What is the Free Trees for Babies scheme?
We are keen to encourage the planting of trees in people’s gardens and to promote the many benefits that trees bring to the city and increase total tree coverage.
We’ll gift you a tree to plant in your garden to mark your baby’s birth. We also welcome applications from people who wish to celebrate an adoption or to commemorate a lost child.
To qualify for a free tree, you need to live in Cambridge, have a child up to 4 years old and have space in your garden to plant a tree. You can apply for up to three children in any given year; use a new form for each child you are applying for.
Watch our short video about trees in Cambridge, which introduces the work we do to plant and protect trees, and the trees for babies scheme.
If you don't have a garden or other space for a new tree you will need to find a suitable location in the city such as your place of work, school, nursery or perhaps a family member’s garden. Unfortunately we are not able to place these trees in our parks or open spaces.
For full information about the scheme, see our frequently asked questions below.
You can also download this printable version of the free trees for babies information. [PDF, 154KB]
How to apply
To apply we'll need your name, your child's name, contact details and your post code area. The email address should be one you regularly use as we'll email you when it's time to choose a tree.
The scheme is first come first served – we try to accommodate everybody, but if we receive a very high demand for free trees we may ask you to re-apply for next year.
- Submit an application
- Applications are open from November to the end of August each year
Choose your tree
- Shortly after the 31 August, we will contact you to confirm if you've been successful
- We will ask you to pick what tree you would like to receive at this stage
Pick up your tree
- We order all of the trees in the winter which is the best time to plant and aim to have them ready for you to pick up in February or March.
- We will send you all the details of what to expect and when you can come and pick up your free tree via the email address you provide (check your junk mail just in case)
When should I expect to hear from you about my free tree?
If you apply shortly after the launch date, it’ll be over a year before you get to pick up your tree so there may be a long wait before you hear if you’re successful.
You should to expect to hear from us at these key times:
- Confirmation of your application as soon as you submit your form
- Confirmation that you have (or not) been successful in getting a free tree – this will be via email shortly after the closing date (31 August)
- You will then be asked to pick which tree you would like at this stage (September)
- We will confirm your tree choice and that it has been ordered (November)
- We will then let you know the details of where, when and what you should expect to pick up your free tree (January - February)
Do you provide guidance on how to plant and look after our new tree?
Yes, you can download a copy here [PDF, ]. We also offer hard copies when you come and pick up your new tree.
How do I pick which tree to have?
Think about where you would like to plant your new tree, how much room you have and the size the tree will grow to. Try to find a space where your new tree can grow to its fullest without it needing regular pruning or where it could become a nuisance in the future.
It's then a case of looking at what you like in a tree - blossom, edible fruit, something ornamental.
The list of trees we offer should all grow well in Cambridge gardens so you don’t have to worry too much about soil type or the amount of light unless we specifically say in the description.
I haven’t got a garden but still want a tree - can I apply?
Absolutely, just please have a location in mind before you apply. As long as the tree is in Cambridge and so contributing to the Urban Forest, it can be planted at a place of work, school, nursery, or family member's garden.
Can I plant my new tree in a pot instead of in the ground?
Trees do not generally do well in pots and are very hard to maintain because of the lack of water and nutrients available.
However, if planting in the ground is not an option, some of the smaller fruit trees can happily grow for 5 – 10 years in a good sized pot. Get as large a pot as you can and pot it with a soil based compost then keep up with the watering. You can also use a pot to temporarily hold the tree for a year before you find its forever home in the garden if you need to.
What does bare-root mean?
Our trees come either potted or bare-root. Potted trees are grown in a plastic pot and can be planted whenever it’s convenient for you and your family. Bare-root require a bit more care if you’re unable to plant immediately after receiving your tree.
Bare-root trees are supplied without any soil or compost around their root system. The roots are contained in a plastic bag to prevent them drying out too quickly. Ideally, bare-root trees should be planted the same day as receiving them but this is not always possible. If you’re unable to plant for a number of days, it might be best to ‘heel in’ the tree. This is essentially planting the tree temporarily either in a shallow trench in the garden or even in a large pot with the roots covered in damp compost.
What should I expect to receive when I pick up my tree?
Along with picking up your free tree, we will also supply you with a tree stake and tie (if needed), some wood chipping mulch, and a guide on how to plant and look after your tree.
When can I pick up my tree?
We order all of the trees for the scheme in a large batch which is delivered to us in the late winter/early spring. This is the prime time for you to plant your tree.
Pick-up events tend to run around the February half-term. Details of these will be sent to you in the new year via email (if you haven’t heard from us please check your junk mail.).
I applied but didn’t hear anything from you - am I still eligible?
If you applied sometime between November and September and didn’t receive a confirmation it’s possible that the application didn’t go through properly or its possible that the email got stuck in your junk mail. If you’ve checked and still haven’t got your confirmation and reference number you may be asked to re-apply.
Can I apply to commemorate a stillbirth or miscarriage?
Absolutely, we welcome applications from all parents and guardians.
I’m a grandparent and live in Cambridge. Can I apply on behalf of my grandchild even if they don’t live in Cambridge?
Yes, we welcome applications from grandparents on behalf of their grandchild. The only condition is that the tree must be planted in your Cambridge garden so it can form a part of the wider Urban Forest of Cambridge.
I’m a foster carer or adoptive parent - am I eligible?
Absolutely, we welcome applications from all parents and guardians.
My child is 4 years old, am I too late to apply?
You’re not too late at all, the scheme is limited to children up to the age of 4 years at the time of applying and you can apply for up to three children in any given year. You will need to submit a separate application for each child individually.
How large are the trees?
Typically the trees range from 0.5m up to 2.5 metres in total length when they get to us. We cannot say ahead of us receiving the trees exactly what size they will be, but once we have them from the supplier we'll send you an email to know what to expect.
The choice of available trees can change from year to year. Last year, claimants could choose from the following trees:
Amelanchier (Amelanchier laevis) is a pretty, small tree with a broadly spreading crown ideal for smaller gardens. A tree for all seasons, the leaves open a coppery pink in the early spring, soon followed by sprays of pretty star-like flowers. Round, juicy, purple-black fruit ripens by July where birds make short work of them before the leaves go to a bright red in the autumn. Amelanchier will grow in sun and most soils.
Dessert apple (Malus domestica variety) Table apples or dessert apples are a group of apple cultivars grown for eating raw as opposed to cooking or cider making. Table apples are usually sweet and the most prized exhibit particular aroma variations that differentiate them from other apples.
Medlar (Mespilus germanica) is a small round-headed tree, maturing to six metres in height and grown for its unusual flowers and fruit. It prefers sun or semi-shade and well-drained, fertile soil.
Mulberry (Morus nigra) is a small tree which reaches up to 10 metres in height with a gently rounded crown. It enjoys a warm, sunny sheltered site on any fertile soil. The leaves are big, heart shaped, rough on the topside and hairy on the underside, and turn yellow in the autumn. The flowers are barely recognisable as such, but the fruit when fully ripe is sweet and delicious, raspberry-type berries that turn from green through red/orange to deep red/black.
Pear (Pyrus cultivar) is a medium-sized tree gaining 10 metres in height with a narrow crown. It is recognised for its spring flowers and fruit. It grows best in full sun and needs well-drained soil.
Silver birch (Betula pendula) is a large, graceful tree. It will grow to about 20 metres with a spread of 10 metres. The leaves colour in the autumn and there are catkins in the spring, but the bark is its best feature. It will tolerate sun and shade and most soils.
Snakebark maple (Acer davidii) is a small tree attaining 12 meters, with a broadly conical outline. The bark resembles a snake’s skin, being bright green with vertical white, brown and grey stripes. The glossy green maple-shaped leaves colour red in the autumn. In late spring small green flowers dangle in bunches between the leaves. The fruit develops as winged seeds like helicopters, but do not self set. The tree prefers neutral to acid soils and well-drained ground.
Walnut (Juglans regia) is a large tree, reaching 15 metres in height, known for its attractive, spreading outline, glossy, aromatic leaves, deeply furrowed bark and edible nuts. It should be grown in full sun and deep, fertile, well-drained soil.
Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) is compact and domed. Mature trees can grow to a height of 15 metres. The bark and twigs are smooth and grey, and the shoots are brick red in sunlight, but greyish green in shade. It will tolerate most soils.
Winter flowering cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’) is a small tree which will reach eight metres in height and is noted for having pale pink flowers throughout the winter. It will grow in a sunny position and on any soil so long as it is not waterlogged.
You can also download this list of available trees [PDF, 711KB] to keep or print, which includes pictures of the trees.