Archive | Shrubs and Trees

Tips on the selection and growing trees shrubs and hedges

My Climbing Hydrangea

I like the idea of a climbing hydrangea more than the actual experience. Good specimens seem to produce a profusion of frothy, white blossoms particularly when grown by someone else.

My Problem Climbing Hydrangea

  • In my case I planted the sole attempt near a supporting wall. The soil my not be of the best quality, fertility nor humous rich. So what can I expect from Hydrangea petiolaris an Asian woodland native.
  • To compound my sins the wall faces north but in mitigation it is only 2 feet high and the climber now occupies both sides. However flowers are there none or sparse to say the least.
  • Nostrums, potions and plenty of compost have not stimulated leaf or branch growth so what hope of flowers.
  • I expected this Hydrangea to take a while to settle in and start producing but 5 years on and my patience is wearing thin. I guess that is true of the plant which is still keen on revenge for my earlier mistakes over its location.
  • I would prune it after flowering in mid summer but without flowers to set me off I have been a bit too lax. Then again the plant is a bit lax too.
  • In researching this post I discover Hydrangea anomala is a species of vine hydrangea and may be my plant is as confused as I am.
  • I trim the vine to control its height and width or make cuts at leaf nodes to encourage the plant to fill out. However I may be chopping of my buds to spite my face.

 

Where too Now

  • Cut my losses and turf the climbing hydrangea out.
  • Take cuttings and try new locations more in keeping with its needs. A poor strain of plant will not get better after vegetative propagation.
  • Stick with it and be happy there is one plant to have a moan about.
  • Either move to the south of the UK or buy this book about getting Hydrangeas to bloom in the north.

Book Cover

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Trees for Burning

I am indebted to Lars Mytting for the inspiration to write a post about ‘trees for burning’ that would fit with our gardeners tips. Trees are a good source of green energy that can often  be used for various constructions including boats and furniture instead of reaching a fiery end.

Book Cover

Odd Facts about Wood and Trees for Burning.

  • All timber has pound for pound the same calorific value. Some burn hot and fast whilst other yield their heat treasure more slowly. The heating values per cubic meter vary with the weight.
  • Virtually all trees will burn once they have dried. They will dry quicker if they are split as the bark retains moisture.
  • Wounded Pine trees produce a lot of resin which produces ‘fatwood’ that burns strongly.
  • Rowan and Birch make great glowing embers with which to rekindle a fire.
  • Stacked would is measured in cords (not music to my ears).

Different Trees

  • Ash contains less moisture than many common trees and the wood is prized for burning, furniture making and its ability to be coppiced.
  • Beech grows slowly but can be long lived reaching 5 feet in diameter.It has a fine texture and can be steamed and used in furniture making.
  • Birch grows tall, knot free and straight a virtue in wood that needs drying, chopping or using for furniture making. It rots quickly if left on the ground.
  • Spruce and other conifers are prone to spitting and crackling when burnt but provides quick heat.
  • Oak is revered for its strength and has long been used as a building material. It will burn with great satisfaction but who would want to destroy such a useful wood.
  • More individual pieces of Aspen are burnt than any other wood because Aspen is used to make matches.

What About Gardens and Trees for Burning

  • It would take a large garden to grow enough wood for burning to heat a house but dry branches and twigs can be a start.
  • Clean air acts and pollution have curtailed garden fires but dry wood burns in a chimneyed dustbin without too much smoke.
  • Charcoal for a barbecue is best bought specially for the purpose.
  • Firethorn, burning bushes and bonfire night plots are not trees for our type of burning.

Old Sawn Derby Lime

Trees Burning with a Scent

  • All smoke smells to a greater or lesser extent but one all time favourite is wood from an Apple tree. The fruity aroma pervades the room.
  • Cedar has a strong scent that appeals to many. My house is named Cedar Ville for it’s cladding rather than burning (I hope).
  • Pine cones are a quick scented burner and the season wood will burn well if you can stand a pit of spitting.
  • If wood is hard to obtain you can get a herbal aroma from burning Rosemary or other fragrant herbs.

In the words of Lars –  ‘In Learning About Wood, We Can Learn About Life

Part guide to the best practice in every aspect of working with this renewable energy source, part meditation on the human instinct for survival, this definitive handbook on the art of chopping, stacking and drying wood in the Scandinavian way has resonated across the world, with more than half a million copies sold worldwide.’

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Rose Year 2018

In the UK it has been a fantastic year for flowers, no more so than an English favourite the Rose.

Parks and gardens have been over flowing with stunning blooms and scents.

2018 may be the start of a rose resurgence and I will be tempted to buy a few more bare rooted rose trees this backend.

Have I just been fortunate or has the weather restricted pests and diseases? No rust, negligible blackspot and only one plant suffering from mildew.

It may be too soon to say farewell to greenfly but I live in hope for the second flush from the HT roses.

After generally a good year for fruit and berries I wonder what to expect from rose hips this autumn. My Rambling Rector put on a good show and now I hope for a surfiet of hips. Rugosa roses needed more moisture and were one of the few poor performance in 2018.

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Trees Near Buildings

The UK is experiencing a significant drought following a very wet spring. Trees were encouraged to put on extra foliage and they are now regretting the extra moisture they need to transpire. This is leading to more cracks in the surface soil and could lead to permanent damage.

Trees take up large volumes of water during summer. Shrinking and swelling of clay soils can be a concern but trees 30 feet from buildings should not be a major concern. However it is wise to avoid large vigorous and thirsty trees like Oak, Poplar and Willow.

Root Damage

  • Main roots are usually confined to the top 3 feet of soil
  • Shrubs and climbers are seldom implicated in root damage.
  • Swelling trunks close to buildings may squeeze against structures.
  • Root size and extent is variable dependant on species.They seldom penetrate well maintained drains but vulnerable drains should be repaired.
  • Roots radiate irregularly seeking moisture and nutrient. They may spread two to three times the height of the tree.

Subsidence & Structural Damage

  • Older buildings with shallow foundations are more vulnerable.
  • Soils other than shrinkable clay do not swell and contract as much as other soil and seldom cause damage.
  • The side of a building nearest the tree can settle due to its weight in dry soil causing cracked masonry, distorted doors and windows.
  • Fences, hedges and boundary walls may be damaged by proximity.
  • Paths can be lifted by robust roots.
  • Wind damage to trees may make them structurally unsafe.

General Tree Issues

  • A tree is the responsibility of the landowner who may be liable for any damage it causes.
  • Check with the local planning authority to establish if a tree has a ‘Tree Preservation Order’. They should also know if the garden is in a designated conservation order whose objective is to conserve landscape and public spaces in an area.
  • Trees have atendency to grow larger than you originally intended. They can block out light through your windows, shade gardens and over hang into your neighbors garden.
  • If you need to remove a large tree be aware that the large volume of water it previously transpired will remain in the ground and may lift the water table, swell the soil and cause ‘heave’ or displacement.
  • Gutters and roofs may suffer from leaf litter.
  • Surface roots and suckers can be invasive.

Further Tree Safety Tips

  • Think about the future life and nature of your tree before planting or starting work. It pays to plan ahead.
  • If a large tree needs pruning, lopping or taking down use a tree surgeon who has full insurance.
  • Consider neighbors and  overhangs across roads and public paths.

 

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Dendrology for Gardeners

Dendrology is the the branch of botany and science about trees and other plants that have woody structures. It includes the natural history of trees, species identification, taxonomic classifications and economic significance.

Natural landscapes, forestry, arboreta, horticultural businesses and our gardens are locations that benefit from dendrological study. In the UK there are many parks and urban streets containing trees but the number seems to be diminishing. It is therefore up to gardeners to maintain an interest in growing and caring for trees and woody plants.

Book Cover

A new book to be published in 2019 ‘Dendrology: Cones, Flowers, Fruits and Seeds of Europe’ will provide a comprehensive overview of the morphology of reproductive organs of European woody plants in one resource. Over 355 species of trees and shrubs are to be described including species that originate from North America, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa. At a price of £200 this is not for your average gardener. Better to stick to your own note book costing less than a fiver (above from amazon).

Associated Facts

  • An arboretum is a botanical garden containing living collections of woody plants and is intended at least in part for scientific study. On the other hand a Xylarium is a herbarium containing a collection of wood specimens.
  • The aims of the International Dendrology Society are to promote the study and enjoyment of trees and other woody plants and to protect and conserve rare and endangered plant species worldwide.
  • Silviculture is the  science of controlling forests and woodlands and of forestry management.
  • Dendrochronology is the art and science of tree-rings. Dendroclimatology uses tree-rings and wood density to analyse the that climate was likely to have caused the rings.
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Tree Peonies from the Far East

tree peony

History of Tree Peonies

The ancient Chinese have cultivated Tree Peonies for over 1500 years. Prized specimens are and were grown for medicinal purposes as they contain glucocides and alkolides. The  imperial palace gardens had many specimens that became quite valuable.

The tree peony was, for a time, the national flower of China and it is thought Chairman Mao sought to ban their growth as a decadent pastime. The root of P suffruicosa has been used in medicine for centuries.

Plants were transported to Japan in the 14th century. The Japanese  bred tree peonies creating over 1200 hybrids some of which are still grown today.

The cult status of Japanese Tree peonies encouraged 18th century plant hunters to import tree peonies in to Europe, particularly France and England. These plant hunters like Veitch, Joseph Rock and Kelway started their own breeding programmes from some of the five wild species and other hybrids.

 

 

The Americans crossed P.lutea (above) and P. delavayi with Japanese hybrids to produce some of the vibrant colours now available. The flowers have a short but colourful life! The shrubs are far more long lived.

Tree peonies have long featured in oriental watercolour paintings. by Zou Yigui (1686–1772). Some of the varieties, like ‘Yao’s Yellow’ and ‘Wei’s Purple’ are  depicted in a series of paintings  mentioned in the Record of the Tree Peonies of Luoyang  Ouyang xiu (1007-1072 CE).

 


Imagine the splendid sight when all the buds open.

 

 

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Bamboo Care and Maintenance

Lawns are cut regularly to encourage side shoots, prevent flowers and to keep the grass tidy. Some attention should also be given to other grasses and bamboos to encourage production of fresher growth at the beginning of the growing season.

bamboo ice

Pruning Bamboo

  • All bamboos look better when scruffy, broken or damaged shoots are removed.
  • Thin out dense thickets to create space for the flexing stems of new shoots.
  • Cut out old canes with sharp loppers or a pruning saw flush to the ground.
  • Thin out other shoots to create a balanced, airy clump.
  • Prune above a node to prevent die back.
  • Weak side shoots and branches often look unattractive and a judicious pruning improves appearance.

Bamboo Care

  • The best time to thin and prune is late spring just before new culms emerge.
  • Don’t be afraid to remove 30% of the culms leaving the freshest one-two year olds.
  • For more growth from dwarf bamboos cut down to soil level in early spring and treat like a hardy perennial to get fresh clean foliage.
  • Instead of under planting you can decorate with stones or round pebbles.
  • Some bamboos are invasive and the tough, springy roots need to be removed or root pruned annually. Plant a barrier at least 18 inches deep around invasive types.
  • Bamboo can be turned into Topiary as the leaves grow more abundantly after pruning and the culm won’t grow
  • Bamboos need to be replaced every 10-15 years
  • Water plants in late spring during a dry spell to help new shoots to develop.

Bamboo

Bamboo in Pots

  • Potted bamboos should never be allowed to dry out even in winter.
  • Because bamboo is tall, it may be susceptible to being blown over so weight the pot accordingly.
  • Bamboos make good subjects for growing in pots. I use terracotta pots as the colour seems to go well with the green leaves.
  • Pots restrict the root run of the plants and they should be trimmed every year.
  • Arundinaria viridistriata ‘Pleioblastus’ or Phyllostachys nigra ‘Black Bambo’o are decorative dwarf bamboos suitable for pot culture.
  • Feed with a high nitrogen feed as bamboos are hungry plants and you are their only source of nourishment.

New Bamboo Boulevard at RHS Harlow Carr

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New and Urban Hedge Rows

Hedge your bets and start a hedge fund and do not hedge around!

This isn’t my favourite hedge spotted on a walk to Menston railway station but it hints at what can be achieved. I would now opt for a fruitful hedge to feed me and the birds.

  • The blending of green, grey and red foliage has produced a singular hedge.
  • Mixed colours work best if kept formal, neat and tidy
  • Do not allow one type of plant dominate another, these all seem to be in proportion but vigorous growers will need more trimming
  • Different shaped foliage could also be blended in a mixed hedge
  • The stone wall provides some relief from the base of the hedge
  • Train lower branches into gaps. remove extraneous plants like the Choysia on the left

How to Plant A Hedge

  • Plant a bare root hedge in winter between November and March.
  • Buy 2 0r 3 year old plants in bundles. If you can’t plant them at once heel them into a trench.
  • Protect plants with a plastic bag whilst they are out of the ground.
  • Clear the ground of perennial weeds and keep it clear by hoeing.
  • Dig a trench 18″ wide for a single row of plants. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench and add slow release fertiliser like bone meal.
  • It isn’t necessary to add organic matter except perhaps as a mulch after planting.
  • Sprinkle any fungi treatment directly onto the bare roots before planting.
  • Water the hedge for the first year but then leave it to it’s own devices.
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Miniature Pines are Smaller than Dwarf Pines

What is a Miniature Pine

  • Small pine trees have been grown and sold as Dwarf plants for years but true miniatures are raised as clones from potentially larger species.
  • Miniatures are classified as such if they will not exceed 40cm height or width over 10 years. Experts recommend exhibition quality plants should not grow more than 25mm per annum ie. 25cm in 10 years.
  • True miniatures are clones of other pines.
  • They may  grow as spontaneous sports, as bud mutations or seed faults .
  • Witches brooms creating miniatures pines are dense growths that result from virus infection or insect damage.
  • Bonsai are restricted growth plants and not true miniatures.

Miniature Pine Varieties

  • Pinus mugo Donna’s mini 20x30cm cushion form
  • Pinus mugo Mini Mini  globose habit 20×25 cm
  • Pinus mugo Suzi 30x30cm spreading with orange-broan new growth
  • Pinus mugo Zwergkugel 35x35cm
  • Pinus mugo unicinata Jezek 20x30cm  good cushion form
  • Pinus mugo Bonsai Kramer 10x20cm
  • Pinus syvestris Marshall  30x25cm
  • Pinus strobus
  • Pinus uncinata
  • There are many other species that sport or produce miniatures but pines are consistent favourites.

Dwarf Species include;

  • Dwarf conifers are at least twice the size of miniatures after 10 years. As the sign above shows many conifers are sold as Dwarf plants
  • The pine family includes Dwarf White Pine, Dwarf Swiss Mountain Pine,
  • Many conifers sold as Dwarf are just slow growers and will continue to grow into sizable trees given time and favourable conditions.
  • Dwarf Lebanon Cedar, Dwarf Alberta Spruce,  Dwarf Japanese Juniper.

 Collecting and Displaying Miniature Conifers

  • Miniature conifer is the catch all name for the smallest of the conifer family.
  • The size makes them ideal for use in miniature landscape plantings, alpine or scree gardens, troughs and pots.
  • Miniatures are also popular for exhibition purposes.
  • Restricting the size of a pot can cause the needles on lower branches to fall
  • Top growth shouldn’t extend over the pot. Repot as the conifer grows until you have a pot 36cm or so. There after the miniature pine may be happier in the ground .
  • The main shape and forms of miniature pines are conical, globus, pyramidal or spreading.

Growing and Cultivating Miniature Conifers

  • Miniature conifers are never likely to outgrow their situation.
  • Pot miniatures into a compost of equal amounts of John Innes no.2, grit and composted bark.
  • The aim is a tight bun with closely displayed needles and a compact display. Fertiliser is only needed occasionally and in frugal quantities.
  • Thatch or dead needles should be removed from inner branches to avoid die-back.
  • Shallow, plastic pots are lighter to move around and should not harm the plants.
  • Prevention is better than cure so treat for vine weevil and dose annually with a fungicide.
  • Top dress annually with compost.
  • Outdoor specimens can be trimmed in spring by candling (removing new extension growth) to retain shape.
  • Plants can be grafted onto clean longer stemmed rootstock but why would you want a tall miniature.
  • Side grafting on to compatible rootstock can be done in January and then kept frost free.

Comment

Miniature conifers and especially pines are worth growing in a cold greenhouse or outdoors. There is a range of shapes and colours to cultivete and a good supply is available from Kenwith Nursery growing miniature and dwarf conifers for the last thirty five years.

Kenwith Conifer Nursery

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