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Monthly Archives: December 2013

  • Plants for Christmas - Hollies

    Holly is a classic plant for Christmas, and any gardeners with a vested interest in the seasons. Even before Christmas, holly was used to decorate homes in celebration of the winter solstice, and the plant has only gained popularity as an ornamental specimen since then.

    It’s smart, hardy, evergreen, and makes for a useful native shrub or tree. There are many varieties to explore here, though you’re likely most familiar with the native Ilex acquifolum. Female trees produce the vibrant, red berries we now associate with Christmas, though they need the help of a male tree nearby to pollinate.

    This is one of the reasons Ilex acquifolum is commonly put to use in hedging and boundaries. In mixed hedging and rural areas there will usually be enough of both trees to produce holly berries, and once fully established holly provides a prickly deterrent to humans and animals alike.

    Ilex acquiform

    Ilex acquifolum, showing striking colours in berries and foliage

    Other varieties are self-fertile, and will generally produce berries whether there are other plants around or not. If you’re looking for a gift or purchase for planting in a smaller garden this is the way to go. See variegated hollies for good examples of self-fertile specimens. Ilex aquifolium argentea marginata has a cream and green leaf, while Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’ boasts a glossy green leaf slightly less prickly than common holly, with a good crop of bright red berries. Placed nearby a house with light falling on variegated hollies can really brighten up dull, winter days.

    Nellie Stevens

    ‘Nellie Stevens’, featuring smoother, glossy leaves

    If you have a keen interest in topiary, there are even holly variants to compare with conventional topiary box. Ilex crenata, the Japanese Holly, is an ideal smaller shrub for shaping into a stunning bonsai or topiary specimen.

    While fit for many purposes, holly’s undemanding nature makes it especially appropriate as a gift. It’s generally appropriate for most soil types and situations. It’s wind tolerant, and the green varieties are shade tolerant too.

    So if you’re still stuck on finding the right plant for winter, it’s worth taking another look at holly.

  • Hedge Planting – Root Balled Plants

    If you’ve been following the blog lately, you’ll already be up-to-date on with our series on bare root plants, which are field grown and supplied in bundles over the dormant season, November to March.

    This is an economical way to plant deciduous hedging in sizes up to 2m, but this doesn’t carry over to evergreens. As they never go fully dormant, evergreens larger than 45cm are best sold with some soil around the roots. Instead, you’ll be looking at a rootballed plant, which we’ll be discussing a little more today.

    What is a rootballed plant?

    This just means they’re provided with a ball of soil around the roots, secured by a hessian covering.

    Why should I use one?

    Unlike bare root plants, the roots will be insulated, moist, and suitable to be stored for longer (up to a week in a cool, sheltered area!) They’re cheaper than container grown plants, and simple to plant in a tree pit.

    Typically they’ll be moderately mature, and trimmed down as they’ve grown. This produces a bushy appearance, and makes them quick to resemble an established hedge when planted as a group.

    I’m looking for instant hedging, which rootballed plants can I use?

    Good question!

    Yew - Taxus baccata

    yew

    The Yew’s vivid, green foliage

    This is a classic, evergreen hedge plant. It’s long lived, easily trimmed, shade tolerant, and provides a beautifully sheer backdrop to herbaceous plants. It’s long been used for topiary and formal gardens, thanks to an incredibly dense appearance. If you’ve ever explored a maze garden you’re likely familiar with Yew.

     a line of yew

    A line of Yew from around the nursery

    Yew is also quite simple to maintain, only requiring annual trimming. If it becomes overgrown it can be renovated by cutting back one side each year, permitting gradual rejuvenation. So long as it’s provided with good drainage, the plant can tolerate most soil types, even chalk.

    Western Red Cedar - Thuja plicata

    Yew can’t handle excessive moisture, making Western Red Cedar an excellent alternative in heavier, damper soils.

    wester red cedars 1


    It’s a quick-growing evergreen conifer, naturally able to quickly reach 15m as a tree, but easily trimmed into a smart boundary hedge. With deep green, glossy foliage it compares well to Yew as a backdrop to herbaceous plants, though faster growing and with better tolerance of wetter soils. It also thrives on all normally cultivated soils, and is resistant to wind.

    Western Red Cedar has a pleasant identifying characteristic - its fragrance – which resembles pineapple, distinguishing it from other conifers.

    western red cedars

    A display of Western Red Cedars

    What else should I know?

    It’s important to remember that the wire wrapping is there for a reason! Even after planting, the hessian keeps the root system secure and safe. It’ll rot away naturally in three to six months, so there’s absolutely no need to remove it yourself.

    How many will I need?

    We often receive questions about spacing, and are more than happy to oblige. Both of these plants would function fine around a metre apart, though you may wish to adjust this for plants under 1m tall, in which case they may initially appear a little spacious. Spacing of 60-75cm will allow them to grow and bush out comfortably, without taking too long to meet up.

    Rootballed plants are an excellent way to get your hedges off to an immediate and effective start, while the species above are perfect options for a satisfying, formal hedge.

    If you have any questions we haven’t covered above, don’t hesitate to get in touch, as we’re more than happy to lend a hand with any queries you might have.

  • Give a Gift Gardeners will Love! – Winter Promotions on Bay Trees and Birches

    With twelve days on the clock, it’s time to sit down and have a serious think about what Christmas gifts you’ll be picking up this year (if you haven’t already!).

    Fortunately, we’re here to help make the decision a little bit easier, with a couple of promotions running on two of our most popular winter specimens, the Bay Laurel and Himalayan Birch, both of which are offered with a 20% discount right up until December 23rd.

    The Bay Laurel, or Laurus nobilis, is a fantastic, columnar, evergreen tree, or large shrub. With deep-green, glossy and aromatic leaves it’s a popular gift for topiary lovers seeking something simple to shape and prune.

    bay laurel

    It’s compact enough to make for a manageable, ornamental gift, and looks great when potted alongside doors, gardens, parterres and even less roomy balconies. Whether placed in sun or partial shade, you’ll find the Bay Laurel thrives, once provided with well-drained soil.

    It’s available now in heights ranging from 40-130cm, and head sizes of 35-60cm. Just use the code Bay13 at checkout.

    Our second offer is the Himalayan Birch, or Betula utilis jacquemontii. The dark green, heart-shaped leaves are larger than our native Silver Birch, and fade to a pleasant yellow in autumn. Though you’ll get to enjoy yellow-brown catkins in the spring, the tree’s creamy-white, peeling bark provides unique interest in winter gardens, creating a welcome splash of intense colour in the sparser months.

    birch trees

    It’s fully hardy, and will grow quickly on most soils and sites, excluding very thin soils over chalk or coastal exposures. There’s plenty of choice available, trees are available from 175-500cm, or multi-stemmed variants from 250-400cm. Just check out the appropriate promotions page, and remember to use the code Birch13 at checkout.

    If you’ve got any questions or queries about these promotions, or would even like to ask for advice on finding a specific gift or tree, don’t hesitate to contact us, or just come down to the nursery in person! There’s always someone available to take your calls or lend a hand.

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