Managing Threats to Ornamental Trees – Tony Kirkham

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October 6, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
National Botanic Gardens

This is the 2016 Annual Lecture of the Irish Tree Society
Managing Threats to Ornamental Trees
Tony Kirkham, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Acer negundo 'Kelly's Gold'

Tony Kirkham has been Head of the Arboretum and Horticultural Services at RBG,
Kew since 2001: he is responsible for the care of c.14,000 trees, some over 300 years
old. Since the devastation of Kew’s tree collection in the Great Storm of October
1987, he has spearheaded its restocking, often using specimens obtained on his
expeditions to Chile and the Far East. During 1989 – 1997 he collected in the speciesrich
temperate forests of China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Russian Far East
(Sakhalin). He has written a vivid account of these travels with the late Mark
Flanagan VMH, Plants from the Edge of the World – New Explorations in the Far
East (2005). In the footsteps of distinguished botanical forebears, Tony has visited
Sichuan five times. His book, co-authored with Mark Flanagan, Wilson’s China – A
Century On (2009) provides a lavishly illustrated narrative of the travels in western
China of Ernest H Wilson (who first introduced to cultivation many plants discovered
by Augustine Henry), juxtaposing their own photographs with Wilson’s a century
earlier. Tony has also considerably revised and expanded (2009) G E Brown’s (1974)
classic The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers, considered the ‘Bible’ of woodyplant
pruning. Among many interests, he is a trustee of the Tree Register of Britain
and Ireland with which the Irish Tree Society is closely associated.
Mature ornamental trees face many challenges: climate change, weather (drought,
floods, storms), diseases, human activities (e.g. soil compaction causing root death) –
all leading to growth decline, even mortality. In this lecture, Tony Kirkham will
illustrate how both local environment and management are fundamental to the health
and longevity of trees: knowledge of their natural habitats may guide cultural
practices to mimic them as best as possible.