When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

when is the best time to plant a tree

When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

I recently met up with Kevin O’Neill from Walcot Organic Nurseries, who are based locally in Drakes Broughton, near Pershore, who specialise in fruit trees and I asked him for some simple advice on planting, varieties and care.

The winter is the best time for planting bare root fruit trees when they are dormant – ideally between end of November and end of March. So now is a good time to be deciding what to plant and ordering. By planting before the winter’s end, the trees will be ready for a good start in the spring.

Alternatively, you can buy pot grown trees, these are usually more expensive than bare roots and the choice of trees may be limited. But they can be planted throughout the year which may be more convenient.

Bare roots are more suitable if you want to train the fruit tree into a fan or espalier or cordon, or some other format, a 1-year bare-root tree is usually the best way to start.

What are the tastiest fruit trees to grow?

This depends on what you want the fruit for ie cooking or eating straight from the tree. Walcot grow around 80 varieties of apple tree, and 30 varieties of plums plus cherries, damsons, pears and many more fruits. They include a mix of traditional and modern such as Lord Lambourne, Egremont Russet, Sunset and Lord Derby. More modern varieties – Red Falstaff, Herefordshire Russet and Rajka. So, there is an apple for every sized garden and taste.

Cherries are the first to ripen with their red fruits that can turn almost black if you can resist picking them! Next to ripen are Plums – Victoria is a superb variety but there are many other excellent plums to choose from that extend the season. Then there are Pears, Damsons, Quinces and Crab Apples.

In my humble opinion Cox apples make great eaters and Bramley apples make a fabulous crumble!

How big will the fruit tree grow?

You may have read about root stocks and seen ‘M’ numbers on plant labels and wondered what it refers to. It’s important to understand this to ensure you buy the right sized tree for your plot. Here’s a chart to explain it easily

tree sizes walcot nursery

Pollination

Bear in mind that Apples pollinate apples and no other fruit trees species ie Pears. The same goes for Plums, etc. So, for successful pollination if no other fruit trees are in the vicinity select two or more of the same species to ensure fruiting. Also make sure the trees you buy flower at the same time – this will allow bees and other pollinators to move from tree to tree.

Where should you plant fruit trees?

Growing fruit trees successfully requires an open situation with plenty of light and shelter from prevailing winds. Good light ensures good growth and ripening of fruit. Shelter warms the site and improves pollination (bees don’t like wind and rain), which leads to better growth and fruit production. The ideal soil for fruit trees is a well-drained loam that is slightly acid. Avoid sites susceptible to waterlogging.

How to care for your trees

Ideally stake and tie at planting time, this will stop the tree from rocking in the wind and support the tree whilst growing. Remove all vegetation from around the base of the tree and add mulch to retain water and keep weed free.

Watch out for pests, especially aphids. There are other pests usually around when the tree is fruiting such as Codling Moth (their larvae feeds on fruit rather than leaves) – pheromone traps will help a little. Winter Moth caterpillars can eat early spring growth – wingless female winter moths emerge from pupae in the soil during November to April and crawl up trunks to lay eggs on the branches. To help reduce this happening, apply grease bands around the trunk in the autumn which is a pesticide-free way of keeping winter moth caterpillars away from your pear and apple trees in the spring. Although birds like the aphids and caterpillars and they help feed their babies.

Pruning

Pruning is really important and essentially there are three stages to pruning:

  • Early hard pruning to develop the shape of the tree
  • Lighter pruning to encourage fruiting
  • Once fruiting, pruning to maintain a balance between growth and fruiting.

It’s best to read the article on pruning on Walcot Nursery’s website for detailed information as it depends on the age and type of tree you have.

More detailed information and a catalogue is available from www.walcotnursery.co.uk 

 

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RHS Chelsea Chris Beardshaw

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

Carol Klein on stage RHS Malvern Autumn Show

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

I had the pleasure of meeting the Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein at the RHS Malvern Autumn Show 2019.

As we sat down to talk behind the main stage, one of Carols colleagues shouted over and asked Carol if she had a sewing kit in her handbag, Carol replied “No, but I’ve got a boiled egg, babybel and a piece of chocolate!” So now you know what Carol keeps in her bag… who knew!!! It certainly broke the ice as I found it very funny.

Carol is a regular visitor to the Malvern Shows and loves the people and plants, she says it’s very down to earth and loves mingling with everyone in the floral marquee.

But we all want to know, what’s in Carol’s garden right now that’s looking good?  Here’s what she had to say about some of her favourite Autumnal flowering plants.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii

Rudbeckia yellow daisy

Carol loves this plant as it’s such a ‘sunny’ autumnal flower and grows well in her gardens heavy soil. She went on to say they’re really easy to propagate and it’s best done in the spring.

They are a perennial which grows to around 60cm tall, with dark oval hairy green leaves and bright yellow daisy flowers which bloom from late summer to mid-autumn. Ideal for clay, loam or chalk soils in full sun or part shade.

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’

Molinia Edith Dudszus moor grass

Commonly known as Moor Grass. This grass turns gold in autumn and she loves how it tumbles over in the border and can easily self-seed.

This grass can grow in any moist but well drained soil in full sun or part shade, but prefers neutral soil.  It grows to around 90cm tall so it’s ideal for mid/back of borders. It’s deciduous and its best to remove any dead foliage and old flowered stems in spring.

*TOP TIP* Carol loves Asters and has a top tip of combining similar flowers of different heights to give a tiered effect.

Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’

Aster blue daisy

The word Aster comes from an ancient Greek word meaning star, Carol went on to explain where the variety name came from and it’s an interesting story.  But in a nutshell a Swiss plantsman called Frikart created three new cultivars, naming them after Swiss Mountains: ‘Mönch’, ‘Eiger’ and ‘Jungfrau’.

Monch is a bushy perennial that grows to around 1m tall, likes full sun and is happy in loam, chalk or sandy soil. It has pretty lavender-blue flowers which bloom from August to September. Loved by pollinators too!

Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ (cordifolius hybrid) aster

 

Aster Little Carlow blue daisy

This aster (shown in the back of this photo) is also a bushy perennial that grows to around 90cm tall. It’s happy in most soils – clay, loam, chalk and sandy so long as it’s moist but well drained. It likes full sun or part shade. It may need staking. It’s also easy to propagate in the spring too.  It has pretty violet-blue flowers which bloom from August to October.

What an interesting insight into Carols garden and her advice on propagation is invaluable, she said it’s simple but as asters put all their energies into flowering late in the season, means it’s not until spring that their new roots begin to grow. Chop up an aster in autumn and your divisions may well sulk and possibly die.

We crammed a lot of information into a short space of time, and I would like to thank Carol for sharing her fabulous tips and knowledge with me.

If you would like to see the National Collection of Asters, please visit Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden in Malvern, Worcestershire – it’s a beautiful garden and you can buy Asters too!

Further reading on my blog – https://borderinabox.com/autumnal-asters-add-colour-garden-borders/

Rudbeckia yellow daisy Picton Garden

Aser blue daisy

 

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Aster

RHS Malvern Autumn Show, Worcestershire 2019

orange pumpkin squash in wooden box

 

RHS Malvern Autumn Show 2019

Sadly it’s the last RHS show of the year but what a brilliant show to visit – there really is something for everyone!

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Malvern Hills means the weather can be a mixture all in one day. The showground covers the size of 23 football pitches, so comfy shoes are a must!

This particular show incorporates the Canna UK Giant Vegetable championships and includes 600 giant vegetables with a cumulative weight of 7.45 tonnes, which is the size of an African elephant. You really need to go and see the display for yourself to appreciate the size of the veg and the amount of work that goes into putting on the incredible display.

giant pumpkin

Although as you know my passions are the flowers and gardens – there are no show gardens at this event, but the displays are just as inspiring. I love to see different flower combinations to include colour and texture.

The Floral Art section is an absolute must to visit – the talent on display is impressive and the theme is ‘Autumn Jewels’.  There were various classes to display in, including a festive section such as best dressed door, Christmas table centrepiece and a doormat.  I’m overwhelmed with people’s imagination. This particular floral design uses Amaryllis’, Gerbera and Anthurium – a combination that wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but its so eye catching.

Floral art gerbera amyryllis

 

Floral Christmas Pudding

The Harvest Pavilion showed off benches of vegetables, soft fruit and flowers. The Bramley Apples reminded me of home as Dad grew them in his garden and Mum used them for baking the best apple crumble. Bramleys are a tart and tangy variety best suited for baking due to keeping their flavour after cooking. In 2017 the UK harvested 70,000 tonnes of Bramley apples, which equates to approximately 333,333 apples. Wow!

Bramley Apple

veg

I met the volunteers from Plant Heritage who told me that some plants are quietly vanishing, and it’s their plan to find them and cultivate them before they get lost for good. They explained that plants fall out of fashion, but its vital to keep the plants going whether that’s for food, medicine, ornament or heritage which will enable future generations to enjoy them too.

If you would like to join the Worcestershire Group, it meets monthly in friendly, informal sessions at Pershore College – for further information www.nccpg.com.

Unfortunately I ran out of time (too busy looking at plants!) to visit the World of Animals, but I visited last year and its fabulous and great for the kids too. There’s a load of things to see – from pets such as Guinea pigs, rabbits and giant tortoises, to the Top Dog arena which shows off the best agility dogs in the country as well as an appearance by former blue Peter presenter Peter Purves.

It really is one of the best shows on the calendar, so check it out for yourself – more information is available from https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/malvern-autumn-show.

Dahlia

Aster Picton Gardens

Frank Mathews trees

And finally…. The lovely Carol Klein hosting a Q&A on the Pottager Stage

Carol Klein on stage

 

 

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Picton Nurseries asters

 

Toyah Willcox and her beloved trees

Toyah Willcox medlar tree

I had the pleasure of chatting with Toyah Willcox the fabulous singer/songwriter. Her biggest hits include “It’s a Mystery”, “Thunder in the Mountains” and “I Want to Be Free”. We have a mutual love of gardening and so I asked her what her favourite flowers are and she told me all about her garden and her beloved trees.

“Our garden is not only a sanctuary of peace and quiet, a respite from the awful world of mobile phones, a place where Mother Nature still holds court; it is a place of constant rejuvenation.

At my grand age of 61 I am still surprised by the seasons and how a garden has so much to offer even in the short daylight hours of the winter. I often walk in my garden thinking “so little time so much to learn!”

Latin names will always escape me but I have huge respect for plants and how they fill their space, names aside I love the benign presence of all plants.

Living in a place where gardens in the past 100 years have evolved from allotments, to orchards to places of leisure I am keenly aware how non local plants have found their way into our lives.

I adore our neighbours Magnolia sitting within the same space as many pear trees. So we are about to install three mature Magnolia, which will probably have to be delivered from the river at the bottom of our garden.

In our garden are many varieties of apple, pears, peaches but also old traditional trees such as our Medlar. I am hugely protective of it. The Medlar fruit was a medieval delicacy and it conjures images of servant maids gathering the fruit as it becomes over ripe to turn into a sweet jelly not dissimilar to Quince.

Another outstanding tree in our garden is a Mulberry that must be about 300 years of age. Again I feel like a temporary guardian watching over it, knowing that when this tree was planted, all that time ago, the journey it had made as a sapling was from far afield as France…at least….might even have been farther.

But the crown in our garden is a triple plane. This huge magnificent tree is given regular health checks by our tree specialist, to the point we could be called over protective.

Large trees are part of my childhood and as someone who travels the world I am keenly aware that large trees are getting rare. I am hugely grateful for the trees in my garden that are so much older than me…. I love them in spring, when their foliage is bright; I love to draw them in winter when they are dormant.

They majestically watch us and I enthusiastically watch them!”

I would like to thank Toyah for sharing the story of her beloved trees. If you would like to know more about Toyah, she has a great monthly blog on her website –https://toyahwillcox.com/

If you would like to include these trees in your garden, here is more information:

Mespilus germanica – Common Medlar

Medlar fruit tree

Medlars are ornamental, flowering trees with a good autumn colour and edible fruits – although very tart.  They can grow to a height and spread of 6m x 8m. They prefer full sun or light shade away from strong winds.

The best time to plant a new tree is between November and March. The fruits are ready to pick in late October or early November when they are about 2.5-5cm across, although they are not fully ripe. You can leave fruit on the tree well into autumn to develop flavour provided there is no danger of frosts.

Morus nigra – commonly known as Mulberry

mulberry tree fruits

The mulberry tree is deciduous and has a spreading habit. It grows to around 8m x 10m and becomes crooked and gnarled with time, making an architectural feature. It tolerates a range of soils and can be grown against walls too.

It’s good to note that fruiting may not begin until eight or nine years after planting, so you will need some patience! The Morus alba is the tree loved by silk worms.

Magnolia

Magnolia stellata white flower

There are around 200 different types of Magnolia – with different growing habits and flowers, so you should be able to find a suitable tree regardless of your size of garden.

I like the Magnolia stellata, with its striking white flowers in the spring. You can keep it as a bushy shrub or let it grow in to a tree – its ultimate height and spread is 3m x 4m.

Platanus × acerifolia – commonly known as London Plane

This tree is ideal for urban environments as it is resistance to pollution. It has 3-5 lobed leathery leaves which turn orangey-yellow in autumn. It grows to 35m tall and can live for hundreds of years.

London plane tree

London Plane tree leaf

 

 

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RHS Malvern Spring Festival, Worcestershire 2019

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019

RHS Malvern floral sign

The opening day of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival was fantastic! As you would expect, the show gardens were my priority and they were all of an exceptionally high standard.

Here’s an overview of my favourites;

The Leaf Creative Garden: A Garden of Quiet Contemplation – Designed by Peter Dowle.

Awarded a Gold Medal and Best Show Garden – understandably so as it was beautiful and definitely created a sense of calm. Being able to gaze across the garden and reflective pool to the sculpture of a dancing ballerina, created by Simon Gudgeon made a stunning focal point.

The planting was a mixture of perennials and semi mature shrubs, such as Japanese maples, Box and Cornus along with Digitalis Purpurea, Anthriscus sylvestris and Thalictrum. It was all set off beautifully against the back drop of the Malvern Hills.

RHS Malvern Leaf Creative show garden Peter Dowle

RHS Malvern Leaf Creative show garden

 

The Orange Express Garden – Designed by Villaggio Verde.

Awarded a Gold Medal. It tells the story of fruit production in a remote part of Spain, where a cooperative of growers built a small railway to transport their goods to the market.  The attention to detail was outstanding and it all looked like it had been there for many years – from the Spanish newspaper in the latrine, to marks along the wall where the chairs would have naturally left a mark. This level of detail is what the RHS judges love as it all adds to the story of the garden.

The planting included fruit trees – lemon, pomegranate, plus pistachio and Villaggio Verde’s olive trees, as that is their specialisation.

RHS Malvern Orange Express Show garden

Orange Express show garden RHS Malvern 2019

 

The Habit of Living – A garden in support of Diabetes Uk. Designed by Karen Tatlow and Katherine Hathaway

Awarded Silver Gilt Medal and Best Construction Award. This garden was definitely one of my favourites. The aim of the garden was to raise awareness of the charity and highlight the scale of the condition which affects more people than cancer and dementia combined.

At the start of the garden it has a narrow path surrounded by plum and purple coloured plants such as Heucheras and Sambucas nigra, which flowed past the seating area with a lovely water feature. The path widens as ‘managing the condition’ becomes easier which is demonstrated by the softer and lighter colour scheme of blues and whites flowers such as Iris’s, Geums, grasses and Artemesia.

 

RHS Malvern show garden Diabetes

Diabetes show garden RHS Malvern

 

The Green Living Space Gardens

The Green Living Space gardens started out as shipping containers and were adapted by the designers to show with a bit of imagination a small space can be transformed easily into a beautiful outdoor piece of heaven.

Defiance – Designed by Sara Edwards

Awarded Gold and Best Green Living Space.  It’s based upon a London balcony with the owner being plant obsessed and craving green space in the city.

It had a stylish concrete wall to one side with a wooden pergola across the width of the garden. It was filled with lush tropical planting which contrasted beautifully with the pale grey colour of the container and concrete pots.

The planting was architectural palms, Phormiums and ferns which created lots of texture, colour and height. Sara also used trailing plants across the pergola which softened the edges and she also added a small pond with a large concrete planter which added a further sense of calm.

RHS Malvern Defiance show garden

Defiance show garden RHS Malvern pond

 

An Artists Studio at Home – Designed by Jessica Makins in collaboration with Stephanie Tudor

Awarded a Gold Medal. I loved the colour palette of neutral grey/green planting with highlights of dark purple from the soft Anthriscus and poppies to the almost black centres of the Euphorbias. The wall to the side was made of earthy clay with a seating area and inverted shelves containing white objet d’art.  It created a really relaxed vibe where you would love to sit and draw or read.

Artists garden RHS malvern 2019

 

RHS Malvern clay wall

 

Artists show garden RHS Malvern

Congratulations to all the other garden designers:

Gold Medal – The Mindset by Anna Galagan

Gold Medal – What If in support of Rees Foundation by Sebastian Conrad

Silver Gilt Medal – Mediterranean Terrace by Gabriella Pill

Silver Gilt Medal – The Macmillan Legacy by Gary Bristow

Silver Medal – Grace & Dignity by Lucie Giselle Ponsford

Silver Medal – Ikhaya: Home by Stacey Bright

Silver Medal – The Redshift by Julie Bellingham

Silver Medal – Zeta: Memories of Home by Anastasia Yakovleva

There is so much to see and do whilst at the show such as the Floral Marquee which is full to the brim of stunning plants you can buy from unusual pelargoniums by local nursery Fibrex Nursery to air plants and cottage garden favourites – and everything you can possibly think of and more! It really is a plant heaven and you can spend ages browsing and chatting with the nurseries.

The schools gardens are also a treat to see – it’s so nice to see young people getting into gardening and is filled with enthusiasm with their works of art.

There’s also plenty of shopping for everything you need for your garden from machinery, to glasshouses to ornaments and water features. There is so much to see and do which makes this event a real highlight on the calendar and well worth visiting.

cor ten steel sign

Macmillan show garden RHS Malvern 2019

Lupins

Hooksgreen herbs blackcurrant mint

RHS Malvern floral marquee echeveria

 

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Tree Ferns at Pershore Horticulture College

Beautiful Tree Ferns at Pershore Horticultural College

Tree Ferns at Pershore Horticulture CollegeFollowing an investment of £5.8m in the college facilities, a group of 100-year-old New Zealand tree ferns are now taking pride of place within the Collections House at Pershore College. After meeting the Director of Horticulture, Diane Whitehouse, and Commercial Manager John Farmer; it’s easy to understand their enthusiasm for the project.

The new Collections House is an imposing glass-fronted building on the north side of the college, which creates a semi-Mediterranean climate for growing a number of carefully selected plants. Its sophisticated censor-controlled system maintains a constant 19-20 degrees centigrade, single-glazed windows maximise the natural light, and there are also automatic ‘grow lights’, as used in the tomato farming industry.

Living Wall

Within its new reception area there’s an impressive living wall, but the main eye-catcher is the collection of Dicksonia squarrosa, commonly known as the tree fern, some of which are already 5.5m (18ft) tall.

To stop the ferns drying out, vertical hydroponics have been installed to drip water down the fibrous trunks, in efforts to mimic the growing conditions of their native New Zealand rainforest.

If you’re thinking of growing your own tree fern, remember they only grow about 2.5cm (1in) per year, but can eventually reach up to 6m (20ft) with a spread of around 5m (16½ft).

They can be situated in containers, outdoors, or in a large greenhouse or conservatory, but will need a sheltered spot and winter protection if grown outside. Water the trunks but avoid watering the crowns. They are generally pest free, but remove any damaged or dead fronds.  They prefer a part shade or full shade garden. They like a sandy or loam soil with a pH of acid or neutral soil.

To see the tree ferns for yourself, and to find out more about the courses on offer, contact the college directly for more details, visit https://www.warwickshire.ac.uk/events/open_events/pershore_open_events.aspx

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