Christmas, Decoration, Fire Pits, Gardening, Planters, Scott, Trees, Wildlife

We all want to give the perfect Christmas gift; but how do you choose the gift they’ll love? The options can be overwhelming in the search for that special something so here at Primrose, we’ve made things simple. Whether you’re shopping for wildlife lovers, dedicated home growers or social entertainers, you can find the perfect gift at Primrose.

For Wildlife Lovers

As a nation of animal enthusiasts, our gardens can be havens for wildlife. Welcome all varieties of birds, insects and small mammals into the garden with a selection of our houses and feeders.

Christmas Gifts

 

A wonder to watch and a great way of increasing the variety of garden flowers. A bee or butterfly house will bring important pollinating insects into the garden and these pretty houses can sit discreetly in any space.

 

Christmas Gifts

 

Nothing beats the presence of birds in a garden. The UK has a wide variety of birds that are beautiful to see and fun to watch. You can encourage great diversity into the garden with the Christmas gift of a bird feeder or table.

 

Christmas Gifts

 

A wildlife-friendly garden can attract a whole host of animals from squirrels, rabbits and hedgehogs. Encourage these furry friends into the garden with houses and feeders so you can enjoy watching their antics year-round.

 

 

christmas gift guide

Wildlife World Bee Hyve

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christmas gift guide

Hedgehog Haus (Hogitat)

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christmas gift guide

Dovecote Cream Bird House

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For Jolly Gardeners

We love seeing how our customer’s gardens take shape throughout the year and how the sense of achievement from cultivating a garden brings so much joy.  

Christmas Gifts

 

Great gardeners deserve great tools. From handheld trowels and forks to more specialised bulb planters and weed removers, a garden can really take shape having the right tool for the right job. 

 

 

Christmas Gifts

 

Garden planters are ideal for gathering together favourite blooms and we think our fuss-free, frost-resistant, fibrecotta planters can make a great Christmas gift.

 

 

Christmas Gifts

 

Give a gift that will keep on growing! A Christmas gift that will last for years and provide endless moments of joy, trees can transform a garden and we have a variety of species that can be gifted for any garden space.

 

 

christmas gift guide

Dig For Victory Hand Trowel

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christmas gift guide

Kensington Framed Trough Planter

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christmas gift guide

Ornamental Trees

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For Social Entertainers

Our gardens are the settings of wonderful moments; times we’ll treasure throughout our lives. At the centre of those moments will be one person organising it all and for them, we have a range of gifts they can be proud to display.   

Christmas Gifts

Extend the time spent with friends and family when the nights draw in with our range of lighting solutions. Fairy lights can add magic to any space when hung about a gazebo or strung through the trees, whilst lanterns can add a warm glow to keep everyone comfy on the sofas. 

 

Christmas Gifts

 

A fire pit can bring out the best of an evening – it means time spent gathered together, time spent swapping stories and jokes, time spent enjoying the warmth of a glowing fire, maybe toasting a marshmallow or two. A centrepiece befitting any keen host we have a range to suit every garden space. 

Christmas Gifts

 

For the evenings you wish can go on and on, keep everyone cosy and content with our winter blankets and throws. So whether it’s snuggling up warm with a loved one or setting down with a good book, give the gift of a relaxing evening this Christmas.

 

 

christmas gift guide

White LED Fairy Lights

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christmas gift guide

Woodland Scene Fire Bowl

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christmas gift guide

Pink and Cream Throw

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Flowers, Jorge, Plants, Trees

bee pollination

Pollination involves the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, resulting in fertilisation. Fertilisation is important as without plants will not produce fruit. It’s likely you don’t need to do anything to ensure pollination, as it’s probable a compatible tree will be in the vicinity. However, it is beneficial to buy a pollination partner to guarantee and improve pollination, boosting yields. 

What is pollination?

Pollination involves the transfer of male reproductive cells from a plant’s male reproductive organ to a plant’s female reproductive organ, in within there are female reproductive cells. The reproductive cells then fuse, forming a new cell, which divides rapidly eventually forming a seed. 

In plants, male reproductive cells are located within pollen cells, which are found on flowers, on the part known as the stamen. The female cells are located within the ovule, found in the ovary, which is part of the carpel. Often, both the male and female reproductive organs are found on the same flower – such flowers are known as perfect flowers – but sometimes they are not. Sometimes, male and female reproductive organs are found on different trees, known as male and female trees.

flower parts

The male reproductive cells must be compatible with female reproductive cells or otherwise fertilisation will be inhibited. Fertilisation can be inhibited if two varieties are too closely related or too distantly related. Some varieties – known as self-fertile plants – can fertilise themselves, while others – known as self-sterile plants – can’t, and therefore need to be partnered with another variety. 

As pollination is sexual reproduction, resultant offspring necessarily contain information from both male and female reproductive cells. Therefore, the seeds of any fruit will be of a different variety than that of the parent. (This is true even in the case of self-fertilisation, because of genetic recombination and Mendel’s law of segregation.)

Most plants, including most fruit trees, rely on insects, primarily bees, to transfer pollen between flowers, but some rely on the wind. 

walnut flowers
The male and female flowers of a walnut. Walnuts rely on the wind for pollination. Picture credit: Dalgial licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

What we are interested in is not fertilisation, but the production of fruit, which unfortunately, most trees will not bear without fertilisation. This is because fleshy fruit develops from the ovary, which encloses the ovules that form seeds.

Do I have to worry about pollination?

If you live in an urban area, it’s probable there will be another compatible tree in the vicinity, and as bees forage for miles, there is a high chance of pollination. If you live in an isolated location, where you can’t be certain of another compatible tree, it might be best to buy a pollination partner.

Now, just because you live in an urban area, it doesn’t mean there is no benefit to buying a pollination partner, which will not only guarantee pollination, but help improve pollination. You can tell if a plant has been poorly pollinated, if it’s fruits are small, misshapen and have few seeds.

Low temperatures impede pollination as frost can damage blossoms, which will fail to turn into fruit. Early flowering stone fruits, such as almonds and apricots, are especially vulnerable, and the former will not reliably crop in the UK. As bees will not forage when it is cold or windy, bad weather impedes pollination also.

fruit trees flowering timeline

As pollination is primarily carried out by bees, it’s necessary that insects can access your flowers. It’s also necessary that two varieties flower in the same period. Hence, why trees are put into flowering groups, with any variety being able to pollinate another in +-1 flowering group. Flowering groups are preferred to specific dates, as plants will flower at different times in different parts of the country. A variety in flowering group 1 will always flower before a variety in flowering group 2.

apple pollination groups

pear pollination groups

cherry pollination groups

Unfortunately, even if a plant is in the same flowering group, it doesn’t mean pollination is guaranteed, due to genetic incompatibility. Cherries are notorious for this, so it’s always best to buy a self-fertile variety. Triploids, such as Bramley, are sterile and are unable to pollinate other species. So, if you want a triploid, it’s necessary to partner with two non-triploid varieties. 

Different species can sometimes pollinate one another. Famously, crabapples can pollinate apples, and are often used as part of an orchard to help with pollination. Ornamental cherries, however, can’t pollinate cherry fruit trees. 

cherry and apple pollination compatibility diagram

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.

Jorge, Plants, Trees

If crabapple trees had an alternative name it should be the utility tree, as you get unmatched value from a single tree. Lately, it’s been common to straightjacket trees as either ornamental or fruiting, but crabapples excel at both, producing wonderful floriferous displays and versatile fruit, great for cooking and attracting wildlife.

What are crabapples and how do they differ from apples?

Crabapples grow throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including in North America. Most species’ fruits are less than 2 inches in diameter, but there are some exceptions to this such as Malus sieversii, the progenitor of the modern apple whose fruits are as large as 7cm.

Sieversii grows on the slopes of the Tien Shan mountain range on Kazakhstan-China border, but once grew widely, stretching all the way to Almaty – the ex-capital of Kazakhstan that derives its name from “fatherland of the apple”. In these wild apple forests, the fruits are eaten by bears, which act to disperse and fertilise the tree’s seeds.

Here, fruits can be as small as 2.5cm, which shows the powerful selection effect humans exerted. Many are sour and are unsuitable as eating apples and there is a wide variety of flavours including hazelnut, liquorice, sweet honey and berries.

Crabapple fruits are significantly smaller than apple.

Sieversii spread wherever humans travelled, and were a great portable snack, and useful feed for horses. Eventually, it was crossed with Malus sylvestris, the European crabapple, which is native to the UK, and is commonly grown in hedgerows.

Sieversii and sylvestris and to a lesser extent some other crabapple species gave us the apple, Malus domestica. Therefore, it is correct to say all other Malus species that are not domestica are crabapples, even if crabapples and apples are closely related and can crossbreed.

Even today, growers are attempting to introduce genes from sieversii and other crabapples into domestica as they naturally resistant to disease.

Why buy crabapple trees?

Unlike other trees, crabapples produce multiple bursts of colour in a year with nearly every flower turning into a sizeable fruit, which often completely cover the crown. One particularly heavy fruiting variety, ‘Golden Hornet’ literally lights up with a mass of warm golden-yellow fruits.

‘Golden Hornet’

Often the colour of the bud is different than the emerging flower, and as the buds open at different times, every bloom is multi-tone. With ‘Sun Rival’, the bud is pink-red and the flowers white.

The warm tones crabapples produces when it’s leaves begin to colour up are not given justice, with different varieties turning yellow, orange-red and maroon. ‘Prairie Fire’ spectacular autumn shades is arguably match the best maples and sweet gums.

Unlike the other blossom tree, the ornamental cherry, whose evanescence blossom symbolises the transient nature of beauty, crabapple blossom lasts for weeks, as they flower on both one-year wood and spurs. With the variety ‘Profusion’, flowering lasts for a whole month.

The extended flowering time makes crabapples ideal for attracting pollinators to your garden as well as pollinating your apples. Indeed crabapples are in a class of their own when it comes to apple pollination, and are commonly used by commercial growers in orchards.

They suffer from none of the genetic incompatibility issues apple do (some are too closely related) and can pollinate apples spread across multiple flowering groups. If you are to choose a crabapple for apple pollination, it’s best to choose one with blossom that matches the colour of apple blossom, which is white with a hint of pink. This is because bees tend to move between trees with the same colour blossom.

‘Evereste’ remains the cultivar of choice for apple pollination, not just because of the colour of its blossom, but because it is resistant to apple scab, powdery mildew and importantly, fire blight. It also sits in flowering group 3 and will therefore pollinate most apple varieties.

‘Evereste’

Much like the rowan’s berries, some crabapple fruits hang on all the way until Christmas. Try ‘Evereste’, which was not named after the mountain, but is a play on the words, “forever resting on the tree”. ‘Comtesse de Paris’ is a great alternative, with its small citrus-like fruits. These fruits can help attract birds into your garden in the colder months, providing a welcome source of nutrients.

Crabapples over 4cm tend to fall off soon after ripening. With more flesh, these fruits are best turned into culinary delights. ‘Jelly King’ doesn’t follow convention with huge, pectin-rich fruits that persist longer than most large fruited varieties. ‘Laura’ makes a great alternative and is nice and compact. Both exhibit good disease resistance.

crabapple jelly king
‘Jelly King’

Crabapples can be used as part of your cider blend to raise the acidity and sugar content. This is useful as most cider apples will need to be paired with an additional tree, as any blend without requisite acidity will spoil.

Now, nearly all crabapples are too tart to be eaten raw, although eating quality will improve in time, as sugar converts to starch. One notable exception, ‘John Downie’ is good to eat when fully ripe, but doesn’t compare to the best dessert apples.

One advantage of crabapples is there small stature, which is well suited to urban planting. With most varieties reaching 5-6m tall, they are much more easily manageable than many popular landscape trees such as Acer, Birch and Willow.

Like apples, they are compatible with dwarfing rootstocks and some varieties can be planted in containers. ‘Sun Rival’ is a lovely weeping specimen with white blossom and bright red fruits that is great as a centrepiece in a small garden.

The Best Crabapple Varieties

The Dark Crabapples

Clockwise from left: ‘Toringo Aros’, ‘Toringo Aros’, ‘Toringo Scarlett’, ‘Royalty’

‘Royalty’, ‘Toringo Scarlett’, ‘Toringo Aros’ and ‘Crimson Cascade’ are all examples of crabapples with dark leaves and red, purple, pink flowers and red berries. Both ‘Royalty’ and ‘Toringo Scarlett’ have a spreading habit, and ‘Royalty’ is slightly larger. ‘Toringo Scarlett’ is small in stature and slender, making it ideal for small gardens. While its berries are almost black, it’s flowers are pink with white veins. ‘Crimson Cascade’ makes a nice alternative to the other weeping crabapple ‘Sun Rival’.

The Light Crabapples

Clockwise from left: ‘Comtesse de Paris’, ‘Admiration’, ‘John Downie’, ‘Red Sentinel’, ‘Red Obelisk’. ‘Golden Hornet’

The angelic cousins of the dark crabapples, these trees reflect light and are best used as centrepieces. Compact and naturally dwarfing, ‘Admiration’ produces possibly the best flowering display of any crabapple with its dense blooms of white. ‘Red Obelisk’ is an excellent alternative, with slightly darker leaves and deep pink buds.

‘Golden Hornet’, ‘Butterball’, ‘John Downie’ and ‘Comtesse de Paris’ all produce white flowers, followed by yellow/orange fruits. ‘Butterball’ can probably be considered an advance over ‘Golden Hornet’, as its fruits don’t rot on trees. Not previously mentioned, ‘Red Sentinel’ remains a classic with its ruby-red jewel-like fruits that hang on well into winter.

Crabapple FAQ

Are crabapples related to apples?

Crabapples are all species within the genus Malus that are not apples (M. domestica). Apples are produced from multiple crabapple species and exist thanks to human cultivation.

Can you eat crab apples off the tree?

Yes, but they’ll be tart. Crabapples are best cooked or used as part of a cider blend.

Where do crabapple trees grow?

Crabapples are found throughout the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and are therefore well suited to the UK’s climate.

How big do crabapple trees get?

Most crabapples will reach an ultimate height of between five to eight metres, but there are of course naturally dwarfing varieties and giantitic 12m varieties.

A tree’s habit affects a tree’s spread with upright trees taking up less space than a spreading tree at the same height.

Like apples, crabapples can be grafted onto rootstocks, which help reduce vigour.

You can always prune a tree to reduce its size. In orchards, growers may head a crabapple to reduce its size.

How do you identify a crabapple tree?

Most crabapples have five lobed blossom just like apples, but while apple blossom is white with hints of pink, crabapple blossom can be red, pink and pure white. Crabapple fruits are smaller than apples, being less than 2 inches in diameter, and can be yellow, red, green, purple, and pink.

The native Malus sylvestris has is lopsided, rounded crown and a wide, dense canopy. Bark is grey, and with age, often twisted and covered in lichen.

Are crab apples poisonous to dogs?

Crabapples and apples can be fed to dogs, but need to be cored as the seeds contain cyanide.

Do crabapple trees have deep roots?

Crabapples are not known to have invasive root systems. As with all trees, a tree’s root system grows horizontally as opposed to vertically as most nutrients are found in the uppermost layers of soil.

Can you grow crabapple trees in pots?

Crabapple trees can be grown in pots. Pots act to restrict growth, reducing a tree’s eventual size. With trees in pots, it’s necessary to water regularly and replenish its nutrients periodically.

Do crabapple trees need a pollinator?

Nearly all fruiting plants need to be pollinated to produce fruit. Usually this is done by insects, which transfer pollen from one flower to another. With self-fertile varieties, pollen from the same tree can be used, but with self-sterile varieties pollen from another variety is necessary. Crabapples are relatively common, and are compatible with apples, so pollination is almost guaranteed.

Can you transplant a crabapple tree?

You can transplant any tree, but chance of success diminishes with maturity.

When can you trim crabapple trees?

Crabapples can be pruned late autumn and early spring. Remove dead, dying and deceased wood and suckers and water sprouts.

Why are crab apples called crab apples?

Ostensibly, from the Swedish skrabba, meaning fruit of the wild apple tree. Alternatively, from the noun crabbed, meaning crooked or wayward gait of a crab. Crabapples are often slightly lopped sided and their fruit disagreeable when eaten fresh.

What are some good crab apple trees for small gardens?

Crowned best in show at the National Plant Awards, ‘Toringo Aros’ is one the smallest crabapples thanks to its slender habit and short stature, but also one of the most impactful with its gorgeous burgundy leaves, pretty pink blossom and dark maroon fruits.

toringo aros
‘Toringo Aros’

A worthy alternative, ‘Red Obelisk’ creates an unmatched spring spectacle with its heavily-blossomed upright branches racing towards the sky.

One of the few weeping crabapples commercially available, ‘Sun Rival’ makes an excellent choice for a centerpiece with white flowers and bright red fruit.

What is the best crab apple tree for jelly?

Try ‘Jelly King’.

What is the best crabapple tree for wildlife?

All crabapples make an excellent choice for a wildlife tree. Most and produced from a mix of species.

What season do crab apple flower and fruit?

Crabapples flower in April and May and fruit from August to October.

Small crabapples tend to hang onto the tree for longer, while larger ones fall off soon after ripening. ‘Evereste’ fruits last until Christmas.

Crabapples make excellent pollinators due to the spread of bloom. ‘Profusion’ flowers for a whole month.

Can crabapples be grown as part of a hedge?

Malus sylvestris is commonly grown as part of a mixed hedge, owing to its dense, twiggy nature and due to the fact it supports over 90 species of bird and insect.

How do I prevent crabapple tree fungus?

As fungus thrives in warm, damp and dark conditions, it’s important to remove plants that shade, crowd or grow into your tree. Trim in early spring to allow light to enter the interior and improve air circulation. Ensure sprinklers do not wet leaves and ensure you pick up dead leaves as potential sources of vectors.

If you are still considering a crabapple tree, ‘Golden Hornet’, ‘Liset’, M. floribunda and Adirondack all exhibit high resistance.

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.

Jorge, Plants, Trees

When deciding on a cherry fruit tree, you have to decide on how big you want your tree. Rootstocks determine the size of you tree with dwarfing rootstocks producing smaller trees. You then have to select a variety, ideally one you like the taste of. As many will not be familiar with cherry varieties, we have made some recommendations.

Introduction To Cherry Fruit Trees

Unlike other fruit species, it is recommended that you choose a self-fertile variety as your first tree as you can’t be sure of pollination otherwise. Once you have a self-fertile variety in your orchard, you can purchase any cherry in the same or neighbouring flowering group.

cherry pollination groups

Cherries are liable to cracking in heavy summer rains. Varieties with a resistance to cracking are recommended as you’ll receive an unblemished crop. Studies have shown that ‘Karina’ and ‘Regina’ exhibit high resistance and ‘Lapins’ moderate resistance.

Cooking (acid or sour) and dessert (sweet) cherries are actually different species: cerasus and avium respectively. They can still cross-pollinate, however.

Sweet cherries do not keep well and are best eaten fresh. This is why it is important to spread your orchard between early, mid and late cherries.

Unsurprisingly, traditional English varieties are actually from Continental Europe. Cherry production didn’t take off in England until the first half of the twentieth century.

Modern cherry varieties are primarily from Summerland research, Canada who started a self-fertile cherry program in the 1940s. They introduced the now classic Celeste, Stella, Sweetheart and Sunburst, which all start with an “S”-sound.

Cherries are often characterised as black or white, with black referring to the colour of the skin and white referring to the colour of the flesh. White flesh is associated with excellent flavour and common to traditional varieties. Black, or dark, skin is associated with modern varieties, which need be aesthetic.

Sometimes you will see cherries labelled Bigarreau, which refers to a firm-fleshed variety.

Cherries can be spherical or heart-shaped, although sometimes heart-shaped is broken down further.

Dessert

Lapins (sometimes known as Cherokee) remains the cultivar of choice. It is self-fertile, productive and its fruits are resistant to cracking. Sunburst and Sweetheart make excellent alternatives and will produce bountiful crops of delicious fruit.

Cooking

With cooking cherries, you have a choice of Morello and Nabella. Nabella is the new introduction, although Morello still retains RHS Award of Garden Merit. Both are self-fertile.

Dual Purpose

Look no further than May Duke, a self-fertile cross between acid and sweet cherries.

Best x Season

Celeste is the best self-fertile early season cherry.

Mid-season, you are spoilt for choice with Lapins, Stardust, Stella, and Sunburst.

Late season, there is a choice between Kordia and Sweetheart. Sweetheart has the best flavour.

For Small Gardens/Dwarf

Cherries with the dwarfing Gisela 5 rootstock are recommended for small gardens, which will produce a 3m tall tree. You can always prune your tree to reduce its size. Alternatively, buy a cordon tree, which is trained to produce a columnar shape.

Petit Noir, Hartland and Celeste are all naturally compact. Sylvia is as well, but isn’t self-fertile.

Unusual

Napoleon Bigarreau, Stardust Coveu and White Heart are all white cherries. Stardust is unique in that it is self-fertile. All these varieties have exceptional taste.

Cold Areas

Cherries with the Colt rootstock is recommended for cold areas as Colt produces a tree higher from the ground. Be sure to plant your tree in full sun!

Developed in the UK at the John Innes Research Station, Summer Sun makes an excellent choice for colder areas of the UK.

Productive

Lapins and Sweetheart are exceptionally productive cultivars. It is best to combine these varieties with Colt as Gisela 5 can overbear, leading to poor quality fruit.

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.