For the 2023/24 planting season NHS Forest is offering free trees for healthcare bundles for NHS sites in England. Each bundle contains a mix of different species that has been designed to provide a variety of benefits, such as attracting wildlife or providing spring colour. Ranging in size from 30 to 200 trees, applicants can request as many bundles of each type as they require subject to stock available.
The bundled trees are one-year cell grown seedlings, graded at 20/60 cm. While they may seem small initially, with care and maintenance these trees will rapidly establish when planted and develop into a beautiful asset for your healthcare site. Young trees are often vulnerable to damage from browsing by animals, so we’ll also supply a biodegradable spiral guard (60 cm) and bamboo cane for each tree. The spirals will withstand rabbits and other small mammals, but more substantial protection may be required if there is a significant deer presence on site.
Looking to plant more than 500 trees this season? In addition to the trees for healthcare bundles NHS Forest can arrange more bespoke tree orders for larger-scale schemes, with site-specific species selection and stock specification tailored to your planting objectives. Please get in touch via the email@example.com inbox if this is of interest.
Small bundles (30 trees)
Grove is a single species bundle with the choice of five native trees – beech, downy birch, hazel, rowan, or silver birch. The bundles can be requested individually to plant a small copse, create a walkway border, or integrate larger trees into a newly planted hedgerow for example or they can be planted in combination with other bundles.
Urban is our smallest mixed bundle. It is ideal for built up areas with limited space for planting, or to supplement areas with existing tree cover. Each bundle contains bird cherry, field maple and rowan, all mid-sized trees that will tolerate compact soils and thrive in urban settings, both planted together or dispersed.
Medium bundles (50 trees)
Wellbeing bundles are designed to facilitate the development of green spaces that support mental and physical health. Each bundle contains rowan, silver birch and wild cherry, which are mid-sized trees selected for their visual qualities and intended to be used as a focus point in natural therapeutic environments.
Large bundles (100 trees)
Blossom and Colour is the most visually focused bundle type, made up of species characterised by their blossoms, berries and autumnal leaves. A mix of hawthorn, hazel, rowan, silver birch and wild cherry, the trees can be used singularly to add colour to open spaces or planted together to establish a diverse native copse.
Wild Food bundles will appeal to those with a taste for foraging. Featuring a selection of native fruit and nut species (which could be used to produce traditional chutneys and preserves), this combination of blackthorn, crab apple, elder, hazel and rowan is perfect for forest gardens and other productive spaces.
Wildlife bundles are ideal for establishing or expanding green spaces. Alder, blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, and rowan were selected as being species that are both relatively compact but with the potential to support a high level of biodiversity when planted together to create a verdant haven for birds and animals.
X-Large bundles (200 trees)
Pollinators is our largest bundle, intended to create habitats for pollinating insects and other wildlife. Comprising blackthorn, crab apple, goat willow, hawthorn, and rowan, the trees will flower at different times providing a year-round source of nectar and pollen – ideal for planting in wildlife gardens or peripheral spaces.
Hedge bundle (50 trees)
We recommend sites consider planting groups of trees wherever possible to gain the benefits of increased tree canopy and improved flood prevention. However, when planting groups of trees isn’t possible, we do offer a hedge bundle.
Hedge bundles contain a mix of shrubby species: crab apple, dog rose, dogwood, hawthorn, and hazel. As the name suggests, they are perfect for creating or gapping up hedgerows as borders, for screening, or to boost ecological connectivity. Each bundle can be used to plant 10 m of double row hedging.
Trees for healthcare species
Our trees for healthcare bundles are made up of native trees and shrubs, all grown in the UK from domestic seed. The mixes have been selected to deliver specific thematic outcomes that will benefit patients, staff, and wildlife, and comprising generalist species that should thrive in most locations.
Trees have distinct characteristics, and a number of factors will determine whether a species is suitable for a given location. The following is intended as a brief introduction to the species used in our standard trees for healthcare bundles, but please get in touch if you are unsure about whether a particular tree or mix will be appropriate for your site.
Alder (Alnus glutinosa) Size: 20 metres at maturity
Closely associated with wetland environments, this water tolerant tree has leathery, heart-shaped leaves and catkins which appear between in early spring; the female catkins eventually turn into a cone containing seed.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) Size: 10 – 40 metres at maturity
A large, broad-crowned tree with grey bark and hairy edged oval tipped leaves, sometimes called “the queen of British trees”. Catkins appear between April and May, developing into beechmast by late summer.
Bird cherry (Prunus padus) Size: 18 – 25 metres at maturity
A mid-sized smooth barked tree with oval leaves and with white flowers appearing from April. The flowers develop into reddish-black, bitter cherries, historically used medicinally to treat various ailments.
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) Size: 6 – 7 metres at maturity
A dense shrubby tree with toothed leaves and creamy-coloured flowers and blossoms in bloom from around March. The flowers develop into blue-black fruits called sloes which can be used to flavour gin.
Crab apple (Malus sylvestris) Size: 7 – 9 metres at maturity
Britain’s native wild apple, this compact often gnarled tree has toothed oval leaves and sweetly scented blossoms. The fruit is often used to make jelly, or is an excellent source of food for wildlife, especially birds.
Dog rose (Rosa canina) Size: 1.5 metres at maturity
A climbing rose with large pink or white flowers that blossom into the summer before developing vivid red rosehips. Common in hedgerows, the hips are rich in Vitamin C and widely used in skincare products.
Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) Size: 10 metres at maturity
A small broadleaf shrub with oval leaves and creamy white flowers that bloom into spring before developing as small black ‘dogberries’. Dogwood is noted for autumn colour, its leaves turning crimson before they fall.
Downy birch (Betula pubescens) Size: 30 metres at maturity
A hardy tree with white bark and small triangular leaves and catkins from April to May. Its wide natural range reflects birch’s tolerance of challenging conditions, thriving in wet and exposed environments.
Elder (Sambucus nigra) Size: +10 metres at maturity
A mid-sized tree with grey-brown bark and feathery toothed leaves. Fragrant creamy flowers emerge from May and develop into small purple berries. Both flowers and berries are edible when cooked.
Field maple (Acer campestre) Size: 15 – 20 metres at maturity
A long-lived slender tree with characteristic round lobed leaves. Clusters of small, yellow-green cup-shaped flowers emerge in the spring, developing into large, winged fruits (sometimes known as ‘helicopters’).
Goat willow (Salix caprea) Size: 6 – 10 metres at maturity
A small, scrub-forming tree with oval leaves and soft pawlike catkins, goat willow is commonly found in damp areas, woodlands and hedgerows. Salicin, the precursor to aspirin, is derived from (and named for) willow bark.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) Size: 15 metres at maturity
A dense thorny shrub with toothed leaves, white flowers and red fruits known as ‘haws’. Often associated with hedging, hawthorn can also develop as a small tree in its own right and will support a wide range of wildlife.
Hazel (Corylus avellana) Size: + 10 metres at maturity
Commonly coppiced for timber, hazel is a mid-sized tree with yellow catkins and small bud-like flowers; when pollinated it will develop oval fruits and ultimately edible hazelnuts enjoyed by humans and small mammals alike.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) Size: 8 – 15 metres at maturity
The NHS Forest team’s favourite tree, rowan is small and hardy with distinctive serrated leaflets and clusters of white flowers that develop into attractive bright red berries, a rich source of autumnal food for wild birds.
Silver birch (Betula pendula) Size: 20 – 30 metres at maturity
A mid-sized, pale white tree with small triangular leaves and catkins similar to its cousin, downy birch. Mature trees have light, open canopies, making silver birch ideal as a garden tree or part of a mixed native woodland.
Wild cherry (Prunus avium) Size: 18 – 25 metres at maturity
A popular ornamental tree, wild cherry has shiny reddish-brown bark and toothed oval leaves. But it is the white blossoms and red fruits that are the true stars of the show, both aesthetically and for insects and birdlife.
How many trees do I need?
Thirty trees can be used to create a small copse covering about 200 m2. As a rule of thumb planting with between 2.5 and 3 metre spacing works well for assemblages of trees, as this leaves enough space for establishment and access for maintenance, while not putting the trees in competition with each other for water and light.
For small clusters of trees it is possible to increase the density up to 2 metre spacing, or as low as 5 metres for a more ‘open’ tree space. While it is possible to plant individually, the trees are less than 1 metre tall as supplied and can look a bit lost planted over large areas. Thought should be given to how to demarcate single trees until large enough to be obvious as intentional planting to grounds maintenance staff – particularly on areas of grass.
For hedging, 5 plants per metre works well to create a double staggered row hedge (optimal for wildlife), leaving at least 40 cm between rows.
Ready to apply?
If you’re ready to apply for your free trees, visit our tree planting page to find out more and fill in our expression of interest form.