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Graham's Top Tips

  • Spring Flowerers - Rhododendrons

    Rhododendrons have a lot to offer, and this applies to both their quality and quantity. They’re widely recognised as one of the showiest groups of spring flowering shrubs, with April through June often hosting colourful displays of lilac, pink, yellow, red and purple. There’s also an immense range of options to pick from, with over 1,000 species held within the genus.

    They’re not too picky, preferring partial shade and a sheltered site. In sufficiently moist (though well drained and aerated) soil, these evergreen shrubs will bring life to your garden throughout the year. It bears to be said that they cannot tolerate alkaline or chalk soils, however. We’re currently stocking a selection of Rhododendron hybrids species in a variety of sizes, available in 7.5 to 40 litre pots. There’s a lot to choose from, so it’s worth taking the time to outline a few options which might be right for your planting goals.

    If you’ve got the space to support them, a vigorous variety could grow as high as 1.8-2m. Roseum Elegans produces large, delicate, pink and purple flowers in the spring, whereas Albert Schweitzer yields light red tubular flowers contrasted with deep green foliage.

    Where space is at a premium we often recommend more compact varieties, particularly Yakushimanum hybrids (or Yaks!). They only reach an ultimate height of 0.9-1.2m, with plump giving way to a wide variety of coloured flowers (depending on the species), along with downy new growth on the leaves. Their convenience and colour has made them a favourite of compact gardeners since their initial introduction to the Chelsea flower show in 1947.

    Finding a use for them isn’t difficult. They prosper in generally shady corners where other shrubs might struggle, offering spring interest and an evergreen backdrop to the rest of your yearly display. Rhododendrons are ideal for filling out a mixed border, and function well as evergreen screening. They can be grouped for varied colour, and the more compact varieties (such as Yaks) are great for placement in pots and rockeries.

    As ever, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or queries about buying and planting. Rhododendrons can bring a lot to your garden, and as one of the UK’s leading tree suppliers, we’re more than happy to help out.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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