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Agnes Stevenson: It’s trees, please, as festival shows us how to branch out in the garden

© Shutterstock / leungchopanTowering maples ablaze in red, orange and yellow
Towering maples ablaze in red, orange and yellow

As the Scottish Tree Festival launches, Agnes Stevenson looks at the fantastic variety on offer, even if you only have space for a miniature apple tree

The trees at the top of the garden are changing colour. The giant beeches are still green, but there are hints of yellow among the silver birches and, when the light catches them, the field maples take on a ruby glow.

Autumn’s hues are spectacular and tomorrow marks the start of the Scottish Tree Festival when we are encouraged to look up, into the canopy, and enjoy the beauty of the biggest members of the plant world.

The Festival runs until December 1 and more than 40 events are planned at gardens across the country. A number of nurseries and garden centres will be taking part too, offering advice on trees for every kind of garden, and some events will also be online, allowing everyone to join in.

If you want to enjoy the season at its very best, then head to Perthshire. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the “Planting Dukes of Atholl” covered the landscape in more than 27 million trees. It’s thanks to them that the countryside around Blair Atholl is some of the most beautiful in Scotland. And the best way to enjoy it is with a stroll through Diana’s Grove, close to the castle, where forest giants are changing into their autumn hues.

Or head for Armadale Castle on Skye and see how the Gulf Stream has influenced how trees flourish there.

If you don’t want to venture over the doorstep, take a virtual tour of the Champion Trees at Drummond Castle, or for a closer encounter, head to Cambo Gardens in Fife, where there will be wood-fired feasts beneath trees festooned with fairy lights.

Catherine Erskine of Discover Scottish Gardens, which has organised the festival, says: “It’s a celebration of Scotland’s wonderful trees, their contribution to our landscapes and the part they play in our lives. More than ever, people feel a need to connect closely with nature and the Festival will give them to chance to do that.”

Few of us have space for a giant redwood, but every garden has room for a tree, even just a dwarf apple tree in a pot and at many of the Festival locations you’ll find inspiration for ways to grow trees at home.

At the moment I have half a dozen small oak trees to find space for. These, grown by my neighbour from acorns, will eventually grow in the clearing that lies in front of our house, but there’s drainage works to be carried out before anything can be planted, so for the moment this miniature forest is growing in pots by the back door.

Eventually, these small saplings will be majestic trees, in their shade wildlife will flourish and perhaps one day they will be part of a festival all of their own.

Meanwhile there’s a list of events for the Festival at discoverscottishgardens.org/tree-festival.