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Monthly Archives: March 2013

  • Screening with Pleached Trees

    A large amount of planting is carried out with screening in mind. Being able to control lines of sight through the garden is an effective way of enhancing it. Removing external eyesores, improving privacy or simply drawing the eye towards certain features all play a large part in creating a unique feel.

    While there are many options available to you while seeking trees for screening, pleached trees are one of the more interesting solutions out there. Traditionally pleached trees were grown onto a framework of wires, allowing branches to be trained horizontally at a height. These days it’s possible to buy ‘ready-pleached trees' possessing a bamboo frame, supporting the trained branches on individual trees.

    With a bare trunk of either 1.2m or 1.8m tall, the trained branches creates the appearance of an airborne hedge. Correctly implemented, pleached trees are both striking and functional in their ability to offer screening. They allow expansion of existing screens by creating a hedge exclusively above a fence or wall, while also allowing for the cultivation of elaborate natural walkways.

    We have a number of options available for those of you with an interest in experimenting with pleached trees. Photinia serrulata Red Robin is an excellent evergreen option, available in our online store with a 120cm wide frame for £414.00. For a more traditional pleached tree Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam) and Tilia (Lime) trees are available, and for a flowering pleached tree consider Pyrus Chanticleer, the ornamental pear with creamy white flowers in spring and late autumn colour.

    We have a number of varieties available for viewing online, and there’s more than enough to pique your interest in the field of using pleached trees for screening. They’re a unique and fulfilling style to plant, and well worth considering.

    If you’re interested in purchasing pleached trees or creating them, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or queries.

  • Using an Organic Mulch

    Mulching carries a number of distinct benefits, and represents one of the most efficient ways to transform any garden into a more efficient, plant friendly environment. Mulch can help to retain moisture in the soil, smother and stop the spread of weeds, and improve soil structure and nutrition.

    Using organic mulch carries a number of benefits which set it apart from the inorganic options. They’re easily decomposable, look natural, and are particularly effective at adding nutrients and structure to the soil. So if you’re looking for these benefits over and above weed suppression organic mulches are an excellent option.

    Organic mulch could consist of well-rotted horse and farm manure, leaf mould or garden compost, all of which provide some nutrients and help with water retention. In some cases you could take 7-10cm of organic mulch and dig it into the topsoil, though it’s often better to simply place it loosely on the surface and let the worms incorporate it into the soil. This method will both benefit plants and retain the soil structure. Because they get incorporated into the soil, organic mulches require renewing annually, or each spring and autumn depending on soil type and quality.

    There are some decorative organic mulches available, particularly popular are wood chippings and conifer bark, adding a visual flourish over mulch mats and the like. However, bark is extremely carbon heavy, and will rob nutrients from the soil as it slowly breaks down, unless it has been composted first. If you’re interested in this method be sure to apply fertiliser to the soil in advance to combat the effect.

    Organic mulches are an excellent way to improve the quality of your soil, so feel free to contact us if you have any questions or queries and we’ll be happy to help you reach your planting goals.

  • Using an Inorganic Mulch

    Mulching can reduce weeds, increase water retention and provide a professional finish to planting. Some mulching techniques may even be able to deter pests, if implemented well. It’s always best to mulch when the soil is moist, though if it’s overly damp consider waiting for it to dry out somewhat. Mulching now will help the soil to retain more moisture over the summer, which is drier then winter.

    There are a few ways in which synthetic mulches stand out from organic ones. Most importantly, they don’t decompose, and will not need to be replaced as often as organic mulches, holding in moisture and smothering weeds for considerably longer.

    There are plenty of options available to you, such as woven polypropylene and hemcore, available in mats and rolls depending on the size of the area, You can also use pebbles or gravel, which are best combined with a polypropylene mulch mat, however. They suppress weeds and are permeable, allowing water through to the soil while maintaining an attractive appearance. Without a mat they risk being absorbed into the soil.

    A woven polypropylene mat will allow water, air, and nutrients to pass through it, even permitting an organic mulch to be laid above it. With a 5 year life span, the mats are long-lasting. They are photodegradeable, so a covering organic mulch will increase the lifespan. They suppress weeds and grass, and don’t need to be removed for planting. Simply cut an appropriate slit in the fabric and plant, then tape it back up to restrict weed growth.

    Inorganic mulches certainly carry a degree of convenience and longevity, and they’re well worth considering for use with your plants. As ever, simply contact us with any queries or questions you might have, and we’ll be more than happy to help.

  • Plants for Spring Interest – Prunus Cerasifera Nigra

    After a long, cold winter, it’s common for gardeners to seek plants with very early spring interest, bringing colour to their property as soon as possible. If you’re seeking a plant to help you achieve this, it might be worth considering the Purple-Leaf Cherry Plum, or ‘Prunus Cerasifera ‘Nigra’’, a species which comes highly recommended by the English Woodlands team.

    The Purple-Leaf Cherry Plum features strong colour foliage, with leaves taking on a deep-black purple hue. Prior to the appearance of these you can expect to see extremely pale pink flowers opening in early spring. They’re populous enough to cover the entire tree, and can create an incredibly striking sight on even a young tree, which ultimately grows up to a height of 8m.

    Multi-stemmed variants begin branching from extremely close to the ground, create excellent hedging and screening in spaces large enough to accommodate the dense canopy, particularly public land and parks. The species is fully hardy, and shouldn’t need any maintenance once established.

    We have four sizes of Prunus Cerasifera ‘Nigra’ available for browsing in on-line or in the nursey. You can purchase it from anywhere between 175-400cm in height, ranging in price from £38.40 to £132.00 including VAT.

    If you have the room to keep it, the Purple-Leaf Cherry is a highly appropriate plant for early spring interest, retaining colour through deeply coloured foliage throughout the season. As ever, if you have any questions or queries do not hesitate to contact us, and a member of the team will be more than happy to handle any enquiries.

  • Plants for Spring Interest – Prunus okame (Okame Cherry)

    This is one of the more striking plants for early spring interest. The Okame Cherry is a deciduous broad leafed tree, most notable for its vibrant, deep pink flowering which occurs in early spring. An attractive variety of colour is maintained the entire year round, with the late spring’s broad, green leaves taking on a regal red and orange sheen towards the autumn.

    We happily recommend Prunus Okame as a small hardy tree requiring little maintenance once established. The tree is fairly capable of being planted in any type of soil, it is tolerant of chalk and will cope with heavy clay as long as not waterlogged for long periods. It’s always advisable to improve your soil to best service your plants, though the Okame Cherry is thankfully less vulnerable than many species. As long as the soil drains well and it’s placed in full sun the plant will sustain itself rather well.

    In terms of usage, it’s an excellent specimen for use in cottage gardens, courtyards and urban gardens, or as a colourful centrepiece in public parklands and suburban settings. Although a small tree, the canopy does spread to form an attractive shape in maturity, and can create an excellent focal point for any area.

    We’re currently stocking container-grown Prunus okame sized between 175-400cm in height, which can be found among our affordable selection of common trees. Including VAT, the smaller varieties are going for £38.40, ranging up to £150 for a substantially more established plant. As ever, feel free to contact us with any questions or queries you may have.

  • Don’t Miss Out on Bare-Root Plant Season!

    We’re fast approaching the cut-off for availability of bare-root plants, you’re unlikely to find any after Easter this year. Where you can find container grown plants the entire year through, bare-root is limited to November through March. They’re excellent choices for planting, so you’ll want to make the most of them while they’re still available.

    Bare-root plants are field grown, then lifted without soil while dormant. They’re placed in bags to retain moisture in the roots, and kept in a consistently cool environment until you’re ready to plant. Since they’re lifted and planted while dormant, when spring begins growth will accompany it.

    They’re a very cost-effective way of planting trees and hedges during the dormant season. You can usually get them cheaper than container-grown and rootballed plants, so there’s every reason to be interested.

    We’re currently stocking bare-root plants in a number of categories. You’ll be able to invest in bare-root single species and mixed hedging, or trees for planting within hedge lines Bare-root plants are especially appropriate when bought as trees for coppicing, such as hazel and sweet chestnut, free to be pruned before exiting dormancy.

    It’s preferable not to store bare-root plants for extended periods, since even when moistened they’re devoid of soil and nutrition. So long as soil is sufficiently moist and temperatures aren’t freezing, it’s currently an ideal time to plant, and one of the last opportunities to do so before the autumn.

    To help with successful planting, we’re even offering a sale on Mycorrhizal fungi, or Rootgrow™. If you’re interested in buying, you can check the rest of the blog to learn how to use Rootgrow.

    If you’re interesting in purchasing bare-root plants and trees, feel free to browse our stock, and contact us at any time with questions and queries.

  • Benefits of Trees and Shrubs in a Low Maintenance Garden

    Not everyone has enough spare time to devote themselves fully to a garden, and quite often you’ll want to minimise the necessary maintenance. There are a number of benefits to using trees and shrubs for a low-maintenance garden, a few of which you’ll find below.

    What makes a garden ‘low-maintenance’ depends on the size of the garden and how much time you have to spare. Reduce the amount of pruning to be done by choosing species that grow to the size you need and no more. Small trees and shrubs can be quite self-sufficient, slow growing or dwarf conifers such as Pinus strobus Nana, Pinus Brepo and Abies Koreana require very little attention other than watering in the first few years.  Rhododendrons and Azaleas do not require pruning and give spectacular displays of flowers.

    Many ornamental trees require little maintenance. In small gardens  ornamental cherry trees such as Prunus Okame, Prunus Pandora, Prunus Royal Burgundy, and crab apples such as Malus Evereste, Malus Gorgeous, will not require pruning to keep compact. Trees and shrubs can be chosen for sequential seasonal interest such as foliage, flower, fruit, give just as much interest as higher maintenance herbaceous plants.

    In small gardens gravel and paving with sympathetic planting can be much easier to maintain that a lawn. Architectural plants such as palms and olive trees, and aromatic shrubs such as Lavenders and rosemary can be used in gravel gardens.

    There are many ways you could introduce low maintenance trees and shrubs into your garden, so check back regularly for features and guides to specific species. As ever, we’re always happy to answer and questions or queries you have by phone, so don’t hesitate to contact us if that’s the case.

  • Introduction to Screening

    Screening represents an extremely important part of personalising your garden. The feel of a garden is ultimately greater than the sum of its parts, and outside views can have a distinct effect on the atmosphere. Perhaps an unsightly urban development or factory can be seen in the distance, or your garden overlooks a busy road.

    Customers often ask us to recommend screening above a 6’ fence line, either to give privacy from neighbouring properties or hide an unwanted view. Screening may also be required less than 6’ high to provide a division between paths, roads or other gardens.

    Trees and shrubs can draw attention away from unattractive views and provide privacy from overlooking windows. There are many options available for you to screen your property, for instance hedges, trees, pleached trees and climbers.

    Pleached trees are grown with a bare trunk up to 1-2 metres tall, with branches grown according to a framework, usually built from bamboo. They’re often used to screen above the height of walls and fences, creating a hedge-like airborne effect. Pleached trees create a formal style. Hornbeam and lime trees are traditional pleached trees, and you could also consider Photinia Red Robin and Ilex (Holly) as evergreen pleached trees, or the ornamental pear Pyrus Chanticleer.

    Before you set up screening for your garden, you’ll have to consider what purpose it’s serving, and where it will be placed. Are you bordering another property? What soil quality and sun exposure does the plot possess? What length of plot are you planning, and what is the maximum height needed to be achieved?

    Check back regularly, and we’ll be discussing species and strategies for screening your garden in more detail. As ever, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

  • Employing a Garden Designer

    Having thought about what you want from a garden, you may wish to employ a garden designer who can help you put your plans into reality, and assist with the entire process.

    Plan Ahead – Decide what level of contribution you want from the designer. Are you looking for them to transform your garden with your approval, or do you simply want consultation on a design you produced yourself? Will you be carrying out practical labour alone, or require professional assistance? Knowing what you want in advance will expedite the design process, and if you’re simply unsure where to start a good designer will have some bright ideas to suggest.

    Check Their Work – All professionals will have a portfolio available for viewing online, or at your request. You may wish to contact more than one designer to view the quality of their work, and see if their personal style resonates with what you want to achieve.

    Phone Ahead – Ensure the designer fully understands what kind of work you’re looking for, whether it’s consultancy or a comprehensive design, along with the possibility of project management and on-going garden maintenance. Being clear about what you initially require will help the quotation process considerably.

    Most importantly, you should be choosing a designer who produces consistent, high quality work at a reasonable fee. But remember to select someone you can work with. The outline design may be revised as constructing a garden is a highly creative process, and you’ll likely be working close together. The Society of Garden Designers is an excellent source for locating professionals, though personal recommendations also remain a tried and true method of locating good work. We provide a contractors list on our website  if you are seeking garden designers and people who can plant.

  • Garden Design

    With Christmas already a distant memory and spring on the horizon, winter is a great time to be thinking about those important changes you’d like to make in your garden this year. If conditions aren’t ideal for planting due to rain or snow there is still plenty of planning to do for the year ahead.

    Winter is an ideal time to consider the design of your garden, the bones of most gardens will be obvious, with deciduous trees and shrubs leafless and most perennials retreating underground. In winter it’s possible to assess the garden both in terms of hard and soft landscaping.

    Whether you wish to develop some aspects of your garden yourself or involve a professional for a full re-design, we’ve put together some topics you can start by considering.

    The function of your garden

    What sort of garden do you want or already have?

    - Purely ornamental or a productive one with fruit trees and vegetables?

    - Is entertainment important? Do you need a patio, barbeque and furniture space? One of our customers planned their garden around drink stops - morning coffee, afternoon tea stop and an early evening drink bench, for maximum sun, shade trees and seclusion respectively!

    - Is encouraging wildlife important? This will influence plant selection. You may wish to consider the benefits of Native hedges, or other features such as a pond.

    - You may already have a well-designed garden, aside from one area you wish to improve.

    How much time do you want to spend on maintenance?

    - You may be retired and want to spend all your time in the garden or you may  work full-time, have a family, and only have a few hours at the weekend free.

    - You may even just want to just sit in the garden when you have the opportunity and keep maintenance to the absolute minimum!

    Do you need Screening - from other houses, pedestrian or vehicular access or unwanted views?

    - What height do you need screening at? Do you want evergreen screening all year round, or is summer the most important time to screen?

    Hedges can offer privacy and structure to a garden, you can even create ‘rooms’ within a garden for interest or function.

    Is there a particular style you like in a garden – Cottage garden? Formal? Japanese? Mediterranean?

    - Have a look in some gardening magazines for ideas of the type of garden you aspire to having.

    What must you make room for?

    - Do you need areas for a greenhouse? A garden shed? A compost area? Or a swimming pool? A summer house? Seating in the shade? Seating in the sun?

    Perhaps you’re only focusing on a single area of the garden? Even the best borders may need a rethink after a few years. Some shrubs or perennials may thrive at the expense of others and need a prune, or perennial plants may need splitting and moving. This may offer the opportunity to re-design your borders to achieve the colour, form and seasonality you require.

    Also consider containers and their place in the garden. These can be moved in different seasons, with plants introduced into paved areas. For example, you could add a style – topiary either side of an entrance.

    Do I need a garden designer?

    Once you have decided what developments you want you may have projects you can do yourself, but if inspiration, knowledge and time is in short supply you may want to get a designer in.  Sometimes taking photos, planning on paper and researching plants is half the fun, though obtaining the services of a professional designer may provide unique, workable ideas you had never thought of.  You may need a design plan before you carry out the practical work yourself, or may wish to plan a new border design yourself and get someone else to plant it out.

    I need a garden designer!

    Most garden designers will provide a range of services, from suggestions on re-planting problem borders to whole garden designs, and everything in between. By getting under way in January most projects, depending on the size, can be designed through the dormant winter period and be scheduled for construction and planting in time for the coming summer.

    The main stages in the garden design process are usually as follows, however, most designers will be happy to adjust the services offered, based on the client’s requirements:

    Initial visit and consultation - after which the designer will be able to provide a quotation for their services

    Survey - a vital tool for the designer to provide clients with an accurate design. Depending on the size and complexity of the project the designer may undertake the design or suggest a professional surveyor

    Outline design - this is the first draft of the design, incorporating many of the requests provided by the client at the initial consultation, along with suggestions from the designer. This should be viewed as a working document, and is generally subject to revisions

    Final design and construction drawings - the final design will include all of the information required to build your garden. Contractors can use this plan to price, set out and construct the garden. If detailed drawings of specific features are required they will be included at this stage, though there may be an additional fee required for this service

    Planting plan - depending on the size and complexity of the project, plant information can either be included on the final design or on a separate plan. An accompanying schedule will usually be provided, which will list recommended plants, sizes and quantities, and is used for costing, supplying and setting out the plants

    Project management - to ensure your garden is built accurately and to your satisfaction, garden designers will often be available to monitor all aspects of the construction. A separate fee is usually charged for this service

    Planting - after the garden has been constructed most garden designers will be able to source, supply, set out and plant-out the plants detailed on the planting plan

    Aftercare - it is quite common for follow up visits to be arranged, in order to review the development of gardens, when specific advice can be given on garden maintenance and plant care. A separate fee is usually charged for this service.

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