How To, Jorge, Planting, Plants, Trees


Bare root plants in winter pose challenges to growers and gardeners alike. Freezing temperatures make even the simplest tasks difficult, with nurserymen having to trudge for miles in the bitter cold to assess whether a plant is suitable for transportation. Facing staff shortages and delayed couriers due to severed transport connections and hazardous rural roads, fulfilling orders can be beset by delays. Gardeners face different challenges with rock hard ground making planting impossible, rendering plants brittle and vulnerable to damage.

During winter plants become dormant, transfering energy to their roots and shedding their leaves. Biological activity slows, but doesn’t stop, just like when animals enter hibernation. This allows plants to be removed from soil that provides support, nutrients, warmth, moisture and oxygen. This reduces the weight of the plant, reducing transport costs, making bare root plants significantly cheaper than alternatives.

Plants can survive for significant periods without soil and can even be grown without as in the case of hydroponics. Although they can suffer for transplant shock, in which the plant’s health is threatened due to broken roots, disturbance and dehydration.This is why plants are carefully wrapped and their roots covered in hydrogel. Hence, they should not be removed from their wrappings until you are ready to plant and be left alone in a location not liable to temperature fluctuations.

Bare root plants should never be left in direct sunlight, nor be taken into the house, but can be stored in a cold outbuilding. Plants are liable to tissue damage when warming too fast, just like when humans suffer from chilblains. Bringing a plant into the house can cause the plant to come out of dormancy.

Bare root plants can survive for up to ten days without additional nutrients and water and indefinitely in temperatures below zero. If you are unable to plant in this time we’d recommend you leave your plant in water with liquid fertiliser. You can begin planting when the ground defrosts and temperatures rise above zero, with optimal temperatures around midday. Be sure to give your plants roots a good watering.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Gardening, Liam, Plants, Trees

The Rowan tree, commonly referred to as the ‘Mountain Ash’, has become an incredibly popular tree in the UK; especially in urban spaces as they are known to thrive in harsh conditions with compact growing habits. You have more than likely come across several already this year, especially as during this time of year as they display attractive bunches of red, orange, or even white berries. For a genus which provides so much much needed winter colour, they  are relatively unknown and perhaps they deserve a little more praise than they currently receive.  Rowan tree’s are typically distinguishable by their pinnate green leaves,  white flowers in spring and brightly coloured berries in autumn and winter.

The similarities between the Rowan and the Ash, and given that Rowan’s are found at much higher altitudes is what gave it the name ‘Mountain Ash’. However, the Rowan is in the genus Sorbus of the rose family Rosaceae and completely unrelated to the Ash which is a part of the Oleaceae family.

Rowan is typically the name associated with the European variety Sorbus aucuparia which derives from the Latin word sorbus for ‘service tree’ and aucuparia which is formed from the words avis for ‘bird’ and capere for ‘catching’. Rowan trees were traditionally used in game hunting as many birds were attracted to the tree’s berries.

There are other varieties however as the Sorbus genus can be found throughout much of the Western hemisphere including Asia. Sorbus commixta or ‘Japanese Rowan’ is the species native to Japan and Korea where it is known as nana-kamado, literally translates to ‘seven (times in the) stove’ as the wood is robust and can be used several times in fires. Additionally there is the Sorbus aria, or ‘Whitebeam’ which hails its name from the lightly coloured timber it produces.

Sorbus berries

Despite being popular in more modern urban spaces the Rowan Tree has held a special place in our collective imaginations for centuries. The European Rowan is richly documented in folklore as protecting people from evil and demonic spirits and would be commonly referred to as the ‘Wicken Tree’ or ‘Witch Wood’. It is for this reason that Victorian writers commented on people, especially in Scotland, having Rowan trees planted outside of their homes. S. aucuparia has also been known as the ‘wayfarer’s tree’ and the ‘traveller’s tree’ as it protected travellers on treacherous journeys and prevented them from getting lost.

One thing is almost universal about the Rowan and that is that they are adored by wildlife. Come Autumn all manner of birds will gorge themselves readying for winter. In their natural form, however, the berries are far too bitter for human consumption. They can be freezed however to break down the acids and then cooked to make jams, chutney, jelly or even a wine!

‘The whitebeams are members of the Rosaceae family, comprising subgenus Sorbus… They are deciduous trees with simple or lobed leaves… They are related to the rowans and are thought to derive from hybrids between S. aria and the European rowan S. aucuparia.’ Called white beam due to the white colouring on the underside of the leaf.

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Apricot Queen’sorbus apricot queen

Blooms profusely white flowers between April and May followed by apricot coloured berries and fiery red autumn foliage. This particular variety is hardy against harsh conditions including pollution and so makes a tough attractive tree in urban settings. Initially bought into the UK for commercial growing during the 1980s it has become widely popular today.

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Asplenifolia’

More commonly known as the Cut Leaved Mountain Ash the leaves of this cultivar are particularly serrated. Providing rich tones of orange and red during the Autumn there is also a charming display of quite large crimson berries.

 

Sorbus Commixta ‘Embley’sorbus commixta embley

Often referred to as the ‘Scarlet Japanese Rowan Tree’ this cultivar is renowned for its fiery Autumn displays. It was initially brought to the UK during the 1880s from Japan and has been a popular cultivar ever since, both for people and for the birds who love to feed on its orange berries.

Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’

This Whitebeam variety was initially brought to Britain from a French Nursery and then commercially grown from 1885. When the leaves emerge in Spring both sides of the leaf are covered in miniscule downy hairs giving it them a stunning white glow. As the seasons progress it loses the hairs on top of the leaf but retains a white underside accompanied by orange fruit in the late summer and a golden Autumn display in early Autumn.

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Joseph Rock

This particular cultivar of Rowan Tree is named after the Austrian Botanist Joseph Rock who explored different parts of Asia throughout the 1920s bringing back different plants and introducing them to the West. The Autumn colours are particularly striking on this attractive tree; the fiery red leaves juxtapose beautifully with the creamy-white berries.

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Sheerwater Seedling’

Horticultural journalist Noel Kingsbury lists the ‘Sheerwater Seedling’ as one of the most ideal ornamental trees for urban and tight spaces. It is easy to see why; it is one of the most compact rowan tree’s available and yet still provides the charming pinnate foliage along with profuse bunches of red berries.

Sorbus hupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’sorbus hupehensis

The name literally means ‘Hupeh Rowan’ or ‘Hubei Rowan’ which derives from Hubei Province in China from which this sub-genus originates. It has also been commonly referred to as the Chinese Mountain Ash. The beautiful blue-green pinnate foliage acts as a fantastic backdrop for the vast bunches of pink berries which in many cases pull the branches down, hence ‘Pink Pagoda’.

Sorbus thuringiaca ‘Fastigiata’

The S. thuringiaca is a cross between the aira and the aucuparia grown initially at the start of the 20th century in York. ‘Fastigiata’ comes from the word ‘fastigiate’ which simply means to have a very columnar growth habit. This particular variety is noted for its spectacular Spring display of white-clustered flowers.

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Beissneri’

Known simply as the ‘Common Rowan Tree’ it is identifiable by all the quintessential traits of a European Rowan. In Spring lush green leaves  appear along with clusters of snow-white flowers and then scarlet red berries during the late summer.

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Chinese Lace’

‘Chinese Lace’ is actually a European Rowan and not a Chinese Rowan. The name instead reflects the fine foliage which hangs of the branches in a lace-like fashion. The leaves have deep serrations and are known to turn a beautiful burgundy shade come Autumn usually accompanied with bunches of scarlet berries.

Sorbus cashmiriana ‘Kashmir Rowan’kashmir rowan berries

A unique cultivar of Rowan hailing from Kashmir in the Himalayan mountains it is most readily distinguishable by the large white berries it produces. These berries can be as large as half an inch and they’re bound to stay on the tree for much longer as birds do not seem to enjoy them. The flowers too are larger than European and Japanese Rowans and are also slightly tinted pink making it an unusual and spectacular ornamental Rowan.

Sorbus ‘Eastern Promise’

Awarded RHS’s Award for Garden Merit ‘Eastern Promise’ has become a popular tree here in Britain due to its tough, hardy nature and its pristine, compact growing habit. Like many other Rowans it is well suited to the urban and confined environment and is distinguishable by the pink shade of its tiny berries.

Sorbus vilmorinii

Named after the 19th century French Horticulturalist Maurice de Vilmorin this variety originates from Western China including the mountainous region of Tibet. Blooming quite large white flowers in Spring it produces particularly huge pink berries during the Autumn.

vilmorin rowan

Liam at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liam’s posts.

Hedging, Plants, Ross, Trees

You may not be entirely familiar with the word “niwaki”, but I’m almost certain you’ve seen its results before. And if you HAVE seen it before, I’m almost certain you thought to yourself, “man, that’s pretty cool” – or words to that effect, anyway.

niwaki

The word is Japanese in origin, and simply means “garden tree”. While the literal translation may fall foul of your expectations, the implications of the term are decidedly diverse. Niwaki (pronounced ni-whack- ee) represents the Japanese art of tree trimming; in the land of the rising sun, gardens are viewed more as themed landscapes than as simple outdoor spaces. Through niwaki, gardeners can create shapes, forms and moods from their greenery to establish a unique atmosphere.

Perhaps the most famous forms of niwaki are cloud trees – you’ve probably seen them amongst the cherry blossoms circling the outskirts of the world famous Himeji castle. The foliage of a cloud tree is trimmed, pruned and shaped to match the appearance of – yup, you’ve guessed it – clouds. Cloud designs are usually meant to invoke a feeling of peace and tranquillity, but given their use amongst some of Japan’s great pieces of architecture, can also denote status and elegance.

Himeji Castle

Niwaki artists also use their tools to manipulate the tree bark, using grizzly and gnarled carvings to make them look older or as though they’ve been struck by lightning. At its core, niwaki is an expressive art; a gardener reflected in their foliage, if you will. It’s an appealing concept that has not only woven itself into the fabric of Japanese culture, but has been exported across Europe as a symbol of elegance.

Of course, the laymen among us are nowhere near capable of creating such displays on a towering pine tree or trimming a cloud-scape into any old oak. It takes a seasoned student of niwaki to attempt floral architecture on that scale. For beginners, specimens such as the Ilex crenata can present a sympathetic beginning to a lifelong hobby. These plants generally come with predetermined clouds, balanced on short but strong branches that require little maintenance. Thanks to their slow growth speed, crenata only truly require trimming up to three or four times a year. This sort of plant is perfect for niwaki newcomers to practise precision and delicacy in their trimming. Think of it a little like paint by numbers; the structure has been built for you, allowing you the freedom to practise the basics.

As your understanding of the breadth and depth of niwaki develops, along with your trimming technique, the challenges will naturally grow larger and greater. Seasoned niwaki artists can establish the design of a pre-ordained llex crenata in self-grown trees, taking ownership of every branch and bud to sculpt their perfect arrangement. Professionals are hired during the winter months to maintain forests and public displays, stripping discoloured needles from pine trees and using ropes to adjust the angle of branches.

Bonsai tree

For many, niwaki needn’t be a career but simply a hobby; a form of expression akin to writing or painting. What starts with an aesthetic appreciation of the skill may progress to owning an atmospheric table-top bonsai tree, and sometimes culminates in an entire garden designed from the roots to create the perfect outdoor setting. Niwaki represents the purest and most romantic form of gardening to millions around the world, and it’s easy to see why. There must be fewer senses of satisfaction greater than standing in a fully grown garden in which you have influenced every leaf, branch and bud.

If you have an interest in niwaki, drop us a comment below and tell us about it!

Ross at PrimroseRoss works in the Product Loading department and gets to see all the weird and wonderful products that pass through Primrose. Ross is a life-long Southampton fan and favours jazz music, reading and a quiet place to enjoy them.

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Gardening, Jorge, Planting, Trees

Before we continue, it should be stated that while bare root and containerised trees each have their own advantages and disadvantages, they will not significantly affect a tree’s health, so you can be happy knowing your tree will one day achieve its potential. Rather, it is your own preferences regarding price and time of planting that will make an option worthwhile.

What’s the difference?

Containerised trees are supplied in containers, while bare root trees are supplied without soil with their roots carefully wrapped in plastic. Trees can only be extracted from soil when they are dormant; dormancy occurs from late-Autumn to early-Spring when the tree sheds its leaves. Depriving a tree of nutrients during Spring and Summer is highly detrimental to its health as the tree will try to grow, but be unable.

So this is where the first difference is. Bare roots can be supplied only when the tree is dormant, while containerised can be supplied and planted anytime during the year. (Although, it is worthwhile to first research the time of year a particular species best establishes itself. And, in general, it is not recommended to plant trees in summer when they grow at their fastest rate as without established roots, it may fail to establish.)

As bare roots are supplied without soil, they are lighter and cheaper to transport, which makes them significantly cheaper (30-50%) than potted varieties. Hence, bare roots can be great value for money.

Next, as bare roots grow in the ground, their roots spread out in a natural fashion, which allows them to establish themselves effectively, giving them adequate access to soil from which they acquire their nutrients. Sometimes a containerised plant’s roots have inadequate room to grow, resulting in spiralisation, whereby their roots grow in spiral at the bottom of the pot, which puts it in a poor position come planting. Although, this usually only occurs in garden centres, rather than nurseries that will upgrade a tree’s pot as it ages.

It has been argued that containerised trees are better at establishing themselves when planted as they are supplied with nutrients throughout the transplanting process. Bare roots, on the other hand, often lose a chunk of their roots when transplanted, which can lead to water stress. However, this argument doesn’t really hold up, because the tree’s roots are wrapped with compost or hydrogel. Furthermore they are usually supplied as one or two year old trees, which ensures the roots are adequate for the above-ground matter. Altogether, providing the tree is well wrapped and planted promptly, it will be fine. If you can’t plant immediately, it is recommend to leave the tree in water, possibly with the addition of liquid fertiliser.

Planting trees is not recommended in Summer, nor when the ground is frozen, so containerised can’t be planted anytime and it is recommended to buy bare roots when they are first available in November.

This leads to another advantage of containerised trees: they do not have to be planted immediately. This can be useful if you wish to gift a tree. And as containerised can be purchased whenever, you can purchase a deciduous in summer when it looks best. Furthermore, containerised are pruned so will have a nice shape on arrival. Bare roots on the other hand aren’t, which on-the-flipside can be useful if you wish to train a tree, as in the case of many fruits. Lastly, there are many options of containerised trees. One can purchase, for example, a 9 year old ornamental in 55L pot that can provide an immediate uplift to a garden.

Overall, all trees will flourish, providing they are looked after. Bare roots are cheaper and can be trained into a fan, espalier or cordon, but they are only available as one or two year old trees and can only be planted in the Winter. Containerised trees can be planted whenever, look better on arrival and come in a range of sizes, but they are more expensive and can be harder to train.

Have you decided on a bare root or containerised tree? If so, Primrose has a huge range of fruit and ornamental trees, both bare root and containerised, so please have a browse.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

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