receive three trees of her own.
Maddy had made stunning developments to her surburban garden, transforming it into a beautifully designed haven, with split level features and a decorative border of slate stones and ornamental details, achieved with the help of her mother on a visit from their native Australia. The team unanimously concluded that their garden makeover would put Alan Titchmarsh’s Groundforce to shame! The cherry trees were planted in separate parts of the garden, one to provide privacy from a public pathway and the other forming a pretty addition to a secluded corner away from the main lawns.
Last but not least to receive their sapling, a prickly Hawthorn shrub, was Bobbie Farsides. Bobbie was working in London but her daughter, Isabella, and husband Tom accepted the tree on her behalf.
Over a warming cup of tea, Santa slipped back into Professor Bellamy mode as he regaled Tom and their visiting family friend with stories from his colourful and exciting history.
These included his own connection to Brighton and nostalgic memories of his first ever job – a deckchair attendant on Brighton Pier. To get there, he cycled all the way from London and often slept under the pier to spare his weary legs the ride home.
With dusk rapidly approaching, we headed outside and up the steep steps to the Farsides’ elevated garden, where there were fantastic views of the city, leading out towards the sea. Together, everyone settled on the perfect spot for the Hawthorn, where it would receive plenty of sun without obscuring any scenery.
Santa presented Isabella with his last remaining planting certificate and, as the wintry rain began to fall more heavily, we made a quick break back to our ‘sleigh.’
The Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion Gardens set the impressive backdrop for the grand finale of our Tree Giveaway, with over four hundred trees being adopted by members of the Brighton public in just two hours.
Hundreds of budding botanists flocked to adopt one or several saplings, battling the bitterly cold temperatures and sleeting downpour. Tree Appeal and representatives from Family Investments sheltered under a canvas gazebo where they set out their ‘tree stall’ – arranging the saplings into clusters of species, ready to provide the public with the most suitable tree for their gardens. Professor Bellamy, still feeling festive in his Green Santa suit, gave lots of handy tips on the best places to plant different trees, as well as what their owners can expect when the saplings grow and develop. Everyone who claimed a tree also received a bag of goodies from Family Investments, including an environmentally friendly ‘bag for life,’ which came in very handy for carrying the trees home!
It was wonderful to meet in person all of the applicants who’d already registered for a tree on the Tree Appeal website, but it was also rewarding to see so many passers by interested in offering a good home to our unclaimed trees.