Current Issues, Liam, News, Trees

With the total world population now living in urban environments reaching nearly 50% it is becoming increasing apparent that we need to drastically rethink urban living. Urban forestry has been recognised for centuries as the key to beautiful city-scaping, however it is only more recently that studies have indicated trees are essential to a happy and healthy urban life.

In the UK alone air pollution kills 40,000 people every year. This year (2017),  during the record-breaking heatwave, there were emergency pollution alerts stretching from London across the South to Wales.

London Traffic
Congested Streets in London, Choked With Pollution

Moving towards the future we should aspire to smarter, greener urban living where any health complications due to pollution is deemed unacceptable. Despite facing a uniquely modern issue one of the most effective solutions is truly prehistoric; trees.

One large tree can absorb as much as 150kg of carbon a year and for every 10% increase in urban tree canopy, ozone is reduced by 3-7%. Not only do trees absorb CO2 they also reduce the level of other harmful air particulates which can cause a range of health issues from asthma to skin cancer. Research shows that a street lined with trees has a 60% reduction in the level of air particulates.

Central Park, New York
Central Park, New York

Reducing pollution, however, is not the only benefit which trees can give our urban spaces. There is a vast host of issues which can be solved with some smart urban forestry. National England state that trees save us £2.1 billion a year through the various positive health and social impacts they make.

A reduction in noise, stress and even crime are all effects of more trees. Scientific studies show our primitive instincts are more in-tune to forest environments and as such when around trees we become more relaxed, compassionate and active. Having trees in our gardens and streets go a long way to improving our personal and communal mood.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Gardens by the Bay. Singapore

Tree’s make cities cooler too, potentially up to 8°C cooler! They can cut energy consumption by 30% on what would be used for air-conditioning. This is not to mention spaces in the garden; shade can go a long way to improving how comfortable an outdoor space can be.

When considering all of this, therefore, it is unsurprising that more expensive neighbourhoods have trees as a part of the street plan. In the UK alone the property value can rise by as much as 15% if the street is lined with trees. The aesthetic appeal is great, especially with brilliant autumn colours but not only that there is a proven reduction in crime in these areas due to the trees themselves.

With that being said, what can we do? Planting trees in our garden is a great start, as the old saying goes; ‘the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today.’ In our own private spaces we can allow the tree to grow to full maturity when the full benefits are possible. There are many urban developers negligent of this simple fact.

Beyond this, extensive urban forestry projects with maturity in mind should be on the agenda of every local councillor. In the long run, trees pay for themselves and have proven essential to healthy and enjoyable city life.

Guest Posts, How To, Infographics, Planting, Plants

The wildness of nature is somewhat illusory: while the chaotic spread of uncultivated plant and animal life may seem random, there is a non-human logic beneath it all that is beautiful to behold when considered afresh. The roots, the flowers and leaves of the plants in our gardens and beyond communicate and work with each other with a form of unthinking intelligence that, when over-considered, can feel like an alien presence in our very neighbourhoods. But we too are part of this cycle: we eat the plants that the insects pollinate, we breathe the air that the trees generate, and in turn we cultivate and protect our neighbours, the plants!

While all this is perfectly natural, we have lost touch somewhat with our inherent instinct on how to do this. Chemical fertilizers and insecticides have interrupted our gardens’ natural sense of self-preservation and mutual care. But learning how to cast these artificial elements aside and work with nature’s inherent logic is good for the soul and good for the environment.

For example, some plants act as natural insect-repellents, protecting their neighbours from hungry pests; conversely, other plants will attract the bugs that your garden needs if it is to thrive. It makes far more sense to work this way than to employ the industrial techniques that big agriculture uses to maximize profits.

Still other plants are of the ‘big sister’ variety, offering shelter or necessary nutrition to their fellow blooms. And some will even pay back directly to you in thanks for growing them side by side: certain vegetables and herbs can actually flavour each other while still in the earth, and other plants will conceal each other’s less savoury scents.

To start embracing your garden’s cross-species affinity, take a look at this new infographic containing some suggestions on plants that thrive well together.

 

Composting, Garden Design, Garden Edging, Gardening, How To, Insects, Liam, Make over, Planting, Trees

In this step-by-step guide we’ll not only show you how to mulch but explain the different kinds and what will work best for your plants and garden. Mulches are a thin layer of organic or inorganic material placed over a bed or the soil surrounding plants. The more attractive ones may grab your attention and look like a great addition to formal landscaping, but the practical uses are vast. 

Mulches are used primarily to improve the soil around plants, reduce weeds, increase fertility, help the retention of moisture and during winter can protect the roots of the plant from damaging frosts. Using the right mulch for your plants can help eliminate the need for chemical pesticides and fertilisers which is fantastic for your garden’s biodiversity. This all contributes to a healthy, great looking garden you can be proud of.

Now that Autumn is approaching it is the perfect time to start planning!

The Types:

You can roughly separate the different types of mulch into two categories; organic and inorganic.

Organic mulches are best for improving the fertility and overall structure of the soil. Over time the mulch will degrade and replenish the soils nutrients including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Organic material also promotes biodiversity and encourages insects such as worms and spiders which will actually keep pests at bay while further enriching the quality of your soil.

For this reason an organic mulch is fantastic for plants try to establish themselves or are just generally hungry. Roses for example love a good organic mulch of well-rotted manure. More on this to follow.

Inorganic mulches are used to protect the soil around the plant and can also have an aesthetic edge to them. The benefits include locking in water to the soil, keeping weeds at bay and unlike some organic mulches it won’t wash away which is brilliant if you are planting on a slope.

Bark and Wood-Chippings

Here is a mulch which is attractive but also helps improve your soil’s nutrients and structure as it rots down. It also allows water to flow through it without binding throughout the year and really is a fantastic for pretty much all plants and circumstances. The only issue with it is that it is difficult to move or work around and so is best for around trees where you won’t be doing any more planting. Bark and wood-chippings will last you through the year and maybe even two depending on the grade, see how far it has broken down and replace if necessary.

Wood Chippings Mulch

Leaf-Mould

Leaf-mould is arguably the most nutritious and nature-friendly mulch you can apply. Pretty much every plant loves it and what’s more it can be completely free! It may not look like the most attractive mulch but apply in Autumn and by spring it will have blended in with and really enriched your soil. The only major drawback is that leaves do take some while to decompose and if you plan to DIY this is something you plan for a year in advance.

Collect as many leaves as possible in black bags and cut some small holes to let the air in. Ensure the leaves are thoroughly wet as leaves break down through fungi. Come next Autumn you’ll have some of the finest and richest mulch money can buy… not that you have to spend a penny! Of course, leaf mould is available to purchase in fairly substantial bulks.

Compost

There are two main reasons why compost can make a great mulch: 1) It is packed full of nutrients ready to leach down into the soil and 2) It is something you can make yourself free of charge. Additionally it helps with keeping the soil moist and fending off weeds. One thing to look out for however is that no weeds have made their way into the compost as these will simply sprout up from the compost and steal your plants nutrients.

Manure

As I’ve briefly mentioned before, when it comes to roses and other phosphate hungry plants nothing compares to some well-rotted manure. Like a compost that has gone through a far more strenuous decomposition process it is packed full of nutrients and its dense texture protects the roots and keeps the water locked in. It is also a really great mulch for trees and shrubs although to prevent waterlogging it may be worth mixing with some sand to allow for greater drainage.

Manure – As is Comes From a Stable or Farm

Gravel, Slate and Stone Chippings

There really isn’t a great difference here between them as you will want roughly the same thickness of layers. Stone mulches are fantastic for drainage and keep the soil underneath moist. It is also brilliant for retaining heat and so should be used for plants that are used to very hot conditions and can be worked into a Mediterranean themed garden well. Overall many stone mulches look fantastic and can maintain a pristine look for formal garden structures. They do not however add any nutrients to the soil and can become too hot during summer for more tender plants and young trees.

Rainbow Foras Tumbles Coloured Pebbles

When to Mulch

The best time to apply a mulch is in Autumn, as you come into bare-root season, and spring. You will need to apply the mulch when the ground is relatively warm and moist, avoid periods when it is frozen or waterlogged. When the ground is good to dig and plant, it will be good to mulch which is very handy!

How to Mulch

  • Before you apply your mulch first you have to prepare the soil. Clear the ground of any weeds and give it a watering if the soil appears too dry.
  • If you are reapplying a mulch now is a good time to break up any old layers which may have matted to allow better water penetration.
  • Then cover the ground in a layer of mulch roughly 2 inches thick. Avoid mulching right up to the stems of plants and trees as this can cause them to become soft and rot.
  • Level out with a rake to an even finish. This is imperative, some people mulch little mounds, especially around trees. This will cause the bottom of the trunk to grow soft and rot while also drawing water away from the roots.
  • If you noticed that your mulch has matted over the year and become a hard layer, simply break  and fluff up a bit.

You can apply a fertiliser on top of the mulch through the year if you wish. Follow these rules and you should be all set!

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.

Jorge, Plants, Trees

In sharp contrast to the frosty mornings and cold evenings, fiery hues and bright coloured fruit can liven up your Autumn. Cultivars of crabapple and rowan can produce pink, yellow and red fruit, which are perfect for wildlife, while maples and beech can create gorgeous palettes of red, orange and yellow. Now without further ado, here are six trees with fantastic autumn colour.

Maple Trees

An essential part of Autumn iconography, the red maple (Acer rubrum) can be found throughout the UK’s public parks. Introduced all the way back in 1656, the tree will produce a profusion of red, orange and yellow, before turning a vivid red. Highly versatile, the tree can be found growing in a wide range of conditions in its native North America and is suitable for urban settings as it is tolerant of pollution.

Unlike its larger cousin, the japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is suitable for all gardens and can be grown in containers. Indigenous to East Asia, the tree can be found growing at heights up to 1100m, hence its other name the mountain maple. Come Autumn, the tree’s dissected leaves will turn a deep red. The palmatum has many quirky cultivars including ‘Butterfly’ with its cream-tinged green leaves that turn pink; ‘Atropurpureum’ with scarlet red Autumn foliage; and ‘Sango-kaku’ with its gorgeous coral coloured bark and stunning foliage.

Beech Trees

Picture Credit: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Another typical Autumnal tree, the common beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a large, majestic tree with great spectrum of colours. Reaching up to 50 metres in the wild, although commonly 30, it was once believed that the tree is native to southern England, but not the North where it is sometimes removed. Researchers now believe the tree was first introduced to Southern England by Neolithic humans who sought its nuts for food, making it a non-native species. Trees in the North, on the other hand, were introduced by Vikings in the first millennium. Thankfully, most trees sold are limited in height by their rootstock, and are thus suitable for most gardens.

The Sweet Gum

Picture Credit: Famartin licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Similar to maple and beech, the sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua ) is notable for its conflagration of colour with its sharp five-pointed leaves turning red, yellow and purple. First introduced to Europe in 1681 by John Banister, one of the first university trained botanist, the species is also notable for deeply ridged bark, known as alligator bark in America.

Crabapples

Severely underrated, the humble crabapple will produce attractive foliage and bright and colourful fruits, which can last well into winter. The species is hardy, versatile and great for wildlife, being native to the UK. The tree will produce beautiful blossom come Spring and serves as a great pollinator for apples. Notable cultivars include ‘Butterball’, ‘John-Downie’, ‘Evereste’ and ‘Red Sentinel’ with yellow, scarlet-orange, red and yellow-orange fruit respectively. Special is ‘Butterball’ that can produce six different colours throughout the year.

Rowan Trees

Similar to the crabapple, rowans produce fantastic coloured berries that can last well into winter, providing an essential source of sustenance for birds. Hardy and versatile the species is suitable for most soils, and with many different sized cultivars, there is a tree for every garden.The most famous is the native Sorbus aucuparia with red berries and slender leaves, which turn yellow in Autumn. Simply stunning, however, are the cultivars ‘Pink Pagoda’ and ‘Joseph Rock’. The former produces gorgeous pink berries, which are a favourite for birds, while the latter looks amazing with its deep red pinnate leaves contrasted with bright yellow berries.


Cherry Trees

Commonly thought as a tree for Spring, many cherries are ideal ornamentals for Autumn hues. One of the best has to be the ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ that will flower intermittently from November to April with clusters of small semi-double rosy-pink blossom. Other varieties such as ‘Fragrant Cloud’, ‘Sargent’s Cherry’ and ‘Umineko’ will produce fiery displays, with the Sargents among the first trees to colour up. ‘Fragrant Cloud’ is especially beautiful with its upright form. Worthy of note is the ‘Tibetan Cherry’ with its smart coppery-brown bark that will look beautiful regardless of season.

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.