Annie, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting, Plants, Trees, Watering

very dry trees

When you think of British summer time you might think of maybe a few sunny days where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of pimms in your garden. Or you think of the fact that whenever anyone suggests a barbeque it starts raining. You definitely don’t expect there to be endless sunshine with soaring temperatures for weeks on end. You certainly don’t expect temperatures of over 30 degrees and neither does your garden.

This summer has been something of an anomaly and seems set to continue. While we might be basking in the glorious sunshine we should spare a thought for our poor gardens which will need a little bit of extra TLC while the endless summer stretches on. The lack of rain and the unrelenting heat brings its own problems. Young trees and shrubs may struggle to thrive and might even die. However, all is not lost! There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your garden remains looking green, healthy and beautiful all summer long.

Contents:

Water, Water & More Water

It may seem obvious that during the hot weather you may need to water your plants more regularly. Young trees especially need frequent watering as they have a much smaller root system than that of an established tree. Young roots can dry out very quickly during a hot spell and that can ultimately lead to your young tree dying. So if your tree is newly planted you should ensure that it is watered every day for at least the first two weeks to help provide the roots with the moisture and oxygen it needs. After that you should make sure you water your  tree at the very least once a week, if there has been some rainfall, but even more frequently during a heatwave.

When should I water?

However, it isn’t just about the frequency with which you water young trees and shrubs it’s also when you water them as well. You should either water your garden very early in the day or in the evening when it is cooler to help keep the soil moist for longer. Watering plants during the heat of the day is actually a lot less effective and can cause damage. Water droplets on the leaves act like a magnifying glass for the sun’s rays. They make them more intense and so even though you think you are helping hydrate your young tree or shrub you can actually cause more damage.    

How much water?

So you know to water your tree frequently and you know when you should do it as well. However, you also need to know how you should water young trees. People are often tempted to water their plants little and often. However, you will find that your young tree or shrub is happier when given a slow drench of at least half a large watering can every few days. This period of dryness encourages them to make deep roots which is good for supporting the tree and will mean less maintenance in the future.

If you are unsure about whether your tree needs to be watered or whether it has been watered enough there are a couple of simple ways to check. If you want to check whether the tree needs to be watered you can do this by checking the soil beneath the mulch layer early in the morning. You just stick your finger in the soil and if it is damp your tree should be fine. If it is dry then you do need to water it. To check you have given your tree enough water you should check that the root ball is wet and can use a trowel to do this if necessary.

Watering hacks

Mulch

Laying downs some mulch around the base of the tree prevents water running off when the ground is hard and allows much more of it to sink into the soil. Woodchip is excellent, spread it in a circle approx. 3 foot in diameter.

Create a bowl

Best done when planting, if you create a bowl like shape around the base of the tree this again aids with retaining water and funnels it down towards the roots of the tree. You can build a little mud wall around the tree if already planted and it will serve the same purpose.

The upside down milk bottle

Insert an large bottle upside down into the ground and cut the end off. You can then pour water into it and it will soak slowly into the ground, directly where you want it. You may find that a bamboo cane for support helps it stay in place.

What if there is a hosepipe ban?

A hosepipe ban could be on the horizon this year. Especially if the heatwave is set to keep going. As the main way to keep your young trees or shrubs alive is to water them you might think that trying to keep young trees alive is fruitless. However, there are a few ways that you can get around this. Firstly, you can install a water butt. Nowadays there are thousands of styles to choose from so you don’t necessarily have to end up with an ugly tank in your garden. As long as you have an outside wall or guttering system in place you should be able to collect plenty of rainwater and use that to water your garden.

You can also use grey water. Grey water is waste water that has come from places such as your bath or kitchen sink. You can even collect the water from your washing machine and use this to water the plants when you are not allowed to use a hosepipe. If you are going to do this though you need to be aware of what is in the water. Grey water that has come from these areas is likely to contain harmful detergents. So if you are going to use this method you should make sure that the products you use are environmentally friendly.

What if it is too late!?

By the time you are reading this, it might be already too late. There will be many arboreal casualties this year, and even the best of gardener will struggle with their losses. It is a sad time, unless you sell trees of course. A simple Cambium test is the best way to check if your tree has expired. Scratch away the top layer of bark with your thumb. Make sure you do this on the main stem because, in extreme weather, the tree will start by sacrificing its extremities first. If  you reach moist green flesh, then your tree is hanging in there!

If not, as cold as it sounds, it’s time to start planning its replacement. You might like to consider  holding off until autumn to plant your next tree. Autumn is by the best time of year to plant; the ground is still warm, there is good rainfall, the trees are entering dormancy and they have all winter to establish a strong rootbase. In fact, the majority of young trees that you see struggling this year will have been planted in spring, not the autumn before. 

Head over to the plants section of the primrose website to order you bare root trees for delivery at the perfect time. Or, if you are impatient, we have potted trees available now!

Annie CorcoranAnnie works for the Primrose product loading team mainly creating web pages and writing product descriptions. When not at her desk you can find her writing for The Independent, re-reading Harry Potter or out for a walk.

See all of Annie’s posts.

Gardening, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, How To, Plants, Trees

Summertime is the perfect time to do some pruning on your fruit trees and give them the attention they need.

summer pruning

Who Do Summer Pruning?

When you prune trees like apple and pear trees in summertime, you allow in more sunlight and also let some air in to reach your fruit. This helps fruit to grow larger and have more flavour and colour. It also allows the tree and its fruit to better protect against pests and disease.

When you perform some summer pruning, you are protecting your crop for the coming year. Getting rid of the shoots from the current year’s growth helps the tree make more fruiting spurs, which leads to a better and bigger harvest the following year.

What Trees Should Be Pruned

You can prune your apple and pear trees to form them into shapes like fans, espaliers and cordons. You are not as likely to get these shapes if you prune in the winter.

What Is the Best Time to Prune?

If you are pruning apples, you can do so from mid-August to late in the month. For pears, you should prune around mid-July. If you live somewhere north of the UK, then you want to add about another 10 days before you begin your pruning.

The region you are in, the weather for that area and how the tree is growing all factor into when the best time would be to prune. If you don’t know when to prune this year, then look at the new shoots that are forming.

When the tree is ready for a pruning, its shoots will have some dark green leaves known as adult leaves. Trees that are not ready to be pruned will have smaller, lighter-hued leaves. They will also have some leaves in clusters near the base. The shoots’ lower parts, where they connect to the trunk, will be woody and stiff. For larger trees it would be wise to seek a local arborist or tree surgeon to assist with the prune.

What Needs to Be Done to Prune Properly?

You want to cut any shoots that have grown more than 20cm. Make them about 7.5cm and cut above where the leaf or bud is. This should leave you with a stub that has two or three remaining buds. If the new shoots are less than 20cm, then you can ignore those since they will have fruit buds.

You will want to get rid of any water shoots as well. These shoots grow out from the primary branches and are created after you do some hard pruning in the winter. These shoots take a lot of energy from your tree, and you will only want to keep them if you like the way they shape the tree or if you want to replace a damaged one.

You may see some secondary growth once summer pruning is through, and you can remove that in September. This may not help at times, and it may be necessary to leave some of the shoots and allow them to grow a bit longer. These will grow while any secondary growth will be stifled.

Fruit tree pruning is ideal for summer days, and if you do it properly, you can enjoy a bigger, more bountiful crop of pears and apples.

james frazerBased in Cardiff, James Frazer is a keen gardener, primarily interested in fruit trees and bushes.
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.

Gardening, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell, Planting

Dig a big hole
Dig a big hole

November is the ideal time for planting bare rooted trees. Essentially this is a tree grafted onto a root that controls the growth of the tree.

In recent times there has been a move away from grafted plants, especially in roses. You can buy ‘own root’ roses, mostly imported from America. But the majority of trees and shrubs come with grafted roots. The root is called the ‘stock’, the shoot is called the ‘scion’. The joint is usually a little lump known as the graft.

Some roots produce small trees, and are known as ‘dwarfing stock’ some produce whoppers. For the majority of gardens, and fruit trees, I would go for a ‘semi-dwarfing stock’ that gives a plant of around eight to ten feet.

Dig a hole twice the size of the root in depth and three times in diameter. Half fill the bottom with a good rich well rotted compost and then position the plant with the graft just above the level of the soil. Infill and firm in, firm in a lot with the heel of your boot. Give a top dressing of compost as a mulch and then knock in your support, well away from the root.

Use a proper tree tie, rather than a bit of string, to hold the tree in place.

If it is a fruit tree, feed in the Spring, but do not let fruit set – just pull them off. Don’t collect any fruit for at least three years, but keep feeding well in the Spring and mulch in the winter. It sounds a long time, but remember you will collecting fruit for a good decade or two, so it’s worth the wait.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.