Thursday, 15 July 2021

How to care for perennials in winter

 How to care for perennials in Winter

Year after year, perennial plants provide UK gardeners with the colour and vibrance they need to brighten up any landscape. Their ability to weather harsh British winters, while at the same time maintaining their attractive foliage, ensure they remain a firm favourite in gardens across the country. 

From radiant hibiscus to lush green heucheras, a well planned perennial garden can provide an ever-evolving variety of flowers for years to come. However, in order for your perennials to prosper, they need to be correctly prepared for winter. Here are the key tips you need to help plant, prune and care for perennials during the winter months.

Can you plant perennials in winter?

While it is certainly true that perennials will only become the star performers of your flower beds during the summer months, this is not to say planting them in winter is a bad idea. On the contrary, there is absolutely no reason why you should avoid planting your perennials in winter and, in fact, there are actually advantages in doing so.

Unlike annuals - plants that complete their entire life cycle within one growing season - perennials will continue to flourish for at least two years. Subsequently, the winter months become a crucial period in their life cycle as this is the time perennials will typically bed down below rotting leaves and get used to their new surroundings. Indeed, unlike those planted during their summer prime, perennials planted in wintertime won’t need to be watered until the drier conditions are welcomed in with the start of spring. Given the necessary time and attention, as well as the correct methods and approach, perennials planted during the winter months will actually thrive in this cooler climate, perfectly preparing themselves for their summer splendour. 

aster perennial plant in bloom
How to prune perennials for winter
In order to ensure your perennials continue to prosper and return to their prime during the spring and summer months, winter pruning is essential. Whether you are planting your cirsium or lupin in the dead of winter, or maintaining your prize perennials through their first winter period, there are three key pruning techniques you need to take advantage of:


Cut back stems, reduce watering and dig up bulbs
As summer turns to autumn, and your perennials have finished for the season, stems should be cut back to between 6 and 8 inches from the ground and watering should be drastically reduced. This will help harden off the plant in preparation for cooler and damp conditions. Sensitive perennial bulbs, such as dahlias, canna and gladiolus, should also be dug up or ‘lifted’ before the first ground frost of the year. These bulbs should be stored indoors and can be replanted in spring.

Feed plants
Winter is also the perfect time to feed your perennials. Applying a 4 to 6 inch layer of compost is a highly effective method. The compost will release nutrients to the plants, improve the soil structure of your beds, and help replenish your perennials over the winter period.

Mulch
Finally, when cold weather begins to strike regularly, mulching is essential. Old mulch around the beds of your perennials should be removed and replaced with leaves, straw, grass clippings, bark, sawdust or pine needles. This additional layer provides protection for the more sensitive plants and will insulate your bed. 

These simple techniques will not only help to ensure your perennials survive winter, but they will encourage your plants to actively thrive during this period.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Pleached Trees - What are they and why they are so popular?

I'm sure you have seen these trees in all sorts of places but they are very commonly used in Gardens up and down the country, as you can see they are great in most gardens, however before you go ahead with getting these plants there are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge.

First off, what is a pleached tree?

A pleached tree in as simple terms as possible is a plant that has been grown onto a frame, another name for pleaching a tree is "Espalier" this is an ancient practice that used to be used mainly with Fruiting trees, this helped to control the production of fruiting.

This was all done by tying these branches to a frame and combined with pruning to keep the tree growing where it was wanted.

Nowadays obviously this is still a practice used for fruiting trees but not just exclusively used on them now, as you can see it has been used on many varieties of tree that either do not fruit/flower as it has other benefits.

Why do you want a pleached tree?

While you may not be looking to set up an orchard in your back garden you might just be wanting these for a more aesthetic purpose. These trees have many advantages to them rather than their non-pleached counterparts.

Their main use is in blocking out unsightly views that you do not want to be looking at every time you go into your garden or to block out those nosey neighbours!

Pleached trees a lot of the time come with a clear stem of up to around 2 metres in height and then it has the head on top of this meaning that is ideal if you have a fence that you don't want to obscure with a thick hedge but just need a bit of extra height over the top of this fence.

These plants are quite excellent for doing this as they can easily reach above the fence, the head will then act like a large sign that will block out the area above the tree especially as it continues to grow around that head and will fill out into a thick and dense block.

Not all pleached trees will come in the same shape and size as some will have stems on them, while others will not and will be considered a "Wall Frame" meanwhile others will come in all different size stems and with different head sizes. 

Another thing to mention is that a lot of Ornamental pleached trees like our Photinia Red Robins or Elaeagnus trees will be 'grafted' onto their stems, what this means is that in simple terms the stems of these trees will not grow taller but will get thicker as they grow older.

The obvious benefit of this is that if you are buying these for your 2 metre tall fence to block views, you do not want these plants to start outgrowing your fence to create more of a gap between the fence and the bottom of the Frame. However the less obvious benefit of this is that you still have the area at the bottom of the plant available for planting up so you can use the area near the base of the tree.

While these plants are amazing and can be just what you need there are some things to consider before putting one of these in your garden. These are big plants, so if you are wanting to place one down it might be best to speak with your neighbour first as if you were to plant this right up against your fence it would make it difficult to trim if it was hanging over your neighbours garden. 


Planting

Now for planting pleached trees, they can take a little more planning than a normal tree as the heads of these trees while great for blocking views, they can catch a lot more wind as well. We recommend that if you purchase one of these trees then you should also look at getting this kit to go along with it as it has everything you need to properly stake a tree in it here.

 We always recommend that you erect a rail to sit about 2/3rds the way up the clear stem. eg; 2 metre stem rail at 150/60cm off the floor.

If you are in a very windy spot use a second rail midway between the top and the floor to give the plant more anchorage and reinforce the support posts. To the face of the rail you need to fix rubber tree pads and belts to stop the rail rubbing the trunk and to strap the trunk to. (make sure the nails heads are sunk into the pad so they don't scratch at the bark)

Best to do this once you have positioned the plants and it's a good idea to know where you are going to be digging the hole for the plant as you don't want to be digging where you have just banged in the posts.

Some people like to leave the plants in big planters or pots, the same method of support is best used for them as well. Posts are more important to get in the right spot than the rail, as you can simply over or under lap the rail when starting the next rail.

Position the plant upright and fix the pad and belt and you're all but there.

Sometimes the frame incorporates the cane or post that is already in with the plant. If it's part of the structure, leave it and tie it in with the trunk to your support frame, if not choose yourself if it is needed or not.


And that's all there is to it, planting these trees is simple so long as you have the know-how. These trees are amazing and will certainly suit your garden very well no matter the size or shape. If you are looking to pick one of these amazing trees up, please take a look through our range on our website here.