From tiny acorns... how to plant a tree

If there's an 'r' in the month, it's a good time to plant a tree, says OLIVE RYAN
From tiny acorns... how to plant a tree

The noble oak had a bumper year for acorns this year, and if you are lucky you may still find acorns that can be planted

THERE is a noticeable difference in the length of the days now, with the evenings closing in early, making for much shorter days and forcing us to slow down in the garden as there just is not the daylight hours to be outside tending to it.

It’s a time to slow down and move to the planning stage for 2021, which, all going well, will bring us another productive growing year,.

Planning is an important part of getting the most from your garden and this may be as elaborate as devising a crop rotation for the vegetable garden and deciding what vegetables to grow for the coming year, or be as simple as introducing a new tree or shrub into some part of the garden this dormant season.

So when is the best time to plant a tree? Some say twenty years ago! That may very well be, but better late than never!

It is said that if there is an ‘r’ in the month it is a good time to plant a tree. We are right in the middle of the months with ‘r’ in them and so it is an ideal time for planting.

It is important to consider what is the right tree for your garden and to look at the height and spread at maturity, as most trees will be a manageable size when planted and will grow considerably over their lifetime.

Planning ahead will ensure that trees will not become problematic in future years by becoming too tall, spreading too close to buildings, or casting too much shade where it is not wanted.

Planting trees has a real feelgood factor and if it is a deciduous tree that loses its leaves every winter, then it will provide an indicator of the changing seasons when you look out the window.

Autumnal hues will be revealed in the fall of the year and fresh new growth in the springtime. Choosing wisely will ensure maximum indulgence regarding colour and interest, and if you’re gardening in a small space, this is an important consideration.

Some good small trees to consider are Crataegus permisilis ‘Prunifolia’ (see plant of the week below).

Sorbus sargentiana is a small tree which can get to 10 metres in height. It has crimson leaf colour in the autumn and generous clusters of bright red berries which the birds love. The new foliage in spring has hints of red through it. This tree prefers a free-draining soil in full sun to reach its full potential.

Salix babyonica var pekinensis ‘Tortuosa’, or the corkscrew willow, is a tree grown for its attractive contorted branches. It is fast growing and can get to over 10 metres, however it can be pruned hard regularly to encourage the contorted new growth. It prefers full sun and a water-retentive soil to thrive.

Betula albo-sinensis ‘Fascination’ (right), or the chinese red barked birch, has brown peeling bark, a pyramidal shape and luminous yellow autumn leaf colour. It is a medium sized tree that can get to over 10 metres and prefers a moisture-retentive but free-draining soil.

Picea pungens ‘Koster’, Colorado spruce, is a medium sized conifer that can get to about 10 metres in height and it has a compact conical shape which brings to mind a Christmas tree. It has bright bluish new growth which matures to a green blue colour. A good tree to consider for decoration outdoors.

Luma apiculata, or myrtle, is a very attractive small tree for the garden. It has small, dark green evergreen leaves that contrast nicely with the cinnamon coloured bark of the trunk. It needs a well drained soil in full sun and shelter from cold winds to thrive and once it is established it will seed itself freely in the garden.

This year has been what is called a ‘mast’ year for acorns, with oak trees producing a bumper crop of seed. Squirrels and jays are two great planters of this seed in the wild as they bury the loot for leaner times during the winter, but do not get round to finding it all and so some of the acorns get a chance to germinate and grow away from the parent plant.

It is getting a bit late but there may be a few still lying around that could be planted in a pot to start your own oak seedling.

Lots of space is needed to grow these native parkland trees and they are commonly seen growing in hedgerows throughout the countryside with their distinctive lobed leaves and domed shape at maturity.

Plant of the week

Crataegus permisilis ‘Prunifolia’
Crataegus permisilis ‘Prunifolia’

Crataegus permisilis ‘Prunifolia’ is considered a small tree which has it all going on.

It flowers in springtime, producing white flowers typical of hawthorns, and these flowers are followed by red clusters of berries, which the birds love.

It also has excellent autumn leaf colour, turning various hues of orange and yellow in October and November. Its thorny branches stand bare for the winter but they are dense and so still provide some screening even when devoid of leaves.

It will grow on most sites, sheltered or exposed, and requires a well drained soil.

This tree will get to an eventual height of between four and eight metres with a similar spread as it has a bushy habit. It may sucker a bit from the base and these suckers should be removed as soon as possible to keep the trunk of the tree clear stemmed and prevent energy being invested in growth that makes it look more like a shrub than a tree.

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