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Monthly Archives: October 2013

  • Ground & Site Preparation

    Next month is going to be exciting. While we will continue to enjoy magnificent autumn colour and ideal planting conditions, bare-root and rootballed plants become available, being an ideal way to buy hedge plants. Soon it’ll be time to discuss all about hedge planting, from plant choice and planting technique to thoughts on garden structure.

    But if you want your hedges to enjoy the best start in life, there are a few important tasks to bear in mind before we can get around to all that fun material. As October comes to a close it’s time to start turning our eyes toward ground preparation. So pick your site, grab your tools, and bear these tips in mind.

    First things first, check if your proposed site has grass on it. All turf will need removing, and you’ll want to ensure you’ve cleared a large enough width to allow for soil preparation, so don’t be shy with the shovel. Remember to check up regularly, as you’ll need to keep the area weed and grass free while the hedge establishes.

    While you’re doing this, make extra-sure perennial weeds are removed. Weeds such as bindweed and nettles will come back again and again unless they’ve been dug out or weed killed initially. Removing these right from the start can significantly affect the establishment of the hedge.

    Now the soil’s clear, it’s time to prepare it for planting. If it hasn’t been previously cultivated it’ll likely be quite compacted, so you’ll need to dig over, or rotavate tougher soils, incorporating air back into the earth.

    It’s also best to add some organic matter, for instance well-rotted manure / leaf mould / garden compost, which will improve the structure of most soils, whether they’re sandy, clay, or a good loam. Just be sure not to add too much, particularly to heavy clay soils. This can encourage too much water to collect around the plants roots.

    Before you plant, you may wish to add a slow-release fertiliser, such as one based on blood meal, soybean meal, or fish emulsion. This will release nutrients into the soil over a longer period. Bonemeal is an excellent choice to add just prior to planting, ensuring the nutrients are available for healthy root development.


    Bonemeal is one of the most popular fertilizers for slow nutrient release, particularly phosphorous

    Get all this done and your garden will be in excellent shape for planting next month. Check back then, and we’ll have more to discuss concerning planting choice and technique.

  • Trained Fruit Trees – A quick Guide

    We love fruit trees, and you should too! Trained fruit trees are easily one of our most popular products, and it’s no wonder considering the many advantages they carry. Young trees are trained onto a flat framework, allowing for specific forms, aesthetics and functionality.

    In a restricted space, such as small or urban gardens, they’re unbeatable. They’ll traditionally be found in sheltered, walled kitchen gardens, but look great in many situations. Formal, urban, rural and productive gardens are all good partners for a trained fruit tree.

    Shape & Form

    We’ve got two primary shapes sold online, though more may be available on request. The first is ‘Espalier’, formed of two tiers of horizontal branches. We’re currently offering these for apples and pears.


    An Espalier fruit tree at our nursery

    The second most popular form would have to be the ‘Fan’, which looks exactly like it sounds it should. An evenly spaced framework of fanned branches, that you can train to the height and width required.


    Same nursery, different frame. Fanned trees remain extremely popular, and require planting against a wall.

    Other shapes carry their own benefits. ‘Cordons’ consist of a single stem grown at an angle, with spurs coming off to maximise fruit in a limited space, ideal for production-focused gardens. ‘Step Overs’, an Espalier-like variant only one tier high, perfect for low division in a vegetable garden. If either of these sound interesting to you, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll see what’s available.

    Fruit and Protection

    Not only can some shapes  (such as cordons) aid fruit growth, trained fruit trees are an excellent entry point to growing less hardy fruit, such as peaches and nectarines. Reflected heat from the wall benefits plant and fruit alike, while their compact size makes the plants easy to protect. Fasten a baton to the wall overhead and there’s plenty you can do to keep them safe. Such as:

    Hang a fleece for night time for added protection from frosts

    Netting can keep pesky birds away from your most valuable fruits while they ripen

    Fleecing can reduce rain splash, and diseases like ‘peach leaf curl’, which is spread by the water-borne fungus Taphrina deformans


    Additional Notes

    As with any purchase, there are a few essential points to bear in mind:

    All trained trees are best grown in the ground, rather than potted. Canopies only extend as far as the root network, and trained fruit trees rely entirely on the breadth of their two dimensional branch layout. You’ll need a vigorous rootstock for maximum results.

    Attentive pruning is a must. It’s important to train the tree to the area wanted, and keep it generally in shape.

    Remember, pollination rules apply! If you only want a single tree it will need to be self fertile, unless there are other fruit trees of the same species nearby.

    Fans must be grown against a wall or fence. Espalier can be grown standing alone as a division, such as forming an attractive and productive barrier on either side of a path.

    If your interest has been piqued in trained trees (and we certainly hope it has!) don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ve got a number of variants available for ordering online, and being one of the UK’s largest tree suppliers, there are many other plant shapes on request. There’s always a team member on hand happy to help share planting and ordering advice, so call at any time.

  • Trees for Autumn Interest – Oak Trees (Quercus)

    Autumn can be one of the most visually striking times of the year. Many species truly come into their own around the period, and informed planting choice can produce a lot of interest. As October rounds out we’re working to put out a few more details on some of our favourite autumn trees, and today we’ll be focusing on three particularly beautiful varieties of Quercus, the Oak.

    Quercus rubra | Red Oak

    Firstly, we’d like to take a quick look at Quercus rubra, or the ‘Red Oak’. As the picture below illustrates it’s a highly appropriate name, with the trees displaying stunningly deep colours during the autumn, with orange-red to scarlet leaves depending on the temperature. It’s even refreshingly full during the winter, with browned leaves often hanging on to the tree for an extended period.


    A snapshot of Quercus rubra’s vividly coloured autumn leaves

    Adaptable to a wide range of soils, but preferring sandy loam and well-drained but moist soils, ideally in a sunny site. It’s able to tolerate dry soils and periods of summer drought, but only after being fully established.

    A stately tree reaching an ultimate height of 25 metres and spread of 12, it’s often put to use in large gardens, parks, streets and avenues.

    Quercus palustris | Pin Oak

    Another stately tree, though only reaching an ultimate height of 20 metres, while maintaining an impressive spread of 12 metres. The horizontal branches are a beautiful sight, creating striking silhouettes in the winter.



    Quercus palustris stands out with large, lobed leaves taking on a deep red autumn colour

    Much like the ‘Red Oak’, the ‘Pin Oak’ serves well in large gardens and public areas. You’ll find it suits most soils except chalk, adapting well to moderately dry sites, and even moist-to-wet alluvial soils. Specimens prefer deep, nutrient-rich soils with an acidic to mildly alkaline pH, and will even tolerate areas which stand set in winter.

    Quercus coccinea – ‘Scarlet Oak’

    We don’t have this listed on the site, but feel free to contact us either on-line, on the phone, or in person if you’d like to sample an excellent specimen with many of the positive seen above, along and eye-catching autumn foliage and an extremely hardy character.

     scarlet oak

    A Scarlet Oak displaying autumn foliage |©Jean-Pol Grandmont

    Quercus coccinea shares the dimensions of Q. palustris, with a notable winter silhouette thanks to striking, horizontal branches. During the summer the tree displays bright green leaves with pointed lobes, turning to a dark, scarlet red in autumn (hence the name!).

    Q. coccinea is particularly notable for hardiness. The tree is extremely frost tolerant, and also tolerant of moderately dry soils, drought, and heat. It will happily adapt to a wide range of soils, preferring moist sites with an acid to mildly alkaline pH.

    If you’re still interested in trees for a sizeable garden or public space, we have plenty more large trees online, while our new Plant Finder tool can help pick a tree for a certain site. If you have any additional questions and queries, however, don’t hesitate to contact us, and we’re happy to help with advice on planting choice and technique.

  • Looking for Autumn Interest? | Liquidambar

    We’re fast approaching our favourite time of year! We love spring and summer for growth and flowering, but late autumn, early winter offers the perfect time to get out there and plant. Whether you’re adding a new focal point or getting deep into a full restructure of your garden, October is a great time to pick out a few new species.

    This month we’re going with an obvious topic, and recommending trees with autumn colour. One species which stands out massively in this regard is Liquidambar, and we’ve got an accompanying promotion to celebrate. Simply enter AMBAR13 at checkout for a discount of 20% off all Liquidambar trees.

    First up, we have Liquidambar styraciflua. With an ultimate height of 15-20 metres it absolutely excels when provided with a large space to show off some beautiful autumn colour. An expansive, dense collection of pink, yellow and burgundy-tinged yellow leaves make for quite the sight.

    Large tree - Liquidambar Liquidambar also produces round, spiky fruits which hang throughout the winter

    On the slightly more manageable side we have varieties like ‘Lane Roberts’, or Liquidambar ‘Worplesdon’. These will reach an ultimate height of around 12-15 metres, and are perfect for providing a stunning focal point with rich, claret colour.

    Large tree - Liquidambar Worplesdon Liquidambar ‘Worplesdon’ displaying some eye-catching autumn colour

    We’ve currently got each of these in stock, container-grown, from 175-400cm in height. But as is often the case, you should always feel free to contact us (or visit us!) if you’re after something more specific. There are plenty of varieties not yet listed on the site, and we’re always happy to lend a hand with plant choice, planting decisions, and setting up an order. In the case of Liquidambar we have a few other varieties beyond the standard range of small and large single-stem trees. We can provide multi-stemmed variants, along with a stunning two-by-one metre espalier, ideal for a fabulous and compact autumn screen.

    The current promotion is running until October 31st, dependent on stock remaining. If you’re interested in introducing some uniquely striking autumn colour into your garden don’t forget to enter AMBAR13 at checkout, and claim your 20% discount.

  • Pleached Trees - Species and Usage

    Pleached trees are one of our absolute favourite methods of introducing structure and interest to the garden, traditionally used to create narrow screens along pathways, or as divisions within a formal garden.

    They can best be described as producing a ‘hedge on legs’ effect, which is achieved by training the whippy twigs of trees along horizontal wires, and can now be acquired ‘ready pleached’ in the case of mature trees, approximately 3m high.

    pleached public

    Formally pleached trees in a public garden
    ©Pam Fray, 2009

    This is made up of a 1.2-1.8m stem, with the frame usually 1.2m wide and 1m deep. Our ready-pleached trees will have been trained onto a bamboo frame, which can be removed after planting. This crown supports the frame during transport.

    It’s a striking effect, and perfectly applied in contemporary urban gardens, where they’re commonly used to provide privacy and screening above a fence line, with a formally crisp appearance. In more rural locations they’re effective at creating elegant divisions and walkways.

    Traditionally, two particular species have been used for pleaching. Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and Limes (Tilia platyphyllos). Pleaching naturally requires attentive pruning to retain form and aesthetics, with limes being particularly prunable. Hornbeam, on the other hand, retains some leaves when pruned, allowing for retention of cover later in the season.

    Other varieties are now beginning to gain popularity as pleached features, however. Ornamental pears (Pyrus Chanticleer) among them. With cream spring blossoms and long lasting autumn colour it’s a magnificent source of interest throughout the year.

    pleached bamboo

    Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) trained onto a bamboo frame

    For those of you seeking evergreen interest, Holly (Ilex) is now commonly seen pleached, standing out with glossy winter berries. Photinia Red Robin produces bright red new shoots, providing a stark contrast to the greens and browns prevalent in most gardens.


    Pleached trees constitute a fantastic design element, and if you’re interested in introducing a little more formal structure to the garden any of the above would be an excellent place to start. Don’t hesitate to contact us, however, if you’d like to set up an order, make an enquiry, or are just seeking a little extra planting advice.

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