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Category: About Trees

Articles involving trees, shrubs, bushes, woods and hedges plus related subjects

Little Conifers Little Tree Tips

Little Conifers Little Tree Tips

What are Miniature Conifers

  • Natural slow growing conifers that have not been deliberately stunted can be grown as miniatures.
  • The annual rate of growth is ¼” to 1″
  • Miniature conifers can be grown from several species including abies, pine, picea, chamaecyparis, cryptomeria and juniper
  • They are propagated from seed or as cuttings of existing miniatures.
  • Cuttings from sports or mutations can produce new varieties.
  • True miniatures differ from dwarf varieties and slow growers which also produce small trees
  • Miniatures are the shortest of the conifer family used in alpine gardens, scree gardens, troughs and display pots.

Little Conifer Tips

  • Miniatures can grow in troughs with 3″ depth of soil or in window boxes.
  • Allow them to spread the roots rather than delve too deeply
  • If grown as commemorative trees they can become long lived family treasures.
  • Contour the site in proportion to the trees you are growing making allowance for the anticipated height
  • Do not allow trees to be heavily overshadowed or left too dry.
  • Beware juvenile foliage may look different.

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Miniature and Dwarf Conifers  from above

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Commonsense Apple Trees

Commonsense Apple Trees

Basic Facts

  • There are many thousands of apple tree varieties (7500+)
  • Apple trees can live for more than 30 years
  • Apple trees fruit better if they are pollinated from another variety (two more varieties for some apples).
  • Trees need a balance of roots, new wood and leaves to perform well on fruit production.
  • Most trees are grafted on to a special stock (not grown from pips). This determines the size of the tree.

So how to use this Information

  • Think about the apple(s) you want and the conditions in your garden.  Match your choice from information about specific varieties. Soil conditions geographic location and other knowledge is available from  specialists, a quality nursery or the RHS fruit group.
  • Buy with care bearing in mind the tree is their to last. Give it space and appropriate soil conditions as the tree will want air and light as well as sustenance.
  • Pruning stimulates new growth, do it between winter to early March. Train tree to shape before serious pruning and do not over prune in any one year.

Other Commonsense Comments

  • Apples can be grown in pots. Choose a large one that will be stable and hold moisture and feed weekly from July to September.
  • Protect the roots of pot grown apples from drying out caused by sunshine on the pot.
  • I am not keen on the use of chemical ‘icides on fruit but rely on a clean environment and early removal of problems. I will add sulphate of ammonia to increase vigour or potash to help fruit production.
  • When staking a tree ensure the trunk isn’t damaged or rubbed.
  • Apples can be stored for 4-6 months and should be left on the tree as long as possible ie November in many cases
  • Apples are ripe when the pips have turned black and should come off the tree with a gentle twist.
Winnowing My Garden Books

Winnowing My Garden Books

On this first of August 2020 I am resolved to winnow down my collection of books on gardening and related subjects. I want to separate the wheat from the chaff and boy is there a lot of chaff to sort, probably 500+ tomes plus related ephemera. Not all of this winnowing activity will lead to new posts on this site but my first effort has done.

The most recent book I have read from cover to cover was the entertaining ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben. To me it is a master piece of accessible writing about trees, what they feel, how they communicate and how nature interacts  with them. It is based on years of experience as a forester. Peter has acute observational and analytical ability that is well reasoned and simply communicated. The main themes I have taken into my wider gardening and ecological understanding include:

  1. Trees show we can take the long view and there is no need to rush, in fact time may create a far better and sustainable result.
  2. There is a place for everything and with everything in its place we disrupt it at our peril.
  3. We don’t know what we don’t know and there are more things in heaven and earth ( but what the Hamlet to mix my metaphors.)
  4. If trees have social networking with many skills similar to human abilities and traits, then what else can our gardens teach us.
  5. Look at what is easily visible and look again to develop understanding.

Fired with this enthusiasm I looked through for further enlightenment before I  pass on the books to others as part of winnowing down from  my book shelves. I came across a 1974 book ‘Plants and Environment’ by R F Daubenmire a self professed Textbook of Plant Autecology. The book’s definition of Autecology is wider than a dictionary definition claiming it considers: geology, soils, climatology, zoology, chemistry and physics which are connected to the welfare of living organism and evolution of species. Not dissimilar to Wohlleben’s offering.  As I have only read the preface and introduction in detail some chapers have been dipped into to suit my mood at the time. These include; soil, water, temperature, light, atmospheric, biotic, fire, evolution and complex environmental chapters.

As a text book it is more detailed and less apocryphal than the Hidden Life of Trees but aims at ‘the intelligent management of plant life (and trees in particular) for the good on mankind’. Both books have excellent notes and references.


Neat and Trim Tree

Neat and Trim Tree

In a garden the weeping willow can look untidy and in need of a trim as it has a propensity to straggle and have branches trailing on the ground. Along side water it will favour the wet side. This can play havock with the area underneath and the designs symmetry.  A solution has been found in this garden which I spotted on a lockdown walkabout. The lower branches have been trimmed to a uniform height around the bole.

The lawn stripes and the neat hedges smack of a professional garden maintenance crew who doubtless have the best tools for the different tasks job.

I liked this photograph of the same garden from another angle. The trim willow is framed by the leaves of the overhang. A shame I couldn’t get a shot without the telegraph pole. See an earlier post from 2009 weeping willow in trim taken in Hay-on-Wye.

Portmanteau Trees New Species

Portmanteau Trees New Species


If you notice dogs you may have seen a’ cockapoo’ using one of your trees as a loo or a ‘puggle’ leaving a puddle but what is a ‘labradoodle’ to do?  Every week there seems to be a new hybrid dog that is a cross between two or more breeds so I wonder if can this apply to trees.

If breeders could cross a Eucalyptus with a holly the European commission would be happy with a Eucalolly forest or a walnut would make a waolly or hollnut. My favourites would be a Sycayew or the tall but sickly Poplash

Paperbarked Maple

Back to the dogs for a minute, not to say silverbarkbirch or paperbarked maple both a bit wrouff ( or am I doing something up the wrong tree). How about planting a bulldogwood, a pitbull tree of heaven or a maidenhairweiler.

Trees portmanteaued or  crossed with board games would be chessnuts, planeludo or snakebarks and ladders. Mahonijong are related to chinese checkers and monopoly would be a self pollenator. Who let the dogs in there are terrible draughts in here (enough already go have some Chow ed).

Roses for Good Hips

Roses for Good Hips

Some gardeners say the best hips are produced by species roses. Here are some Hips Tips that I have discovered over the years.

  1. Rugarosa for big juicy spherical hips
  2. Birds adore the red, egg-shaped hips of the wild dog rose Rosa canina which are also good for cooking.
  3. Masses of orange-red hips adorn the rampant rambler Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. It needs a large tree or building to grow over  as does Rambling Rector.
  4. Rosa ‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’ is a glorious climber with huge hips that turn from yellow to pinkish-red.
  5. The Scotch rose, Rosa spinosissima is a  very prickly species rose with purplish-black hips
  6. Bristly, urn-shaped, dark red hips hang on the arching stems of Rosa setipoda, make a striking autumn feature.
  7. Hips vary in shape and colour with Rosa moyesii Evesbatch having long elongated hips and Rosa pimpinellifolia round black hips.
  8. Rosa villosa has gooseberry like hips whilst for small, orange-red hips try Rosa ‘Fru Dagmnar Hastrup’ that look like cherry tomatoes.
  9. The fatter and juicier the hip the better they make rose hip syrup.
  10. As a child we used to break open the hip and push seed down the back of friends shirts to cause itching. I haven’t tried that for 60 years or so! but I still get the itch.

A few  older shrub roses that are recommended by the RHS:

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My Personal Planting Tips

My Personal Planting Tips

Bamboo in a sheltered Glade

Shrubs and Trees

  1. ‘A good big one is better than a smaller one’ is an old yet valid quote and also applies to the size of a planting hole. Give room for the roots to spread. Brake up the bottom and sides of the hole, mix in some slow release fertiliser and puddle in (lots of water in and around the plant. Firm down the soil and offer support with a stake.
  2. A good big one quote should not be taken to extreme for new shrubs and trees. The larger the plant the more susceptible it will be to drought and wind damage. Over time most smaller plants will catch up and have suffered fewer ‘checks’. On large forced shrubs the root systems may not be strong enough to cope with a large head of leaf, fruit or flower.
  3. I prefer autumn as a time to plant when the soil will provide a warm home for new roots and rain will help with watering.
  4. Water new plants regularly and thoroughly. A slight depression around the plant will create a saucer effect. In dry situations they may need help for 12 months or more. Do not risk new plants dying from drought.

Protecting the Newly Planted

  1. Young trees need the support of a stake or cane. Wind rock can damage the tender roots and growth will be damaged by prevailing wind. Stake on the windward side and tie with soft string at least one third up the stem.
  2. Errect a wind break if the garden is exposed.
  3. Protect from animal damage with a plastic stem protector and slug pellets.
  4. Plant in groups rather in singles to get some mutual protection.
  5. Mulch to protect the soil temperature and moisture content.
  6. Keep weeds under control.

Planting out pot grown plants

  1. Before planting out give all new plants in pots a good soaking. Beware it can be hard to get water to soak into the center  You do not want to find the plant dying with a dry root ball in a few seasons time.
  2. Pot bound plants are those with the root twisting around inside the pot and most of the nutrient and compost consumed. Roots may be forcing their way out of the bottom of the pot or making plastic pots distort. They will struggle to get out of this vicious spiral/circle when planted out. The best solution is to tease out the roots on the edge of the root ball. If it is too tightly wound then break out any remaining composts and spread all the roots as best you can.
  3. Garden centers are businesses and some get up to dubious tricks. Small and immature plants that have  recently been repotted into larger pots to make them seem more valuable (for that read pricey). Before buying support the plant and invert the pot to see if the root ball crumbles.
  4. I put some mycorrhisal root growth aid in the hole to encourage roots to grow away from the root ball.
  5. Bare rooted trees and shrubs are often the best way to plant fruit trees, hedges and roses.


Rock On With My Garden

Rock On With My Garden

Dwarf Conifers in a Rock Garden

For over 25 years I have gardened a rockery or rock garden on a triangular patch of poor soil. I progressively scrounged and collected a range of granite, limestone and sandstone rocks and added them piecemeal. I aspired to growing alpine plants and recognised good drainage and shelter from winter wet weather would be key but that is as far as my planning would go. For the first couple of decades I was busy at work and wasn’t able to put in the effort of looking after small but hardy alpines.

One of the consequences of this lack of time was that I took the easy way out and planted ‘Dwarf and slow growing conifers’ that were a popular fad at the time. I also supported many alpine nurseries with my often ill chosen plant selections in attempts to buy a ready made garden feature. Latterly I joined the Alpine Garden Society and took advantage of shows and seed exchanges.

Then a latter stage crept up on me. The 10-20 year old conifers started to take over in scale and dare I say interest. Firstly dwarf can be a misnomer just because a conifer is small when planted it may very well just be a slow grower that has higher ambitions. I true dwarf conifer is a genetic feature of some species and are worth seeking out at the expense of other mass grown shrublets. Over time I dug out the larger and more boring specimens but still the alpines became less significant. I now have 20+ conifers of varying forms, colours and species taking over the alpines. The highest is 6 feet tall and may be the next for the chop one is low growing but spreads 5 feet wide and a favorite on mine is only 9 inches high. The space is still approximately 200 square feet but is extending into and adjacent bed past the crazy paved path.

Ideas for Rock Garden

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Bigger than the Biggest Aspidistra

Bigger than the Biggest Aspidistra

What I am talking about  are plants that are bigger than the biggest aspidistra in the Gracie Fields song book. They represent examples of the biggest natural organic organism in the world. I have three candidates for your consideration a couple of which may surprise you.

    1. Honey Fungus,  Armillaria mellea,  Armillaria ostoyae, and Armillaria solidipes also known as the humongous fungus, “honey mushroom” or “shoestring fungus.”  The largest measured example of unique DNA is believed to be in Oregon’s Blue Mountains. It is thousands of years old stretches, over 3 square miles, weighs 100s of tons, grows 10 feet deep and is acknowledged as the largest land organism on the planet.
    2. A plant in Fishlake National Forest colorado forms a colony of clones of Populus tremuloides also known as  Quaking Aspen, Pando or the Trembling Giant; it weighs in at an estimated 6,000 tons and may be up to 80,000 years old.  Clones and genet have identical genetic make-up and are a single living organism assumed to have one massive underground root system.  

3. The third candidiate and world heritage site is in Ibiza and is a  sea grass Posidonia oceanica also known as Neptune grass or Mediterranean tapeweed. Despite growing underwater it is not a seaweed but a grass that forms large underwater meadows in this case 5 miles long and over 100,000 years old. It is the largest example of a colnal colony


Other potential  biggest aspidistras include The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest structure but  is composed of a mixture many different living entities, the Giant Sequoia or amongst mammals the Blue Whale.

Latex, Opium, Sap, Gum and Resin

Latex, Opium, Sap, Gum and Resin

Opium Poppies – Geograph – Pods of the opium poppy at Woodcote, Oxfordshire


Dried latex is obtained from the seed capsules of  Papaver somniferum aka the opium poppy. Morphine, heroine and codeine are all derived from the alkalides in the latex. Latex is natural rubber.

Many  plants produce forms of latex rich in isoprene polymers including spurges, dandelions, ficus elastica, lettuce and chicle. Two most useful latex derived products are chicle for chewing gum and Hevea brasiliensis the rubber tree that is tapped to provide the latex for natural rubber production.

Latex can cause allergic reaction as gardeners with euphorbia may know from skin rashes


Tree Sap is obtained from maple, birch, or walnut trees and is a liquid less viscous than honey comprised mostly of water and sugars. Sap from a tree is made of sugar and water carried in the trunk cells.

Maple syrup comes from maple trees in the form of sap that is harvested in drips, from incisions in the bark, into a bucket hung from a tap hammered into the tree.

Sap has antiseptic qualities that can keep wounds from getting bacterial infections. Thus sap can  make wound dressings or when boiled down it becomes a sticky tar-like substance used for waterproofing (it’s believed by some that Noah used ‘pine pitch’ to waterproof the Ark)


Resin is a liquid found in the outer cells particularly of the Pinaceae family like pine, fir and cedar trees. Resin may be the trees way of removing waste products from the heartwood.

Resin is a sticky solid form of secretion that is highly valued for their chemical properties with various uses including the distillation of turpentine.

Amber is the fossilized resin from ancient forests.


Eucalyptus trees can produce a highly aromatic oil used  for cleaning, as an antiseptic and cough medicine.  Gum arabic is a natural gum made from the hardened sap of some varieties of Acacia trees. Its main uses are in the food industry.