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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
• 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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