As we become ever increasingly environmentally aware, the alder is literally growing from strength to strength. I love it! It’s an extraordinary tree which colonises new ground easily and rapidly because bacteria found in its roots produces its own nitrogen. This pioneer species is perfect for reclaiming degraded soils, improving fertility and is particularly suitable for planting in industrial wastelands.
A native tree which is rapid grower, the alder thrives near water-logged soils or near rivers and streams, and can often be found in the margins of swampy, bog like environments growing up to 30 metres in height.
The alder’s wood does not rot in wet conditions; it actually becomes hard as stone when immersed in water; so on your next romantic trip to Venice you may want to drop into the conversation that most of this beautiful city is in fact built on alder piles.
In the spring, alders flower as catkins which dress the tree beautifully and the green dye that the flowers produce was alleged to have been used by Robin Hood!
Growing alders from seed couldn’t be simpler. Alder cones can be collected from the branches of trees before they open. Place the cones in a paper bag and allow to dry at room temperature. As the cones open they will release small winged seeds which can be sown immediately. Cover with a thin layer of sharp sand, and leave over winter to germinate the following spring.
Many ornamental varieties are available such as the Alnus glutinosa ‘Pyramidalis’ which has a very narrow spherical crown and is perfect for growing on sites where space is limited and the soil may be of a poorer quality or wet.