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Monthly Archives: January 2013

  • Plants for Winter Interest – Arbutus Unedo (Strawberry Tree)

    Winter can leave gardens feeling particularly bare and sparse, and finding ways to retaining a sense of life and colour over winter is a worthwhile goal for many. This can easily be achieved through informed planting choices, and with a little attention to structure any garden can remain invigorating throughout the colder months. One plant we’re happy to recommend on the merits of its winter interest is Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry tree.

    As an evergreen shrub it features a bushy habit and retains a full appearance throughout the year. The plant begins to take on interest in early autumn, when white, bell shaped flowers begin to appear at the end of each stem. These make for excellent contrast in the otherwise dreary autumn period. The previous year’s flowering will produce small red fruits ripening over autumn, again adding a welcome splash of colour. They drop of their own accord around November or December, making this an excellent winter and later autumn specimen. The fruits are edible yet bland, and will serve local wildlife quite well. They resemble strawberry marzipan petit fours, and birds will love them. Butterflies seek out the nectar from the flowers, and can often be seen frequenting them on sunny autumn days.

    You’ll want to plant Arbutus unedo in a well-drained soil with access to full sun. Being an evergreen with winter fruit it is naturally hardy, and requires no maintenance in terms of pruning. Left alone they’ll grow into a naturally bushy shape, though it’s safe to prune them into more formal ‘lollipop’ topiary shapes. The strawberry tree is appropriate for ground and container planting, though a group planted together as shrubs will be bushy enough to serve as noise barriers.

    The Strawberry tree is an excellent investment to liven up a garden over late autumn and winter, and comes highly recommended by the English Woodlands team. If Arbutus unedo doesn't seem right for you, then feel free to take a look at our blog series on plants for winter interest.

  • Plants for Winter Interest – Hamamelis species

    Colder weather often sees gardens left a little sparse and bare, though with correct structure and care there’s no reason for a garden not to remain colourful and exciting during the winter. There are plenty of plants we’re happy to recommend based on their winter interest, in this case the atmospheric Witch Hazel, Hamamelis.

    Hamamelis ‘Diane’ brings attractive winter colouring to the environment. During the summer it features broad leaves with a plain green hue, and later takes on a variety of wonderful autumn colours, from vibrant yellows through deep orange and red. Around mid-winter the bare stems produce busy, spider-like flowers with vibrant red colouring. For a more muted feel consider the ‘Jelena’ variant. This breed produces similar flowers in a coppery orange during late winter. The flowers are most fragrant on Hamamelis ‘Pallida’, so consider this species if scent is important to you. Whichever species you choose, they all make for an excellent splash of winter colour.

    This deciduous shrub is fairly easy to care for, requiring a minimal amount of maintenance per year, no more than an hour excluding watering. Flowering in January and February, the flowers are not spoilt by frost or snow. We advise it be kept in a sheltered site, so long as there is enough sunlight to encourage flowering. Be sure the plant is in a moist but well-drained soil. Though established plants shouldn’t need watering, newly planted shrubs may need watering during the spring and summer.

    Structurally, the shrub is quite versatile. As a specimen plant it functions nicely, and can be container kept for more flexibility. Hamamelis also creates a focal point in a mixed border, and can be under planted to show it off.

    Hamamelis ‘Diane’ comes highly recommended by English Woodlands, producing pleasant winter colours and scents in a variety of locations and uses. If Hamamelis doesn't seem right for you, then feel free to take a look at our blog series on plants for winter interest.

  • Winter Pruning for Spur-Bearing Apple and Pear Trees

    Apples and pears are one of the most popular fruits to grow in the garden, and will usually still bear flowers and fruit even if neglected. Yet by simple pruning it’s possible to substantially increase the quality of the fruit. This is best to be carried out in winter months before the buds show sign of growth. Doing so will increase fruit size and sugar levels, and create equal ripening due to even light exposure.

    These fruits grow on the buds of the previous growing season, so winter is the ideal time to identify the new areas of growth and create room for them. Ideally, you will be left with four to six branches spreading out from the trunk like to create an open goblet shape.

    Begin by moving any weak or diseased branches to reduce congestion. A fruit tree should be an inadequate shade tree, so you’ll want to free up the centre of the tree for better sun exposure. Cut away any of the larger central branches that have previously fruited. If many need removal spread this process under a number of years, the heavy pruning will simply encourage more vigorous growth.

    Prune the previous year’s growth by 1/3 to reduce congestion, though this can also be done in the summer to expose the fruit to the sun for ripening. Shorten them to a healthy bud, facing in a direction that won’t cross paths with other branches and encourages growth of healthy spurs. These are the small side branches that produce flowers and fruit. Then move onto the fruited laterals, or “sideshoots”. These should have enough space to grow as secondary branches, so cut them back to around five buds in whatever pattern provides the most even growth.

    Remember, wound dressings aren’t a necessity during this process. Being cut towards the end of their dormant state should minimize shock, so the tree can simply be left alone until they begin producing high-quality fruit during the next growing season.

  • Cold Weather Planting and Storage – Shrubs and Trees in Containers

    Trees in containers have many benefits, but we are often asked for advice about planting during cold weather. Winter is an excellent time for planting, though not during a freeze. In this post we’ll outline the best way to keep your contained plants safe until they can be moved into the ground.

    Firstly, remember to keep them inside their containers until conditions are suitable for planting, especially if they’re subject to freezing conditions. Removing the pot or container from the root ball during a freeze can easily damage or snap small roots, an inadvisable start for the plant.

    Trees in containers can be kept outdoors, though standard trees will need to be leaned against surfaces which won’t damage the bark. The practice keeps them from blowing over, though feel free to place them almost entirely horizontal, so long as there’s no risk from pests like rabbits and deer. Regular container conditions apply, so keep all plants on a free draining surface such as gravel. At the absolute least make sure they’re not kept in a location where water pools.

    Trees and shrubs can also be kept in a cool shed or garage for up to a week of plant storage. Be sure not to keep them in a warm location, since the environmental shock of moving back outside could damage the plant.

    When the ground thaws to become moderately moist it’s time to plant. Feel free to refer to our guide on Successful Tree Planting to help with the process. By following these guidelines correctly you’ll give your new purchase an excellent start.

    Cold Weather Planting and Storage:

    Bare Root Plants

    Rootballed Trees and Hedge Plants

  • Cold Weather Planting and Storage – Bare Root Plants

    Bare root plants are supplied when they are dormant, so although it is ideal to plant them soon after purchase, planting can be delayed if conditions are not ideal. In this space we’re going to outline the best way to handle bare root plants until permanent planting is possible.

    They’ll arrive bundled in white bags. The roots will be moist when they leave the nursery and plants can be kept in the bags provided on arrival. Keep them in a sheltered, shady and cool location such as an unheated shed or garage.

    Bare root plants can only be stored in this manner for around a week, after which they’ll need to be temporarily planted. Dig a trench in the ground to accommodate their roots, refill the hole without packing the soil in and water well. They can be kept “heeled in” in this way for weeks, but should be planted as soon as conditions are suitable. Alternative, they can be left in the bundles in a free draining compost around the roots. If the ground is frozen they can instead be left, still bundled, in a free draining container with compost around the roots.

    Don’t remove your heeled in plants if they seem to be frozen, since they’ll damage easily. After the ground is thawed consider soaking the roots in a bucket of water for no more than five minutes to hydrate them, after which they’re ready for moving into a permanent planting location. Feel free to refer to our guide on Successful Tree Planting for more information.

    Cold Weather Planting and Storage:

    Shrubs and Trees in Containers

    Rootballed Trees and Hedge Plants

  • Cold Weather Planting and Storage – Rootballed Trees and Hedge Plants

    As part of our advice series on planting and storage in cold weather, here we’ll briefly outline the correct way to protect your rootballed trees and hedge plants while planting this winter.

    Your tree will arrive with hessian and/or wire around the roots, which are lifted from the field with soil around them. Planting during cold weather is fine as long as the soil can be dug and it isn’t frozen or waterlogged. Don’t plant when there’s snow on the ground, and make sure the ground isn’t frozen even after the snow thaws.

    Until it’s time to plant keep the rootball under cover, away from the drying winds and frost. Covering them with straw will insulate them from the cold, and the hessian keeps the rootball from drying out.

    Once the ground has thawed it’s time to plant. Make sure you’ve chosen an appropriate site, and consider mixing in some planting compost to improve the soil. Feel free to refer to our post on Successful Tree Planting for more information. Be sure not to remove the hessian or wire surround when you plant, since this still serves to retain moisture in the rootball during early months, and will safely rot away eventually.

    Remember, frost can make water unavailable to evergreen plants and they may wilt, so check the soil moisture after the thaw and water if necessary. Lagging the pot may prevent soil freezing in the container at all. Follow these instructions and your rootballed trees and hedge plants should be off to an excellent and healthy start in your garden.

    Cold Weather Planting and Storage:

    Shrubs and Trees in Containers

    Bare Root Plants

  • Trees for containers: Architectural Plants for Sunny Sites

    The flexibility, mobility and convenience that a pot-grown tree provides is highly desirable. Architectural plants such as palms are ideal for pots, being slow growing and partial to well-drained soils in a sunny site. These three trees are distinguished by their aesthetic similarities to palm trees, and are particularly suited to patios, courtyards, swimming pool surrounds and coastal gardens.

    “Cabbage Tree” – Cordyline Australis

    Native to New Zealand, the Cordyline could once be found with an ultimate height of twenty meters, though it is now heavily cultivated in the United States and England, and often potted to achieve smaller sizes. When touched the bark is found to be spongy, with long, narrow dark green leaves. In spring and early summer it can be seen to produce extensive, dense flowering spikes with a sweet, pleasant perfume.

    The Cordyline Australis now mainly enjoys success as an ornamental tree, after widespread decline in New Zealand. It’s fairly easy to plant and grow, and gardeners looking to introduce an excitingly exotic tree requiring little maintenance or pruning would choose well to invest in this genus.

    Windmill Palm - Trachycarpus Fortunei

    A generally hardy plant, this beginner tree is an excellent investment, having received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Merit. It can survive in most soils and pH types, as well as being drought tolerant. Sometimes considered the hardiest palm, it will survive cold winters when planted in well-drained soil, and is well suited to containers. After a particularly rough winter the fronds may appear ragged, though new ones will soon follow. Remember that on young plants may need their stem lagging with a breathable material such as horticultural fleece.

    Unlike the C. Australis, there tends to be a smaller number of branches on the Windmill Palm. In a potted plant the trunk can be expected to hit around two meters within ten years, with a number of sword-like leaves fanning out horizontally from the leaf stem The view is impressive, and is likely the potted plant that most resembles a palm tree available to enthusiasts.

    Mediterranean Fan Palm – Chamaerops Humilis

    This small shrub-like dwarf palm has a full and bushy appearance, with multiple stems carrying large fan shaped leaves split into linear segments. The plant is appropriate for architectural use, with a slow pace of growth making it ideal for keeping in a container.

    The Fan Palm is considered to be moderately hardy, and may be well suited for use as a conservatory plant in colder areas. It can survive brief periods below freezing, though wouldn’t be suited to frost pockets or cold environments.

  • Tree Planting Methods – Large, Double Staked Trees

    1. Soak the rootball / container well several hours before planting to thoroughly wet the compost
    2. Dig a hole the depth of the container and at least 6” to 8” wider than the container on each side – more for larger trees. Lightly fork the bottom of the hole to break up any compacted soil. A small handful of bonemeal may be added at this stage
    3. Remove the tree from the container, or in the case of large, bagged trees, remove the bag by cutting it off. Rootballed plants have hessian and sometimes wire around the roots – this should NOT be removed. It will protect the roots from damage while planting and both the hessian and wire will rot away naturally in about 3 to 6 months
    4. Place the tree in the hole. The tree should be planted so that the top of the rootball is level with the surrounding soil
    5. Position stakes on either side of, and close to the roots of the tree. Then drive in stakes until firm
    6. Cut the crossbar to length and nail it between tops of stakes. The flat side should be against the stakes, and facing towards the tree
    7. Thread a length of tree tie strapping around the trunk of the tree and then through the slots of the rubber block, making sure that the rounded side of the rubber block fits against the tree trunk
    8. Position the flat side of the rubber block against the crossbar, then nail the straping to the crossbar using large head roofing nails. Put the nails in close to the pad, ensuring the tree is held tightly in position and vertical
    9. Fill in the gap between the rootball and hole with a 50/50 mix of soil and planting compost, then firm well.
    10. WATER WELL AFTER PLANTING. Trees need regular watering for at least six months. Adjust watering to weather conditions.

    For more information, download our information sheet on tree planting methods, complete with pictures, or visit our blog post on planting smaller, single stake trees, or successful tree planting. If you’re unclear please ask us – we are always happy to give practical planting advice

  • Tree Planting Methods - Small Single Staked Trees

    1.)    Soak the rootball / container well several hours before planting, to thoroughly wet the compost

    2.)    Dig a hole the depth of the container and at least 4” (10cm) wider than the container on each side. Lightly fork the bottom of the hole to break up any compacted soil. A small handful of bonemeal may be added at this stage

    3.)    Remove the tree from the container. Rootballed plants have hessian and sometimes wire around the roots – this should NOT be removed. It will protect the roots from damage while planting, and both the hessian and wire will rot away naturally in about 3 to 6 months

    4.)    Place the tree in the hole. The tree should be planted so that the top of the rootball is level with the surrounding soil

    5.)    Method for a single upright stake

    Place the stake as close to the edge of the rootball as possible. To avoid splitting the stake, use a block of wood between the stake and the hammer.

    Fill in the gap between the rootball and hole with a 50/50 mix of soil and planting compost and firm well. If using a watering system, fill the hole to within 6” (15cm) of the top. Place the irrigation system around the root system, and nail the bracket to the stake with a single nail, then continue to back-fill the hole, making sure it is firm and without air pockets.

    If necessary, saw off the top of the stake so that the top is between 1/3 and 1/2 of the tree’s height. Fix the tree tie at the top of the stake and adjust it to hold the tree firmly. Use a nail driven into the stake to prevent it from slipping down the stake

    6.)    Method for a single stake at a 45 degree angle

    This method can be useful for all small trees and conifers. Backfill the hole as described in Step 5.

    Fix the stake at an angle. When planting on a windy site, drive the stake in so that the top of the stake faces the prevailing wind. The top of the stake should be at a point between 1/3 and 1/2 of the tree – you may need to saw off any surplus if the stake is too long. Fix the tie at the top of the stake and use a nail driven into the stake to prevent it from slipping down.

    7.)    WATER WELL AFTER PLANTING. Trees need regular watering for at least six months. Adjust watering to the weather conditions.

    Feel free to download the information sheet on this topic complete with instructional images, or visit our post on planting methods for larger trees with double stakes, or one on successful tree planting. If unclear, please ask us – we are always happy to give advice.

  • Successful Tree Planting

    Follow the 3 steps below to ensure you get good results. If you would like any
    further advice or help please do ask. We have many years experience and are always happy to help.

    Select plants of appropriate type and size for the planting site conditions.
    - Many Plants we offer will succeed in most situation but the following should be noted:
    - If the site is near the sea then you will need to be more careful in selecting suitable plants
    - Rhododendrons will not grow on chalky or lime rich soils
    - Yews, Box, Olive and Vines should not be planted on wet ground

    Make sure they are well Planted
    - Plant in reasonable soil. If the soil is poor then mix in tree planting compost with the soil. A small amount of well rotted farm yard manure or peat could also be used, but do not use too much and make sure it is mixed well with the soil
    - Plant at correct depth. Do not plant too deep!
    - Make sure that trees, larger shrubs and conifers are securely staked. Do not drive the stake through the rootball. Poor staking will result in the tree rocking in the wind and will prevent it from being able to root into the surrounding soil, leading to the tree dying. Please ask for our detailed instructions for staking methods
    - Firm in well to remove and air pockets in soil
    - Water in well after planting

    Look after them
    - Water regularly, particularly larger plants, during the first growing season according to weather conditions. Feel the soil to make sure you are not under or over watering
    - Control weeds around base of plants. Ideally create grass / weed-free zone of 50 to 100cm diameter around the base. This will avoid the need to mow around base of tree – but if you have to use mowers or strimmers, take care not to damage the bark at the base of the tree

    Following the above guidelines will give your plants the best start and should achieve good results. However, being natural, plants are all different and occasionally
    may struggle to get established. If you are concerned about the plants,
    please contact us for advice. Don’t wait and hope the plants get better as by then
    it may be too late to remedy any problem. We are always happy to give advice
    over the telephone.

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