When a tree needs to move

moving trees
The right tree in the right place makes a garden

While many gardeners are happy enough to shift perennials and even shrubs around their borders somehow the idea of moving trees seems alien.

There’s something permanent about them that seems to defy the idea of uprooting – even when they are too close to something else or in completely the wrong place.

Yet, even the biggest of trees can be shifted, as I discovered when I met up with Glendale Civic Trees at the Malvern Autumn Show.

The firm, which is based in Hertfordshire, is expert in moving trees – be they mature specimens needed to give that instant age to a design, or existing trees that for one reason or another are in the wrong place.

moving trees
Even large trees can be moved by specialists

“A lot of our tree-moving takes place within gardens,” explained Sales Manager Deric Newman. “Often they are in the way of a development.”

Others may be moved within a woodland as part of the thinning process where rather than simply felling the extra trees, they are replanted to extend the tree cover. And even trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order can be moved, if the local authority agrees.

The biggest tree the firm has been called on to move was a 30m-high oak in Newcastle. Its height was reduced by about half before it was relocated, something that is commonly done with very large specimens.

moving trees
Specialist equipment wraps the rootballs

“You can reduce most trees by about 30 per cent without really affecting the overall quality of the tree.”

And some move long distances: London to Norfolk and even Surrey to Scotland.

Not all the trees are in existing gardens, some are nursery-grown large specimens that are needed in a new design, to create a shelter belt or avenue.

One project that the firm, part of national green service provider, Glendale, recently completed on a private estate in South Gloucestershire saw a mixture of semi-mature beech, lime, cedar of Lebanon, and walnut used to produce an instant effect.

moving trees
Mature trees produce an instant effect

“We were creating a parkland on what had been an arable farm and just brought in hundreds of trees.”

The firm operates specialist equipment to wrap the root balls and lift the trees and can cope with specimens that are up to 90cm in girth.

And it’s not something gardeners should be afraid of trying.

“At the end of the day, trees are just shrubs up in the air.”

Tips for moving trees

So how do you go about moving trees in your own garden, I wondered? Here is Deric’s advice.

Move trees when they are dormant – between November and March.

You can probably move trees of up to 14cm in girth (measured 1m above ground level). Any bigger, call in the experts.

moving trees
Getting the trees right is a big part of garden design

Dig the new hole before you try moving the tree so that it can go back into the ground immediately.

Excavate a trench 30cm deep around the tree and aim to dig out a root ball of around 50cm in diameter.

Try to keep as much soil on the root ball as possible.

 Make sure the new hole is the right depth, if anything, plant the tree 25mm higher than you want as it will settle.

Keep the tree well fed and watered for the first few years.

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Christmas countdown

Christmas is looming and to mark the festive countdown I will be running a Flower Advent Calendar again.

So that subscribers aren’t bombarded with daily emails, it will go out on Twitter and Facebook with a final gallery roundup on the blog.

If you can’t wait until then, do like the Facebook page or follow on Twitter – the links are on the top left.

Meanwhile, you can take a look at last year’s calendar here

 

 

Tempted by Rare Plant Fairs

The 2017 dates for the Rare Plant Fairs have just been announced with new nurseries and a second Gloucestershire venue. I’ve been finding out what goes on behind the scenes.

Like most gardeners, I can’t resist a plant sale. Be it a flower show, fundraising community event or merely a table at the end of someone’s drive, I find it impossible to go past without taking a look. So, Rare Plant Fairs with their selection of specialist nurseries are particularly tempting.

rare plant fairs
Rare Plant Fairs are a great way to stock up

Unlike the big shows, there’s no limit on visitor numbers, high entry prices or miles to walk back to your car with purchases. As for shopping online, buying direct from the nursery with the chance to discuss growing needs and suitability for your plot is much better.

And the fairs are invaluable for smaller nurseries, who can’t afford the big shows or don’t have time to open the nursery.

“They are often one or two person bands and it’s a balance between growing plants and selling them,” explains Ian Moss, who runs the Rare Plant Fairs with his wife, Teresa.

“The fairs really do offer the opportunity for these smaller and very good nurseries to get out and put their wares in front of the gardening public.”

rare plant fairs
The Old Rectory in Quenington is a regular venue

The idea of Rare Plant Fairs started in the early 1990s with events organised by Derry Watkins, of Special Plants nursery in Wiltshire. She ran them for several years before handing the organisation on.

By the mid-2000s the events were floundering and it was then that the nurseries took over running them, with Gloucestershire grower Victoria Logue of Whitehall Farmhouse Plants one of the first to be involved.

The idea behind today’s events is simple: gather a group of diverse nurseries and let them set up shop in a good garden; entry to the fair includes admission to the garden.

“We try to price the event to be at or slightly below the normal cost to visit that garden,” says Ian.

The money raised is divided between the Rare Plant Fairs to cover admin costs and the garden owner. Some use it to help with running costs, others donate it to charity.

rare plant fairs
Highnam Court is a new venue for 2017

This year, a second Gloucestershire date has been added to the calendar. As well as the long-running April event at riverside plot The Old Rectory in Quenington, there is a July event at the 40-acre Highnam Court, near Gloucester. Both will be run in aid of Cobalt Health, a Cheltenham-based charity that provides MRI scanning for dementia and cancer.

Another new venue that is likely to prove popular is Hanham Court, near Bristol, which will be hosting a fair in June. Once the home of designers Isabel and Julian Bannerman, whose many projects include the stumpery at Highgrove, it is now under new ownership and is a classic English garden (pictured top) full of roses and lilies.

The new fair at the Walled Garden, at Cannington, Somerset, in July offers the chance to see a wide range of unusual plants, including a collection of cacti.

“It’s got quite a mild climate for the area so they get away with some slightly more ambitious planting than you would normally expect in Somerset.”

In addition, 2017 sees a second event at the popular Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset. As well as the regular March date, there will be a fair in August when the herbaceous borders are at their best.

Rare plant fairs
The Bishop’s Palace will host two fairs

It also gives Ian and Teresa the chance to showcase some different nurseries: a hellebore specialist will be there in the spring; a salvia grower is booked for the August date.

Organising the fairs is a job that starts before the previous season ends, with the couple visiting possible new venues to check their suitability – parking can be a deciding factor – and checking that existing gardens wish to continue.

Applications for a coveted nursery slot open in October and close a month later. Then comes the task of matching requests to events, making sure everyone gets their share while maintaining a good variety at each fair. There’s also the need to recognise the loyalty of nurseries that have supported the fairs for years while encouraging newcomers.

rare plant fairs
Nursery displays are simply plants on tables

For 2017, there are around 250 ‘spaces’ across all the fairs and around 350 requests were received.

Nurseries come from all over the country, including Cornwall, Essex, Leicestershire and Wales and typically there will be around 15 at each fair; the largest at Kingston Bagpuize in Oxfordshire in May has 30 stalls. Many nurseries offer a wide range of plants, such as herbaceous perennials, others are more specialised: orchids, shrubs or alpines. All are ‘vetted’ to ensure they are growers rather than merely retailing plants brought in from elsewhere.

This season, new nurseries include hellebore specialist Kapunda Plants, Gardener’s Delight, from North Devon selling mixed herbaceous and Hertfordshire-based Daisy Roots with hardy perennials and grasses. Fibrex Nurseries, near Evesham, also return with pelargoniums, ferns and ivies after a gap of some years.

rare plant fairs

Once the details are finalised, the publicity drive starts with 45,000 copies of the events guide printed and the newsletter emailed out.

The fairs are popular, not only with nurseries but also with gardeners; many prefer the ‘down-to-earth’ atmosphere with nursery stands merely a trestle table loaded with plants rather than the complex displays seen at the big shows.

Last year, thanks to rain-free days, the events had their best season ever with an average of 550 visitors per fair.

And they are friendly events with the growers themselves often buying from each other before the fair opens. It seems that, like me, they can’t resist a plant sale.

For more details of venues and dates see Rare Plant Fairs

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Westonbirt creates an Enchanted Christmas

Walking through a wood at night isn’t an obvious crowd-pleaser but the Enchanted Christmas light show at Westonbirt is different. In fact, it’s become so popular this year sees advanced booking only and timed tickets.

The annual display is now in its 20th year and for many families seeing hundreds of lights transforming the National Arboretum is a traditional start to their Christmas.

Last year, more than 35,000 people visited the 12-day event, which runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from the end of November until just before Christmas.

It’s the increasingly popularity that has led to the change in ticketing, explains arboretum spokeswoman Emily Pryor.

enchanted christmas
Coloured lights highlight the trees

“We’re striving always to improve the quality of visitors’ experience. We want it to be the best we can give.”

As a result, there will no longer be the option to pay at the gate and all tickets to the route will be issued in one-hour time slots, although people can enter the arboretum any time after 5pm to visit the restaurant and shop.

And Emily stresses that once on the illuminated trail there is no pressure to get around in a given time.

“Visitors can take as long as they need,” she says.

As well as new arrangements for tickets, the display in the Enchanted Christmas has also seen some changes with a complete overhaul of the equipment used to ensure an even brighter and more dazzling show.

enchanted forest
The lights create a magical world

This includes a more powerful machine to pump bubbles out into one part of the trail where they will be picked out by UV lights.

“It looks quite amazing in the dark,” says Emily.

Meanwhile, an ‘elf village’ for Santa’s helpers will have tiny houses lit up among the trees, while Father Christmas – dressed in the original, traditional green – will be taking Christmas requests and Mrs Christmas will be telling stories.

Although the one-mile trail follows a different route through the Old Arboretum each year, the concept remains the same. Lights in every shade from red, blue and white to green, purple and orange transform Westonbirt’s trees, picking out twisted limbs, fissures in bark or the graceful shape of weeping specimens.

Enchanted christmas
The Enchanted Christmas is a popular annual event

Some trees are lit with a steady spotlight, others are part of an ever-changing display as lights go on and off with timers.

Among the most popular elements are those that involve audience participation. The ‘singing tree’ has lights that are sound sensitive and visitors are encouraged to sing or shout to illuminate it. Elsewhere, a sequence of lights is triggered by visitors beating on drums.

And there is the chance to light up the Enchanted Christmas with pedal power by riding on a bicycle.

“It’s a huge hit with kids.”

There’s even a touch of disco with a huge mirror ball that reflects back onto the trees.

The Enchanted Christmas opens on Friday November 25 and runs on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday December 18th.

The trail is pushchair and wheelchair friendly. Stout shoes, warm clothing and a torch are recommended.

For more details and booking information, visit Westonbirt

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Review House of Plants by Caro Langton and Rose Ray

Despite growing houseplants since childhood, we’ve always had an uneasy relationship. True, I did keep an asparagus fern going for more than 30 years but then I’m also probably one of the few people who has managed to kill a mother-in-law’s tongue. Houseplants also became less important once I left student days behind and finally got a garden of my own.

So, I was intrigued by the offer of a review copy of House of Plants by Caro Langton and Rose Ray. Would it rekindle my interest in indoor greenery and, more importantly, would it show me where I’ve been going wrong?

growing houseplants
Houseplants are a great way to bring outdoors inside

The authors’ love of growing houseplants began when they inherited a London house from Caro’s grandmother and in it “a collection of ancient cacti, succulents and tropical plants”. It’s these plants that they concentrate on in the book; if you’re planning to grow orchids, it’s not for you.

Wanting to know more about their new charges, they started to research and, more importantly, observe where the plants were growing and thriving in the house. Indeed, knowing what each plant likes is the key to their philosophy.

growing houseplants

“When it is in its ideal position, a plant will be at its attention-grabbing, animated best and it will thrive,” we are told.

Yet this is not strictly a ‘how-to-do’ book. It’s far more interesting than that. Beautifully illustrated with carefully composed photographs and some sketch drawings, it has more of the feel of a lifestyle guide than gardening tutorial and is written in an easy, conversational style.

growing houseplants
Houseplants can be used to screen ugly views

Yes, it does cover how to care for different plants, including watering, feeding, light and temperature requirements, whether they need humidity and how to repot, but there are also ideas on how to display them from using chairs and stools where there are no shelves to creating a foraged wall hanging.

Indeed, display is as important as care when it comes to growing houseplants and there are numerous suggestions: grouping plants in a glasshouse terrarium; sourcing unusual pots from markets and second-hand shops; making your own coir and concrete pots. I’m not sure seventies-style macramé plant holders will make a comeback though.

growing houseplants
There are ideas for displaying houseplants

Many of the ideas are accompanied by step-by-step instructions and photographs, while more advice covers plant ailments, repotting, propagation and even cleaning – with a paintbrush in the case of a prickly cactus.

Some of the tips are simple: taking a cardboard box along, if you are planning to buy a spiky cactus. Others are more complicated: mixing your own compost and how to make nettle fertiliser; I hadn’t realised strawberry leaves were an alternative.

growing houseplants
Houseplants can be used as table decorations

Meanwhile, a ‘cast list’ of plants and a glossary explaining horticultural terms make this ideal for the beginner who’s thinking of growing houseplants.

As for me, I was amused to find mother-in-law’s tongue among ‘The Immortals’, plants that “will keep bouncing back no matter what life (or their owner) throws at them”. Perhaps it’s time to give it another go.

House of Plants by Caro Langton and Rose Ray is published by Frances Lincoln, priced £20 RRP. Buy now. (If you buy via the link, I receive a small payment. The price you pay is not affected.)

Review copy supplied by Frances Lincoln.

For more book reviews, see here

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How to grow cutting flowers

cutting flowers
One of the lovely British flower stands at Malvern

A friend once commented with surprise that she didn’t expect to see me buying flowers. Surely I had enough in the garden, she wondered. Yes, I did but not for indoors. Like many others, I hate cutting flowers from my borders and would rather buy them than reduce the garden display.

Yet the idea of having a cutting garden has been niggling for months. I’m starting to see many more beds devoted to flowers for the house in the gardens I visit and not just those with rolling acres.

Then the British flowers movement has been a vibrant force at the recent Malvern shows with local growers and florists showing how stunning arrangements of seasonal blooms can be.

cutting flowers
I was inspired by the British flower arrangements at the Malvern show

So, I’ve decided to give it a try prompted partly by a surplus of home-grown sweet William plants and the realisation that I no longer need to produce quite as much veg now the two eldest are both away.

One of the British growers at the recent Malvern Autumn Show was Karen Hughes of The Somerset Cut Flower Garden and I turned to her for advice on how to start.

Karen has been growing cutting flowers as a business for the past three years on half-an-acre of her garden in the Quantock Hills near Taunton. It may not sound much space but provides enough blooms for weddings, parties and bouquets.

cutting flowers
Karen’s innovative flower garland at the Malvern show

“People imagine they need five to 10 acres of plants,” she says. “It’s a myth. It’s really all about what you grow.”

And if you’re not planning to earn a living from it, you can afford to be choosy.

“Grow what you like and know you are going to look after it,” advises Karen. “Everyone has their own personal preference.”

That may be for certain colours – pastels or bright jewel shades – or types of flowers be it tulips rather than iris.

cutting flowers
Tulipa ‘Angelique’ is a favourite for cutting

Karen’s top picks are cornflowers for their range of colour and because they can be used for everything from buttonholes to posies.

Tulips are another must-grow with ‘Angelique’ a particular favourite and she would not be without dahlias, which have a multitude of shapes and colours.

“There is an amazing range.”

cutting flowers
Dahlias offer a huge range of shapes and colour

One she has grown a lot this year is ‘Labyrinth’, which starts off as a coral-pink, turning more yellow in the autumn.

Planning is essential, if you want to get the most out of your plot. Karen starts the year with camellia, followed by narcissi, choosing varieties that offer something extra, such as scent or different colours, because they don’t mix well with other flowers in a vase.

“They poison the water for anything else,” she explains.

The year moves on with hellebores, anemones, ranunculus, then into tulips of all shades before the summer stars, including sweet peas, cornflowers, achillea and roses, and then the autumn display of dahlias. In the winter, she may use the dried seed heads of nigella or hydrangea flowers.

cutting flowers
Perennials such as peonies make good cut flowers

Plants, particularly annuals, are grown through a wire grid to keep their stems straight and, where possible, Karen chooses taller varieties. Many of the seed catalogues now indicate if particular plants are suitable as cutting flowers.

She is also careful to get a mix of flower shapes and will ‘mock up’ bouquets using catalogue photographs to make sure nothing is missing.

Regardless of what you grow there are some general points to consider.

Get the right spot

If you’re growing cutting flowers, the first consideration must be the site. Most flowers prefer an open, sunny position but Karen advises growing some in a more shaded spot, if you have the space.

“You can plant the same things in two different parts of the garden and they will flower at different times,” she says.

Pick for longer

Another way of extending the season is to stagger your seed sowing. Karen sows some hardy annuals in September-October, again in spring and another batch in June or early July to give her some autumn blooms.

cutting flowers
Achillea makes a good cutting flower

She also makes good use of a polytunnel: “It really makes the difference in terms of extending the season at each end.”

Plants grown in there also act as a back-up, if bad weather spoils flowers grown outside.

Do make room for some perennial plants, which will help to cut down on the amount of seed-sowing needed. Peonies are one of Karen’s favourites and make wonderful cut flowers.

Look beyond the stars

Don’t forget the understudies in your floral arrangement. The best combine big stand-out blooms with smaller, contrasting flowers, such as Ammi majus.

Foliage is also important and a good bank of shrubs elsewhere in the garden will provide the necessary ‘backdrop’ to your floral stars. Among those Karen suggests are pittosporum, physocarpus – including the lime and variegated varieties – euonymus and choisya, although not everyone likes the smell of it.

In the vase

If Karen is cutting flowers for a client, she will do it either early in the morning or in the evening and she stands the blooms up to their necks in cold water overnight.

For flowers in her own home, she cuts and arranges them immediately, as making them last is not so important.

cutting flowers
Too many Sweet Williams made me start a cutting border

“Who wants flowers to last three or four weeks? The joy of flowers is they are so ephemeral. You have to enjoy them while they’re here.”

And she adds: “Look hard at what is already in your garden. Give anything a try in the vase as it’s surprising what will work.”

Now all that remains is for me to be brave with the secateurs and not turn my cutting flowers into just another border.

For more information on The Somerset Cut Flower Garden see here

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Chelsea garden gets a new sky-high home

Cotswold designer Chris Beardshaw’s award-winning Chelsea garden is being given a helping hand by the BBC DIY SOS team this week.

The garden, which was sponsored by Morgan Stanley for Great Ormond Street Hospital, has been transported across London and rebuilt as a roof-top garden at the world famous children’s hospital.

DIY SOS Big Build on BBC 1 tomorrow will see Nick Knowles and his team use cranes to take the garden in over buildings before reassembling it for use by patients and their families.

“It’s bringing new life into the heart of the hospital,” explained Chris earlier this year.

Chris Beardshaw
Chris Beardshaw on the garden at Chelsea

The design of the garden was dictated by the location, which is almost entirely shaded by surrounding buildings.

To cope with these conditions, Chris has created a woodland garden with a top storey of trees, including acers and liriodendron. A light-weight growing medium and sophisticated anchoring techniques will ensure they don’t move in the wind or prove too heavy for the roof. The trees will also be coppiced to keep them small.

Rather than his trademark herbaceous, Chris planted this garden with a mix of shade-lovers, such as ferns and epimedium, with seasonal colour coming from Cornus kousa and C. mas and an emphasis on texture.

At the heart of the original garden at Chelsea was a reflective water feature, but this has been replaced by more planting but the Japanese-style pavilion is still a main element, offering shelter and seclusion.

Chris Beardshaw
Chris Beardshaw with the DIY SOS team

Great Ormond Street treats children with complex conditions, such as rare heart disease and skin disorders. The garden is designed to provide a place for families to relax and escape from the bustle of the hospital.

“It’s a role that at the moment is missing through much of the hospital,” said Chris. A space in which we can sit and relax, contemplate and perhaps find a new perspective.”

The garden was given a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, one of a number of top RHS awards Chris has won, including gold in 2015 for a garden that has been relocated as a community space in Poplar, London.

DIY SOS Big Build will be shown on BBC1 at 8pm on Thursday November 10.

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