Jorge, Plants, Trees

The main cherry fruit tree rootstocks – Colt and Gisela 5 – produce 3 and 4.5m tall trees respectively. Gisela 5 is preferred in small gardens, while Colt is preferred in larger gardens where you want a free standing tree.

What are Rootstocks?

A scion grafted onto a rootstock.

Rootstocks are plants, usually within the same genus, but not always, on which a variety is grafted. Trees are produced this way as trees grown on their own roots are simply too large for the average size garden. Rootstocks thus exert a dwarfing effect, producing smaller, more manageable trees. They also produce earlier in their life – an effect that is known as precociousness. This provides a huge benefit for growers, who can establish high density orchards from which they receive returns earlier.  

History of Cherry Rootstocks

Rootstocks have been used for millennia and the earliest cherry rootstock we know of is Mazzard, which was used 2,400 years ago by ancient Greek and Roman horticulturists, and is still in use today. It’s excellent compatibility with cherry varieties and ease of management left it a favourite until the emergence of Mahaleb, which emerged in eighteenth century France. Mahaleb’s elusive dwarfing effect and increased precociousness made it the rootstock of choice until the discovery of compatibility issues in the 1920s led to the re-emergence of Mazzard.

It took till the second half of the 20th century for the classic rootstocks Colt and Gisela 5 to be introduced. Colt originates from East Malling Research Station, and was bred in 1958, but only released in 1977 after extensive testing. The rootstock produced a tree significantly smaller than Mazzard and with increased precociousness, and was importantly free standing. Also emerging at this time was Gisela 5 that originated from Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany in the 1960s. The rootstock had the greatest dwarfing effect of any rootstock hitherto and became the standard rootstock for small gardens and many growers. The only issue was Gisela 5 required staking.

Although a girl’s name in Germany, Gisela actually stands for Gliessen Selection for Prunus avium. Both Colt and Gisela are hybrids of species P. avium – the wild cherry – which were bred with the dwarfing Prunus species pseudocerasus and canescens respectively. The breeding programs wished for the compatibility of avium with the smaller size of the dwarfing species. The Colt program wasn’t entirely successful with the rootstock being incompatible with both Van and Sam varieties. Gisela, however has no issues as of today.  

Colt vs Gisela 5

cherry fruit rootstock infographics

Note: standard refers to a tree grown on its own roots. Thus a rootstock that produces a tree 30% of standard will produce a tree 70% smaller than if it was grown on its own roots.

Colt produces a tree 3.5-4.5m tall (about 60-75% of standard). It does not require staking and will produce a free-standing tree.

Gisela 5 is roughly equivalent to the apple m26 rootstock, producing a tree 2.5-3m tall (about 40-50% of standard). It requires permanent staking.

Left unchecked, Gisela 5 is unsuitable for productive varieties such as Lapins and Sweetheart as it produces too many fruit buds, which it is unable to deliver sufficient sugars, leading to small, maldeveloped fruits. To address this, you can remove buds. Colt on the other hand is suitable for productive varieties.

It’s worth noting that rootstocks exert a dwarfing effect as they are worst at gathering and transferring resources than standard rootstocks. Gisela 5 is reported to perform poorly in shallow soils. This shouldn’t be much of a problem if you are careful to improve the soil, but if you are new to gardening Colt may be a better choice as it is more forgiving.

A problem with sweet cherries in general is that they take the longest time of any popular fruit tree to bear fruit. Gisela 5 will come into bearing in its third year, and Colt a year after, although it is important to note your tree will arrive 2 years old with a 4 year old rootstock. Imagine precociousness as the speed with which you get paid back on your investment.

Gisela 5 causes trees to flower earlier by a few days, leaving blossom susceptible to frost damage. This is a problem with cherries as they flower early in the year (March-April). This is important as flowers eventually turn into fruit. Another problem with Gisela 5 is that as it produces smaller trees, the branches are lower to the ground. The lower a branch, the more susceptible it is to frost damage as cold air falls. This makes Colt more suitable for northern regions, although you can always use frost protection.

Colt is resistant to phytophthora root rot, bacterial canker, and stem-pitting, although is susceptive to crown gall. Colt’s vigour is unaffected by viruses.

Gisela 5 shows a slight reduction in vigour when infected by viruses.

Primrose does also stock F.12.1 on a few trees, which is a vegetative clone of Mazzard. It produces a tree 6m tall, which is unsuitable for most gardens and takes up to 5 years to come into bearing.

Rootstock Spacing

Gisela requires 3-3.5m between trees, Colt 4-5m and F.12.1 6m.

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.

Dakota Murphey, Garden Design

garden building improve life

Garden sheds have come a very long way. Once a basic and unloved timber storage facility for garden tools and other outdoor paraphernalia, these days smart log cabins come in an astonishing array of styles and designs that take pride of place in the privacy of your garden space.

A modern garden building serves as a useful and attractive addition to your home’s indoor space. Cheaper than building an extension, and constructed and insulated for year-round use, it’s a convenient and cost effective way to give you more space at home.

With a bit of knowhow, you can build your own bespoke log cabin, ideally using FSC certified timber harvested from sustainable woodlands, such as the renowned Balcombe Estate in West Sussex. Alternatively, sectional sheds and garden buildings can be purchased pre-fabricated according to your specifications and installed on site.

Whether you need an extra guest room, a hobby room or a retreat from the rest of the family, once you add finishing touches such as electrics, heating and plumbing, it will be a cosy space you’ll love to spend time in.

Here are some great examples of how you can improve your home life with a timber garden studio.

Working from home

Working from home is becoming increasingly common, as more companies allow their employees to work remotely for a day or a few days a week. But it can be difficult to find the right space to set up a home office in your already crowded house. A shed in the garden could be the perfect solution, as it’s only a few steps from the house.

Here, you’re unlikely to be interrupted and can work in relative peace and quiet. Even the smallest log cabin can be equipped with all you need, including phone, printer and WiFi connections. There are so many office shed designs to choose from and the big bonus is that you get to avoid that dreaded daily commute!

working from home

Claiming your man cave

The garden shed has always been male territory but now could be the time to make it official and create a dream space for you and all things masculine. The opportunities are limitless – imagine what you could do!

What about the ultimate workshop with a spacious workbench and all your tools perfectly arranged and easy to access. And, of course, you can always make space to fit in a comfy chair in the corner right next to the all-important bar fridge, which may just happen to be opposite the TV, tuned to your favourite sports channel. Everyone needs a rest in between projects, right?

If you have some extra space, why not go large, by adding an interlocking garage? Then you’ll have all the space you could want for that motorbike or classic car you may have been thinking about doing up. How’s that for a dream space?

Creating your hobby heaven

For those who love making things but hate the time it takes to set up and pack away the necessary items, why not ‘craft’ your very own creative space? Set up that easel, your paints and canvases, get out your sewing machine and fabrics, or whatever hobbycraft you’re into, and give some energy and space to your artistic side.

Imagine being able to take your time with each project without having to put everything away at the end of the session because you need the dining table for supper. Design a shed that’s bright, airy and inspiring and unleash your inner creative.

Giving teenagers a cool hangout zone

Teenagers need a space of their own and sometimes the bedroom is literally just a bit too close to home to have friends over. But with the oldies occupying the living room downstairs, where can they go?

A log cabin in the garden may be the perfect space. You might like to kit out your garden shed with a games centre, a large screen TV and surround sound and who knows, you may never see them again! Except, of course, when they need feeding… Hmmm, perhaps you should also think about arranging a hotline to the local takeaway service.

decorated garden building

Gathering friends in a cosy hub

If you like entertaining, then why not turn your shed into a little pub? You could equip your garden building with a proper bar counter and two or three small stools. Add a few shelves and optics, fill with the relevant bottles and hey presto you can stay out all night without going out at all!

If you’re not the pub type but still want an entertainment room, no problem. Go luxurious with a comfy couch, some soft lighting and a great sound system. What about a woodburner for cosy nights in? Hey, if you wanted to go really mad, you could even fit in a hot tub!

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Animals, Birds, Christmas, Megan, Wildlife

Welcome to our brand new blog series on garden birds! We start with robins, perhaps one of Britain’s favourite garden birds, especially at Christmas. In this post you will find everything you could possibly want to know about robins, as well as how to attract the angelic red breasted birds to your garden.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

Why Are Robins Associated With Christmas?

Especially at this time of year, you may wonder to yourself, why are robins a symbol of Christmas? The answer may date back to Victorian times in Britain. During this time postal workers were nicknamed robins because of their red uniforms. Robins on Christmas cards came to represent the postal workers who had delivered them.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

Others say the association dates back to the time of the bible. There is a fable that tells that when Jesus was born in the stable, there was a great fire that began to blaze out of control. A brown robin placed themselves between the fire and the manger and fluffed its feathers to protect baby Jesus, in turn setting his breast alight. The red breast of this robin was said to be passed down through generations of robins.

Are There Different Species of Robin?

There are ten different species of robin, but the European robin is the only one you will see in UK gardens. Juvenile European robins are brown in colour, and develop the robin’s signature red breast when they are around 6 months old.

All About Garden Birds: Robins
Juvenile Robin

Subspecies of the European robin migrate to the UK from scandinavia during the winter months to escape the harsh weather. These birds have a more dull red breast and are more grey in colour than your average UK robin. They are more likely to be seen in woodland areas than in your garden.

When is Robins Breeding Season?

Robin’s breeding season typically starts in march; however, if it has been a mild winter it can be as early as January. This is when you will start to hear bird song in the early morning – this is actually male birds ‘singing’ to attract a mate. Once partnered up, robins will stay together for the whole breeding season.

Nests can be found almost anywhere – in old plant pots, inside sheds, amongst bushes and even in teapots. The female will build the nest out of twigs, moss, leaves and grass, lining the nest with finer grass and feathers, ready for its first brood.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

Broods will usually be 5-7 eggs in size, and robins have several broods, often overlapping, during the breeding season. Whilst the female lays on its eggs to incubate them, the male will go off to find food and bring it back to the female. Eggs hatch after about 13 days, and fledge (develop wings for flying) 14 days after that. During this time the male and female will share parenting responsibilities; baby robins are completely reliant on their parents for food, shelter and warmth.

What Do Robins Eat?

Robins favourite foods are insects, especially beetles and worms. They are omnivorous birds and insects provide a good source of protein to aid muscle growth and fat for energy. Robins use all their senses to hunt for worms, and have a great vision for this reason. They can see the tiniest end of a worm poking out the soil, and spot the slightest disturbance which may be a sign of a worm wriggling underneath.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

You can help robins find their favourite treat by:

  • keeping your lawn tripped and of even length
  • watering your lawn early in the morning so worms are brought closer to the surface
  • leaving piles of leaves intact for robins to forage through

An alternative is to leave dried mealworms in open feeders out for robins. These can be soaked in water to help hydrate robins when water is scarce due to hot weather or frost.

Robins also feed on fruit, seeds, suet, crushed peanuts and sunflower hearts. Robins are natural ground feeders, so leaving straights or a robin seed mix out in a ground feeding tray is best. For an extra treat, you can mix in some grated mild cheese. Be sure to remove the food in ground feeders if it rains, as this will cause the food to grow mould and bacteria.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

You can also leave food out on bird tables. Covered bird tables will help keep food dry and protect feeding birds from any predators. Note that robins will only feed from hanging bird feeders if there is a perch, and even then they would prefer not to.

To find out more about the ins and outs of different bird food, take a look at our garden bird feeding guide.

Are Robins Endangered?

Robins are not endangered species, however they have a high mortality rate and just over half of young robins will survive the winter. Robins make up for this population loss by having multiple broods during breeding season.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

The greatest threats to robins is during the colder seasons. The birds will use around 10% of their body weight during one cold and icy night. This is why it is especially important to help out during the winter by leaving out high energy and fresh water to help them survive.

How Do I Attract Robins To My Garden?

It is pretty straightforward to attract robins to your garden. If not present in your garden already, leave out some food suited to robins, as we have mentioned previously. In the new year, pop up an open front nest box to encourage robins to nest in your garden. Provide fresh and clean water in a bird bath. As robins also enjoy feeding on fruits and berries in the wintertime, you could also consider planting a crabapple or rowan tree in your garden.

All About Garden Birds: Robins

We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the most widely recognised garden bird in Britain. Keep and eye out for the next part of our garden bird series. The next bird we will take a look at is the blue tit.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Celebrations And Holidays, Decoration, Guest Posts, How To

With the festive season right around the corner, what better time to start planning your New Year’s Eve soiree than right now? Whether you’re looking to create a lighthearted, family-friendly atmosphere, or you’re wanting to welcome 2019 well into the early hours of the morning with your friends, pulling off a successful New Year’s Eve do is crucial for creating an unforgettable introduction to the year ahead.

To ensure the success of your evening celebrations, turn your summer garden into a party-ready winter wonderland and welcome in the new year in true seasonal style. Not only will an outdoor event help all your guests get in the festive mood, but it will save you the indoor cleanup duties the following day. From outdoor heaters to warm up your guests to festive decorations to place around your garden, in today’s post, we’re looking at the many ways you can transform your garden into a practical and pretty party destination this year.

new years eve party

Prepare in advance

When it comes to planning your New Year’s Eve party, preparation is key. Because of the time of year that you’ll be hosting your winter bash, it’s safe to expect a frosty bite to come hand in hand with your outdoor occasion. In your invites, prepare your friends and family to dress warmly and don’t be afraid to ask them to contribute a dish of food and a celebratory new year’s tipple to the friendly festivities – it’s a great way to get everybody involved and save money at the same time.

Once you’ve picked a time and sent over your invites, it’s time to let your neighbours know what to expect on the night – unless, of course, you’ve chosen to invite them to celebrate with you. Also, consider preserving your carpeted floor during your mid-winter soiree by providing everyone with a cheap and cheerful pair of flip-flops or sliders on entry to your home to ensure your floor remains clean no matter how messy your party gets.

Create your space

When hosting a winter garden do, it’s crucial to make your cold outdoor space as inviting as possible in spite of the elements. A practical way to protect guests from snow and rain is to prop up a pop-up gazebo under which they can dance and chat comfortably beneath an array of decorative fairy lights.

Additionally, for those unfazed by any light rain that may fall on the night, it’s probably worth opting for outdoors heaters that your guests can gather around – but why stop there? While you can’t always accurately predict the weather on the day, you can assume that there’ll be a wintery chill. Therefore, a great idea to keep your friends and family cosy is to keep blankets at hand for the various seating areas around your garden. Top it all off by handing out festive mulled wine to help your guests stay both merry and warm.

Set a theme

Arguably the most entertaining part of the night occurs as a result of a party theme and equivalent dress code. For those who are likely to quiver in their boots at the prospect of a themed party, why not pick a broad idea that provides a plethora of possible party outfits? An ‘out with the old and in with the new (year)’ theme, for example, will get your guests into the party mood and allow you to decorate your home and garden accordingly while giving them a wide variety of playful outfit choices to choose from.

A fun way to incorporate an old-to-new decorative theme into your space is a simple, cheap and easy upcycling technique. Let your creative juices flow and take pleasure in decorating your garden with upcycled antique items – which you can find easily at an auction house in the UK – or by reinventing your own dusty items by turning them into new, contemporary pieces. Not only is this beautiful styling technique perfect for getting the family involved, but you’ll be left with gorgeous garden pieces that will last you well into the new year.

celebrating in garden

While initially a chilly night huddled around in a back garden might fill your friends and family with apprehension, when planned and executed properly it has the potential to be an unforgettable experience for everyone. Make use of your outdoor space and decorate your garden with fairy lights, outdoor heating systems and warm blankets – and watch as you and your guests welcome in the new year with fits of laughter and a bag full of memories.

Alex Jones is a content creator at Featonby’s, a specialist antiques and collectibles auctioneers based in North Tyneside, England.