Tag Archive: deciduous


M.

Malus is a genus of about 30–55 species of small deciduous trees, including the domesticated orchard apple (M. domestica) and varieties of crab apple (including the ‘wild apple’, M. sylvestris). This profile focuses in particular on the crab apples. 

Common name:  Non domestic orchard apples are generally known as crabapples, crab apples, crabs, or wild apples.

Native areas: The genus is native to the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.

Historical notes: In the past, M. sylvestris was thought to be an important ancestor of the cultivated orchard apples (M. domestica), but these have now been shown to have been originally derived from the central Asian species M. sieversii. However, another recent DNA analysis showed that M. sylvestris has contributed to the ancestry of modern M. domestica very significantly.

Features: Domestic orchard apple trees are typically 4–12 metres tall at maturity, with a dense, twiggy crown. The leaves are 3–10 cm long, alternate, simple, with a serrated margin. The flowers are borne in corymbs, and have five petals, which may be white, pink or red, usually with red stamens that produce copious pollen. Domestic apple trees are large if grown from seed, but small if grafted onto roots (rootstock). There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of domestic apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Crab apples tend to be smaller than domestic apple trees at around 5 – 7 metres tall, with a rounded profile.

Uses:  Crab apples make ideal specimen trees for small gardens. They are popular as compact ornamental trees, providing blossom in Spring and colourful fruit in Autumn. The fruits often persist throughout Winter. Numerous hybrid cultivars have been selected, of which ‘John Downie’, Evereste’ and ‘Red Sentinel’ have gained The Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’ (AGM):

Malus sylvestrisarguably, one of the UK’s prettiest native trees, a small crab apple (or ‘wild apple’) with profuse white flowers, tinged pink in bud, and with good yellow autumn colour. Yellow/ green and occasionally red flushed fruit are a bird’s favourite in the autumn. Ideal for native mixed plantings or shelter belts that provide great low cover for wildlife.

Malus floribundathe ‘Japanese Crab’ is most elegant, with early white/pale blush flowers from crimson buds. However, it is prone to apple scab after flowering, resulting in a rather threadbare crown. Because of this it has tended to be superceded by more disease resistant clones such as ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Evereste’.

Malus ‘Evereste’ – introduced in the early 1980’s this rounded tree has profuse flowers that are red in bud before turning white. The small fruit look like miniature ‘Gala’ and are held on until they are taken by birds after Christmas. The orange-yellow autumn foliage also holds well.

 

 M. ‘John Downie’ – raised in 1875, this is thought by many to be the best fruiting crab. with an irregular oval crown it makes a splendid tree for a small space. White flowers are followed by relatively large, conical-shaped orange-red fruits, which have a food flavour if required for preserves or jelly.

M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’– in cultivation since 1959, this profusely fruiting crab is a favourite for gardeners who are looking for winter colour. In some years the clusters of dark red fruits are so numerous that the branches can weigh too heavily so that the crown loses its shape. I have one growing in Old School Garden; it is great alongside other winter interest such as red and orange- stemmed Cornus, and its fruits are useful in Christmas decorations such as front door wreaths. In spring, the red leaves contrast well with its white flowers.

M. x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ – this well-known crab has been in cultivation for over 60 years and is highly regarded for its profuse display of yellow, marble-sized fruits, which are retained for many weeks. These are preceded by white blossom; a very good ‘all rounder’.

M. ‘Rudolph’ – A Canadian crab developed in the 1950’s, this medium size tree is rather columnar when young, but becomes rounder with maturity. It has leaves which gradually turn from copper-red to bronze-green and rose- pink flowers, which give way to numerous elongated fruits. Autumn leaf colour is clear yellow and it is resistant to scab; a tree which packs a lot of plusses into a small package!

Growing conditions:  Grow Crab apples in moderately fertile soil, though many will thrive on most soils and some are better suited to heavier soils, such as M. sylvestris. They will tolerate partial shade.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Malus

RHS- Malus sylvestris

RHS- Malus ‘Evereste’

RHS- Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

RHS- Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’

Barcham Trees Directory- Malus ‘Rudolph’

Choosing a Crab apple- Daily Telegraph

Old School Gardener

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liquidambar-1440-900Liquidambar is a genus of four species of flowering trees; L. alcalycina; L. formosana; L. orientalis; and L. styraciflua.

Common name:  Common names of all of the species include ‘Sweet Gum’, with additions according to their native regions. Other names include ‘Chang’s Sweetgum’ (L. alcalycina),’Redgum’, ‘Satin Walnut’ and ‘American Storax’. Both the scientific and common names refer to the sweet resinous sap (liquid amber) exuded by the trunk when cut.

Native areas: L. alcalycina is native to central and southern China; L. formosana to China and other parts of S.E. Asia; L. orientalis to south-west Turkey, Greece and Rhodes; L. styraciflua to the eastern USA, Mexico and Honduras.

Historical notes: The genus was much more widespread in the Tertiary age, but has disappeared from Europe due to extensive glaciation in the north and the east-west orientated Alps and Pyrenees, which have served as a blockade against southward migration. It has also disappeared from western North America due to climate change, and also from the unglaciated (but nowadays too cold) Russian far east. L. styraciflua is the most common species used in the U.K. and was introduced from its native USA in the 17th century. It was awarded the RHS ‘Award of Garden Merit’ in 1975.

Features: All Liquidambar are large, deciduous trees, most 25–40 metres (82–131 ft) tall, with palmately 3- to 7-lobed leaves arranged spirally on the stems and length of 12.5 to 20 centimetres (4.9 to 7.9 in), having a pleasant aroma when crushed. Mature bark is grayish and vertically grooved. The flowers are small, produced in a dense globular inflorescence around 1-2 centimetres diameter. The fruit is a woody multiple capsule 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.57 in) in diameter (popularly called a “gumball”), containing numerous seeds and covered in numerous prickly, woody armatures, possibly to attach to fur of animals. In more northerly climates, sweetgum is among the last of trees to leaf out in the spring, and also among the last of trees to drop its leaves in autumn, turning multiple colors. It is sometimes confused with Maple on account of its similar leaves.

Uses: All of the species provide incredible autumn colour. In the U.K. they are predominately used as specimens – against a fresh green lawn, their foliage colour really stands out – and as woodland trees. L. styraciflua makes a large tree with a pyramidal crown if its central leader is retained. Its attractive, corky bark is a feature at all times of the year, but it is at its most magnificent in the autumn, when it seems to burn with crimson and gold. Suitable for streets, avenues, parks and largish domestic gardens

There are now several cultivars of  L. styraciflua available:

‘Lane Roberts’– reliable in Britain, this is a medium-sized tree (10-15 metres mature height), with a tighter conical habit and larger leaves than the species. Good in groups for mass effect.

‘Manon Variegata’ – a must for those that like variegated trees, the foliage is best in summer, providing excellent contrast against darker leaved, evergreen backgrounds. Medium height (15- 20 metres mature height), it has regular pyramidal form with horizontal lateral branches.

‘Stella’ – with deeply cut, star-like leaves it is of medium height (10-15 metres) and has glorious autumn colour. best in larger gardens.

‘Thea’ – a broad -leaved and late to colour variety, ‘Thea’ grows conically to 15-20 metres tall. Similar to ‘Lane Roberts’ but taller. Distinctive purple foliage in the autumn.

‘Worplesden’ – unlike most other clones, this variety will often bear fruit in the U.K. This is the variety most often favoured for its autumn colour and form, growing to a mature height of 20 metres plus. It has deeply lobed leaves which turn yellow in September and then turn to orange before falling, but the outermost leaves gradually turn to magnificent claret red. The choice for large gardens.

Growing conditions:  L. styraciflua does best in fertile, well-drained soils, and is the hardiest species, tolerating down to -15 degrees C.  The other species can all be grown in the U.K. but vary in hardiness; down to -5 degs C. There are also hardy forms such as the L. formosana Monticola Group, which could be considered for colder areas. Liquidambar should be planted in full sun in neutral to acid soil that is moist but well-drained- it does not thrive in chalky soils. The genus resents transplanting, but if this is unavoidable, prepare by root-pruning a year in advance.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Liquidambar

RHS- Liquidambar styraciflua

Horticulture Week- Liquidambar

Gardener’s World- Liquidambar

Barcham Trees Directory- Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesden’

Old School Gardener

koelreutia pan fastig fruit Koelreuteria is a genus of three species of flowering trees; K. paniculata, K. bipinnata and K. elegans

Common name:  Common names include Golden Rain Tree, Pride of India, China tree, or varnish tree

Native areas: The tree is Native to China and southern and eastern Asia.

Koelreutia elegans subsp. formosa

Koelreutia elegans subsp. formosa

Historical notes: It’s discovery is credited to Pierre d’Incarville, a Jesuit missionary; who sent first seed from China to Russia in 1747. It was classified by Russian botanist Erich Laxmann who named it after Joseph Gottlieb Kolreuter,  from Karlsruhe, Germany, a contemporary and professor of natural history. It was later grown in Europe (by 1753) and reached America in 1811. The variety K. paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ was raised by Kew Gardens from seeds received in 1888 from Shanghai.

Koelreutia bipinnata

Koelreutia bipinnata

Features: Koelreuteria are medium-sized deciduous trees growing to 10–20 m (33–66 ft) tall, with spirally arranged pinnate or bipinnate leaves. Leaves are pinkish in spring, turning yellow in autumn. The flowers are small and yellow, produced in large branched panicles 20–50 cm (8–20 in) long. The fruit is a three-lobed inflated papery capsule or ‘bladder’ 3–6 cm long, containing several hard nut-like seeds 5–10 mm diameter. In some areas, notably parts of eastern North America, they have become invasive. the variety K. paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ tends to be shorter than the species (5-10 metres tall) and has a narrow columnar shape.

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Uses: Koelreuteria are popularly grown as ornamental trees in temperate regions all across the world because of the aesthetic appeal of their flowers, leaves and seed pods. Koelreuteria are commonly used as focal points in landscape design.  Several cultivars have been selected for garden planting, including ‘Fastigiata’ with a narrow crown, and ‘September Gold’,  flowering in late summer. The seeds are edible when roasted, but are not commonly consumed. The variety K. paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ is a good choice for restricted spaces and excellent as a specimen tree in a park. The clusters of small yellow flowers which it produces in July and August are popular with bees and are followed by lantern-shaped fruits in the autumn.

Koelreutia paniculata 'Fastigiata' growing at Barcham Trees

Koelreutia paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ growing at Barcham Trees

 Growing conditions:  Koelreuteria grow in nutritionally poor soil including: clay, sand, well drained, alkaline, loam; they require full sun but not a lot of watering, with a moderate aerosol salt tolerance. They tolerate wind, air pollution, salt, heat, and drought and grow at a moderate rate, but are sometimes fast growers. Koelreuteria produce seeds that are blown away and get germinated and this might result in the growing of more trees next to the original one.’Fastigiata’ does best in dry, calcareous soils and in a reasonably sheltered position, such as an urban courtyard garden.

Fruit and flowers of K. paniculata

Fruit and flowers of K. paniculata

Further information:

Wikipedia- Koelreuteria

Wikipedia- Koelreuteria paniculata

Wikipedia- Kolreuteria bipinnata

RHS- Koelreuteria paniculata

Barcham Trees Directory- Koelreuteria paniculata

Barcham trees directory-  Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Fastigiata’

Old School Gardener

walnut tree in gardenThe Walnut tree genus (juglans) has 21 species, but there are two main species in common garden or landscape use; the Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and English (or Common or Persian)Walnut (Juglans regia). I’ve recently written about the poison they both contain and what this means for growing other plants underneath or nearby.

Common name: ‘Walnut’  or Black/English/Common/Persian Walnut. The word walnut derives from the Germanic wal– and Old English wealhhnutu, literally “foreign nut”, wealh meaning “foreign”. The genus name “Juglans” comes from Latin jūglans, meaning ‘walnut, walnut tree’; jūglans in turn is a contraction of Jōvis glans, ‘nut of [the god] Jupiter’

1280px-WalnutsNative areas: The English Walnut (J. regia) originated in Persia, and the Black Walnut (J. nigra) is native to eastern North America.

Historical notes: The Black Walnut was introduced to Europe in 1629 from north America, whereas the English Walnut is thought to have been grown in Britian since Roman times. The worldwide production of walnuts has been increasing rapidly in recent years, with the largest increase coming from Asia. The husks of the black walnut Juglans nigra are used to make an ink for writing and drawing. Walnut ink has good archival properties, and was used by several great artists including Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Walnut husks are used as a brown dye for fabric. Walnut dyes were used in classical Rome and in medieval  Europe for dyeing hair. The U.S. Army used ground walnut shells for the cleaning of aviation parts because it was inexpensive and non-abrasive. However, an investigation of a fatal helicopter crash in 1982 (in Mannheim, Germany) revealed that walnut grit clogged an oil port, leading to the accident and to the discontinuation of walnut shells as a cleaning agent.

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Features: The Black Walnut is of high flavour, but due to its hard shell and poor hulling characteristics it is not grown commercially for nut production. The commercially produced walnut varieties are nearly all hybrids of the English Walnut.  Walnuts are late to grow leaves, typically not until more than halfway through the spring. The blossoms also normally appear in spring. The male cylindrical catkins are developed from leafless shoots from the past year; they are about 10 cm (3.9 in) in length and have a large number of little flowers. Female flowers appear in a cluster at the peak of the current year’s leafy shoots. Both main species contain a chemical called “juglone” which can be poisonous (or allelopathic) to other plants. This can be a particular issue for growing other plants underneath a Black Walnut.

Juglans_regia_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-081Uses: As garden trees, Walnuts have some drawbacks, in particular the falling nuts and the release of Juglone.However, they are grown and both species make a stately subject for parkland and avenue plantings, or as specimen trees where space allows. The English Walnut develops a broad crown at maturity (and a height of 15- 20 metres). It also has delightfully aromatic young foliage, from which a wine can be made, followed by a crop of delicious nuts. It is smooth barked when young. Both species are also grown for their timber. The Black Walnut is fast growing and was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2002. It can  reach 20 metres or more in height and makes a large tree with a pyramidal crown. It produces an abundance of nuts over a long period, but they are rather difficult to extract from their very hard shells. It is rough barked from a young age.

 Growing conditions: Walnuts are light-demanding species that benefit from protection from wind. Walnuts are also very hardy against drought. Walnuts grow on most soils but the English Walnut does not favour water logged conditions. The Black Walnut favours deep loam. Walnut trees are easily propagated from the nuts. Seedlings grow rapidly on good soils.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Walnut

Wikipedia – Juglans

GQT: Underneath the Walnut Tree- what to plant.

Barcham trees directory-  Juglans regia

Old School Gardener

ilex aquifoliumIlex, or the holly genus, is a genus of 400 to 600 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family. The species are evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, and climbers from tropics to temperate zones worldwide. In Europe the genus is represented by a single species, the classically named holly, Ilex aquifolium.

ilex aquifolium botanicalCommon name: ‘Holly’  or ‘Common Holly’- the name “holly” in common speech refers to Ilex aquifolium, specifically stems with berries used in Christmas decoration. By extension, “holly” is also applied to the whole genus. The origin of the word “holly” is considered a reduced form of Old English hole(ġ)n, Middle English Holin, later Hollen.

Native areas: Ilex aquifolium is native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia.

Historical notes: Ilex in Latin means the holm-oak or evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Despite the Linnaean classification of Ilex as holly, as late as the 19th century in Britain, the term Ilex was still being applied to the oak as well as the holly – possibly due to the superficial similarity of the leaves.

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex aquifolium

Features: Holly is an evergreen, conical tree growing to 5-10 metres tall. The leaves are 5–12 cm long and 2–6 cm broad; they are evergreen, lasting about five years, and are dark green on the upper surface and lighter on the underside, oval, leathery, shiny, and about 5 to 9 cm long. In the young and in the lower limbs of mature trees, the leaves have three to five sharp spines on each side, pointing alternately upward and downward, while leaves of the upper branches in mature trees lack spines.

The flowers are white, four-lobed, and pollinated by bees. Holly is dioecious, meaning that there are male plants and female plants. The sex cannot be determined until the plants begin flowering, usually between 4 and 12 years of age. In male specimens, the flowers are yellowish and appear in axillary groups. In the female, flowers are isolated or in groups of three and are small and white or slightly pink, and consist of four petals and four sepals partially fused at the base. The ‘berry’ fruit is a red drupe, about 6–10 mm in diameter, a bright red or bright yellow, which matures around October or November.

Several varieties and clones are available with different features such as variegated foliage with creamy or pink tinged edges and different leaf shapes. Some of these are:

Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska’– dark green foliage and bright red berries, can be grown as a standard/ specimen or screening.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’– with an Award of Garden Merit, this variety has spiny leaves edged with white and plenty of berries, young leaves tinged with pink.

Ilex aquifolium ‘J.C. Van Tol’– a self pollinating holly and possibly the best green-leaved holly available. Dark green almost sineless leaves witha good show of autumn berries. Also awarded an AGM, it is tolerant of shade.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Pyramidalis’– fast growing, self pollinating. Another AGM winner, it retains its pyramidal shape if pruned to retain it’s leader.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’– this is a dense small evergreen tree or shrub with purple young shoots and pink-tinged young leaves. Mature leaves spiny, dark green with a broad cream margin. Flowers small, white – this variety is, despite it’s name, a male!

Other Ilex varieties that are not part of the aquifolium species include:

Ilex castaneifolia– the ‘sweet chestnut leaved’ holly this is a fast grower, AGM awarded and produces a large tree of conical habit and has red berries in abundance.

Ilex x ‘Dragon Lady’– one of the Meserve Hybrid hollies this one has vivid green leaves and attractive spines that contrast well with the large red berries in the autumn.

Ilex x ‘Nellie Stevens’– this hybrid (of Ilex aquifolium and Ilex cornata) has smooth glossy leaves which contrast well with the orange-red berries.

Ilex x altaclarensis ‘Golden King’ – one of the best variegated hollies, this AGM winner is tolerant of coastal conditions, and is slow-growing. The opposite to the variety ‘Silver Queen’, this time, despite its name it is a female!

Uses:  One of the most evocative and best-loved of all trees; the Common holly is beautiful in its simplicity and brings cheer at the darkest time of the year. It provides year-round interest, but is particularly attractive in autumn and winter. great for gardens, it only retains its spiky leaves within the first ten – fifteen feet of height in the tree, as after this it suffers no predation so has no need of a thorny defence system! use as an under storey or edge fo woodland tree  (as here at Old School Garden), as a specimen (especially those with interesting foliage), for hedging/ screening or as a structural element in mixed borders to provide all-year round interest. Can also be topiarised to provide simple but effective shapes in formal settings.

 Growing conditions: Holly is very tolerant of shade and prefers well-drained soils.

Clipped hollies at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Clipped hollies at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Further information:

Wikipedia- Ilex

Wikipedia- Ilex aquifolium

RHS- Ilex aquifolium

RHS- Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Queen’

Barcham trees directory- Ilex genus

7 plants for Winter Wonder

Old School Gardener

Hamamelis_flowersOK, a bit of a stretch with this entrant, as Hamamelis is more often a shrub rather than a tree, but there don’t seem to be any garden trees with a botanical name beginning with ‘H’ (go on, prove me wrong)!

Common name: ‘Witch – Hazel’ and occasionally for the North American species, ‘Winterbloom’

Native areas: A native of North America (3 species- ovalis, virginiana and vernalis) Japan (japonica) and China (mollis).

Historical notes: The name ‘Witch’ in witch-hazel has its origins in the middle english word ‘wiche’, from the Old English ‘wice’, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”. “Witch hazel” was used in England as a synonym for Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) American colonists seem to have simply extended the familiar name to the new shrub they found in their new home. The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England, may also have influenced the “witch” part of the name. The plant-hunter Charles Maries collected Hamamelis mollis for Veitch Nurseries from China  in 1879. It languished in nursery rows for years until it was noticed, propagated and put on the market in 1902.

Hamamelis in Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardens
Hamamelis in Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardens

Features: The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 3–8 metres tall, rarely to 12 metres tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, oval, with a smooth or wavy margin. The genus name, Hamamelis, means “together with fruit”, referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year. H. virginiana blooms in September-November while the other species bloom from January-March. Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals 1–2 centimetres long, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 1 centimetre long.

Uses:  Witch Hazels are popular ornamental shrubs, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter. Hamamelis virginiana is rarely seen in the nursery trade except for woodland/wildlife restoration projects and native plant enthusiasts. Much more common is H. mollis, which has bright red flowers that bloom in late winter instead of the yellow blossoms of H. virginiana which tend to be lost among the plant’s autumnal foliage. Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs, many of them derived from the hybrid H. x intermedia ‘Rehder’ (H. japonica × H. mollis). Jelena and Robert de Belder of Arboretum Kalmthout, selecting for red cultivars, found three: the first, with bronze flowers, was named ‘Jelena’; the next, with red flowers, was named ‘Diane’ (the name of their daughter); the last, with deep red flowers, was called ‘Livia’ (the name of their granddaughter). The cultivar ‘Arnold Promise’ (mature height 3- 5 metres) is recognised as one of the best yellow-flowering Witch – Hazels, with magnificent yellow flowers that contrast with the red inners, which sometimes last as long as two months without fading.

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Growing conditions: An open, sunny position is best, as plants become straggly in shade, although they do tolerate partial shade. Avoid exposed and windy positions. Young witch hazels can be damaged by hard frosts, so avoid frost pockets, or be prepared to protect plants with a couple of layers of horticultural fleece in their first few years if there is a hard winter or late spring frost. Witch hazels need free-draining soil conditions with an adequate supply of moisture. A light soil with plenty of added organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost, is best. They will tolerate heavy or clay soils if they are improved by digging in organic matter and by ensuring good drainage. Acid to neutral soil pH is preferred (pH 4.5-6.5). Witch hazels may tolerate deep soils over chalk, with plenty of added organic matter. If they become chlorotic (yellow) because of the high pH, then treatment with a chelated (sequestrated) iron fertiliser, ideally one that also contains manganese, can help. They are unlikely to tolerate shallow chalky soils.

Hamamelis virginiana
Hamamelis virginiana

Further information:

Wikipedia- Witch – Hazel

RHS- Hamamelis

Barcham trees directory- Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’

7 plants for Winter Wonder

Old School Gardener

Bright_green_tree_-_WaikatoAs trees tend to be the largest and longest lived plants in the garden, they should be one of, if not THE first item to consider when designing or redesigning your garden.They rank alongside some of the hard landscaping elements (seats, arches, pergolas, arbours etc.) in helping to provide the ‘bones’ or structural framework of a garden i.e. the structure by which we navigate ourselves around the plot both visually and in terms of guiding our movement. Shrubs (especially evergreens), provide a similar service and should be thought about in conjunction with whether, where and what sorts of trees to include in a design or redesign.

Trees also offer a range of other potential sources of interest in a garden apart from their overall shape or form; leaf size shape and colour (which may vary from season to season), bark (colour, texture or special effects such as peeling or patterned), flowers and fruit (catkins, conkers, apples and so on).

In visual terms the planting of a tree or trees can have a dramatic effect on the layout (or form) and perspectives around the garden. They can be used as a focal point to draw the eye. This includes those planted as a ‘specimen’. Those planted in the foreground or middle distance help to increase the sense of depth or perspective in a garden, while those planted further away help to give a sense of scale to the overall space. So, in a small garden a large tree in the foreground and a small tree at the end will make the garden seem longer.

Leaf size and texture is another important consideration. If you want a strong shape to provide a key structural element all year round in the garden, then go for small leaved, evergreen varieties with distinctive shapes or which can be pruned (topiarised) into these- e.g. Box.

Horse Chestnut flower about to burst
Horse Chestnut flower about to burst

Why not take a look at your garden and ask if you have one or more trees that aren’t in the right place- are they are too tall, too broad, drying out the soil or causing shade where you don’t want it? Perhaps removal or pruning is the answer. Could you introduce a tree or two and help to strengthen what your garden has to offer- providing food or a home for birds, for example or adding a brilliant show of flowers or autumn leaf colour?

Traditionally we seem to have used trees in gardens as stand alone ‘specimens’, often in an island in the middle of a lawn for example. Today, with the wide range of trees available and with characteristics that suit almost any situation, its possible to be a bit freer with how we use them- in groups or among other planting in borders.

If you are using a tree as a specimen think about its positioning carefully- if it’s planted by itself without any surrounding planting to soften its impact, it will be a focal point from the start, and as it grows bigger this impact will become even more pronounced.

If planting several trees together, including adding one or two to an existing group, think about their ultimate height and spread. As in nature, some trees grow well together; eg. Betula pendula, or ‘Silver Birch’- see my recent article in the A-Z of Trees series. The wild cherry (Prunus avium), is another example. So as with any other tree planting think carefully about their ultimate height and spread and allow room for them to grow. If you want to give a denser appearance in the time it takes the trees to mature, try growing them closer together, but expect to remove some as they mature to allow the remaining ones to grow to full size.

When planting more than one tree together in an area of grass, the relationship of one to another will determine the effect and this can change depending on where you are in the garden. A good idea is to use large posts or bamboo canes to mark their positions. Try out different positions to see what effect you like the best. Look at the positioning from different places, including from inside the house. and remember to think about their ultimate height and width and what they might obscure or hide.

Chracterisitcs of the White Fir
Chracterisitcs of the White Fir

We tend to think short term when it comes to gardens- we want immediate impact or effect.

The danger here is that you’ll end up with something that outgrows its space and gives you problems- a classic example is the Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) that was planted in the front garden of a Victorian terrace house or villa and is now way too large and tottering precariously above and perhaps towards the house! So the speed of growth is also a consideration; very slow growing trees may take  30 years to have a significant impact, so if you want an impact over a shorter period than this, then that’s perhaps a good choice.

If you have a relatively small garden, don’t think that you can’t have any trees. Smaller varieities of many different types are often available, and by choosing trees that have a more conical or upward habit you can achieve an impact without having a major loss of garden space .

Planting trees too near to buildings is another common problem. Some have relatively compact root systems ; e.g. Birch (Betula), Sorbus, Hornbeam and Magnolia are good examples and rarely cause problems. However trees like Willow will seek out water and their roots are liable to invade drains if planted close by.

If an existing tree is of concern seek the advice of a qualified tree surgeon. and if you think a tree may be subject to a Tree Preservation Order, make sure you consult your local authority before doing anything to affect it. And always consider your neighbours- trees planted close to boundaries may look good from your side of the fence, but think about what impact the tree is going to have on your neighbour’s garden and house. The inconsiderate planting of hedges of Leylandii conifers is the most familiar example of the wrong species being chosen to achieve rapid but usually unattractive results. Left to its own device this tree will grow to well over 100′ high and it looks superb, so don’t expect it to enjoy continually being hacked back!

Old School Gardener

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

Hydrangea (or common name Hortensia) is based on the greek words for Water (hydor) and Vessel (aggeion) in reference to the shape of their seed capsule.

This genus of over 70 species of popular shrubs has delicate heads of flowers in shades of pink, white or blue and pretty autumn colour and leaf shape. The mophead hydrangeas are most well-known for their ability to change colour in different soils. They are native to southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia) and the Americas. By far the greatest species diversity is in eastern Asia, notably China, Japan, and Korea. Most are 1 to 3 meters tall, but some are small trees and other lianas reaching up to 30 m (98 ft) by climbing up trees. They can be either deciduous or evergreen, though the widely cultivated temperate species are all deciduous.

Seed capsules of H. aborescens

Seed capsules of H. aborescens

The names of some species are:

H. arborescens = tree – like

H. hortensis = literally of gardens, though it is said this name commemorates the wife of a celebrated Parisian clockmaker, Madame Hortense Lepante

H. macrophylla = large- or long-leaved

H. paniculata = panicled, in reference to the flower shape

H. petiolaris = long – petioled (the leaf stalk)

H. vestita = clothed with hairs

Having been introduced to the Azores, H. macrophylla is now very common, particularly on Faial, which is known as the “blue island” due to the vast number of hydrangeas present.

There are two main flower arrangements in hydrangeas. Mophead flowers are large round flower heads resembling pom-poms or, as the name implies, the head of a mop. In contrast, lacecap flowers bear round, flat flower heads with a centre core of subdued, fertile flowers surrounded by outer rings of showy, sterile bract-like flowers.

Hydrangeas are grown mainly for their large flower heads, with H. macrophylla being by far the most widely grown with over 600 named cultivars, many selected to have only large sterile flowers in the flower heads. Some are best pruned on an annual basis when the new leaf buds begin to appear. If not pruned regularly, the bush will become very ‘leggy’, growing upwards until the weight of the stems is greater than their strength, at which point the stems will sag down to the ground and possibly break. Other species only flower on ‘old wood’. Thus new wood resulting from pruning will not produce flowers until the following season.

Hydrangeas are moderately toxic if eaten. H. paniculata is reportedly sometimes smoked as an intoxicant, despite the danger of illness and/or death due to the cyanide!

In Japan, ama-cha meaning ‘sweet tea’, is another tisane made from Hydrangea serrata, whose leaves contain a substance that develops a sweet taste. For the fullest taste, fresh leaves are crumpled, steamed, and dried, yielding dark brown tea leaves. Ama-cha is mainly used for the Buddha bathing ceremony on April 8 every year—the day thought to be Buddha’s birthday in Japan.

The pink hydrangea has risen in popularity all over the world, but especially in Asia. Pink hydrangeas have many different meanings, but they generally mean “You are the beat of my heart”, as described by the celebrated Asian florist Tan Jun Yong, where he was quoted saying, “The light delicate blush of the petals reminds me of a beating heart, while the size could only match the heart of the sender!”

Sources and further information:

Royal Horticultural Society- Hydrangeas

Hydrangeashydrangeas!

Wikipedia

Old School Gardener

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KniphofiaA genus of 70 or so rhizomatous perennials from central and southern Africa, Kniphofia – or ‘red hot pokers’ – can often be found in moist places; alongside river banks, in grasslands or mountainsides. They are also called tritoma, torch lily, knofflers or poker plant. The Kniphofia genus is named after Johann Kniphof, an 18th-century German physician and botanist.

Kniphofia form clumps, with arching, strap-like leaves. They can be evergreen or deciduous, the leaves of the deciduous varieties tending to be narrower and shorter than the evergreens. They thrive in any soil as long as it is moisture retentive, prefer sun but will tolerate light shade and can vary from tender to fully hardy. Many tolerate coastal conditions. Coming from South Africa, they are not completely hardy, particularly in the far north. For safety grow the more hardy evergreen varieties, where you should tie up the leaves over the winter, so protecting each other from frost.  They are also susceptible to ‘wet feet’ – this is particularly bad in clay soils when they are also cold.

The flowers are cylindrical or tubular and usually hang down (‘pendent’), though in some varieties are upright. Flowers are borne well above the leaves in dense spike – like racemes. The flowers come in various colours, including green and toffee, but most of the commonly seen types open red and turn to yellow, giving  the characteristic, bicoloured flower spikes.

Red Hot Pokers make good cut flowers. The flowers produce copious nectar while blooming and are attractive to bees and butterflies. In the New World they may attract sap-suckers such as hummingbirds and New World orioles. They are low in allergens.

Tritoma group

A group of Kniphofia or ‘Tritoma’

Red hot pokers seem to have suffered a bad press over the years, stemming from Victorian times when one influential garden writer (Shirley Hibberd) thought they were vulgar and that their use required “a little extra care to avoid a violation of good taste”.

Cultivars range from 50cm to 2 metres in height, and the taller ones may need staking. Late-summer flowers such as Crocosmias look good with them, as do different sorts of marigolds; e.g. ‘Touch of Red’ and ‘Art Shades’ which are ideal for a showy look. Salvia uliginosa combined with yellow or coral-coloured pokers gives a more subtle effect. They mix well in the border with other tall plants such as Alliums and Echinops.  Sometimes a mixture of gaudy colours – Delphiniums, Alliums, Lilies and Knifophia – is quite attractive.

Kniphofia caulescens

Kniphofia caulescens

You can grow them from seed quite easily using ordinary seed compost – just push the seeds partially into the compost in April, water and they will be transplantable by summertime. Once mature, after a year of growth, the plant is dividable to increase stock. Do this in late September, into pots of 50% compost 50% grit. Dividing is easy enough, they pull apart quite easily and you can simply pot them up. Leave the divided plants in pots in a cool but frost-free greenhouse, and replant in May the next year. When transplanting your Kniphofia, dig a hole that is about 20cm deep by 10cm wide, and half fill with 50% compost, 50% grit mixture and then top up with compost and plant in this. Each spring give them a mulch with good rich compost. You can also give them a liquid feed in June when they start to show signs of flowering. I have some in my long borders at Old School Garden and they are just coming into flower.

Kniphofia and Echinops. Photo- Jenny Cochran's garden

Kniphofia and Echinops. Photo- Jenny Cochran’s garden

Further information:

How to grow Kniphofias- Telegraph article

How to grow Kniphofias-Mirror article

RHS- Kniphofia ‘Bees Sunset’ and other links

RHS 2007/9 Kniphofia trials

Old School Gardener

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hedge archwayThis week’s Gardeners’ Question Time looks at how and when to trim hedges. The question comes from Anne Elk who lives in West Devon:

‘I never seem to be able to get an even, level cut on my hedge when I give it its annual trim. How can I achieve a really neat appearance?’

Well Anne, first you need to check on whether in fact your hedge is of a variety that does just need only one clip, or whether it should have several (see below). If it’s the latter, it will be difficult with only one cut to keep it smooth and sharp as so much material will have to be removed, so you should perhaps be trimming it more frequently.

In general though, to get a sharp, level shape when cutting, stretch a string line tightly between two posts along the top, at the height you want the hedge to be, and clip exactly to this level – however, be prepared to repair any accidental cutting of the string! For the sides, put in canes vertically at intervals along the hedge, and sight along these as you cut. Alternatively some people can do this by eye and achieve a satisfactory result, especially if the hedge is fairly low.

Lowish hedges can eb trimmed by eye as long as a good original line has been established

Lowish hedges can be trimmed by eye as long as a good original line has been established

So how and when should you cut different types of hedge?

Established deciduous hedges that are moderately fast growing (e.g. Beech, Hornbeam, Hazel and Tamarisk) should be trimmed once in August – however, if they are growing particularly well, they might need two trims – one in late July the other (lighter trim) in early October.

Deciduous hedges which tend to be fast growing (e.g. Blackthorn, Myrobalan Plum, Hawthorn) will need about three clippings at about six weekly intervals during the summer- this also applies to some fast growing evergreen hedges such as Lonicera and Gorse.

Some slower growing evergeen hedges such as the various Laurels, Elaegnus and Sweet Bay require just one cut in early autumn, though faster growing evergreens such as confiers are best trimmed once in August – or possibly twice if particularly vigourous (once in July and then again in early October). For Yew, trim once a year in the summer.

For slow growing, smaller – leaved evergreen hedges such as Box, you should be cutting in early summer (June- July) and again in late summer/early autumn (including topiarised shapes).  Box hedges should be cut in overcast weather as if they are cut in the hot and dry their half cut leaves will desiccate and turn brown. For Privet (Ligustrum) you will need at least two and possibly more cuts in a season to maintain its shape.

Mazes are often created from Yew hedging - usually an annual cut will keep it looking trim

Mazes are often created from Yew hedging – usually an annual cut will keep it looking trim

If you have an informal flowering hedge, in general this should be pruned rather than generally cut over. This is best done in spring if it flowers in between mid summer and autumn and in mid summer if it flowers in the spring or early summer. In both cases take off the shoots which have flowered, thin out the growth if it is crowded and remove completely any old growth which is straggly and flowering badly.

For most hedges try to establish sloping sides with a taper inwards towards the top (known as a ‘batter’) – this encourages growth lower down the hedge which if the sides were vertical (or even worse sloping inwards towards the bottom), would result in thin growth at the base where less light reaches the leaves.

Not all hedges are meant to be level and straight- 'cloud pruned' forms such as this are more a work of art than a geometric challenge!

Not all hedges are meant to be level and straight- ‘cloud pruned’ forms such as this are more a work of art than a geometric challenge!

I hope that you find this of help, and if you have any gardening questions that you think I might help with, then please email me at nbold@btinternet.com

Old School Gardener

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