Planting Trees and Shrubs and Pruning Trees and Shrubs
There are two kinds of trees and shrubs; deciduous (those that shed their leaves in the autumn), and evergreens (which keep their leaves and constantly renew them). Those in the first group may be planted at any time they are bare, usually from early November until the middle of March (though November and March are the best times). If the season is late, sometimes planting may go on until a later date.
There is one important exception, the deciduous magnolias (others are evergreen) which should be planted in spring, April or May. Most evergreens do best when planted after the shortest day rather than late autumn.
It is possible, indeed preferable, to prepare the sites for shrubs and trees before they are received from the nursery. The holes should be dug leaving plenty of room for the roots to be spread, and a good portion of decayed animal manure, leaf mould, peat orand a handful of bonemeal incorporated with the which is to go back under and around the young plants’ roots.
The methods ofare the same, ex- cept that in most cases a tree must be provided with a firm stake in its early years. The stake should run vertically quite near the trunk and be at least a foot deep in the ground and a little higher than the trunk and one should be secured to the other. To do this in my own garden I have used everything from scrim, linen, wire buffered by sheets of rubber tyre and the specially made tree tie, rather like a dog collar. The latter is by far and away the most efficient and well worth the money.
Quite the most important thing is firm planting. This means noting the different layers of roots, spreading them out naturally, and packing soil between them as well as over them. If you dig the hole a little larger than you really need, you will have room to work well, so fork over the base also to allow roots quickly to penetrate. You will see on the base of the trunk or stem the old soil mark indicating the depth at which the plant originally grew. You must see that after planting this mark is at the same soil level as it was before. There are exceptions to this rule: heathers, lavenders, thymes and similar bunchy shrubs should be planted deeper.
A great deal will depend upon the condition of the plant when it reaches you. If you have bought canister-grown plants, which, incidentally, may be planted at any time of the year, water both the plant and the site well the day before planting. Then just remove the canister disturbing the root ball as little as possible and insert it in the hole made ready for it. Fill the hole, cover the top of the container soil with a little new soil and press down with the heel of the foot. Test by pulling the plant a little to one side. It should really be immovable or almost so.
Many trees and shrubs arrive from the nursery with the root ball securely bound in sacking. This should be soaked by immersion in a bucket. When the bubbles cease to rise, remove the plant, allow to drain, and uncover and plant, disturbing the root ball as little as possible.
Other plants such ashave roots with no soil on them at all.
In a dry season, I think that it is well worth while standing shrubs, trees, and especially roses, with their roots in water for an hour or two while you are preparing the soil for them. I always place well soaked peat immediately round the roots of plants. Usually the day before planting I have a barrow or bucket ready filled with peat and water added. Peat takes a long time to absorb the water and after twenty-four hours it is nicely moist and ready for use.
Often plants arrive at a time when the soil is unsuitable for planting — it may be frozen or sodden. In this case plants should be heeled in until the conditions are more favourable. At times I have had to keep mine heeled in for months. They seem to come to no harm but I find that the soft paper labels attached by some nurserymen tend to become weather beaten and undecipherable. It is wise, therefore, to write new labels. To heel in, open a trench in some site away from strong winds. Lay the roots in the trench with the tops of the plants slanting at about 45 deg. Cover the roots with peat and then throw soil over this. Firm it down.
Beware when planting trees and shrubs, that frosts, after planting, affect the roothold. The trees or shrubs can become loosened, and when blown about, a hole forms in the soil round the base of the stem or trunk. If this is left opened, water will enter and may rot the roots, so go round the garden after gales and tread the plants in firmly. Do not do this while the soil is still sticky from frost but wait until it becomes drier.
Drought at any time of year is damaging to newly planted trees and shrubs. Evergreens in particular suffer. Not many of these can stand cold east and north winds which can be very drying, especially to foliage. Mulching round the roots in March helps to keep the roots moist. If the soil is already very dry it is wise to water the roots before applying the mulch. Hay and chopped bracken are often used for this purpose. I have seen polythene used effectively but this must be weighted down. During spring droughts and on until early summer it is wise to spray the foliage with clean water.
Gardeners who like me, have had to clear a little land at a time, may want to plant into grassed areas before the final borders are cut out or the garden finally landscaped. This is quite all right so long as a good area of soil is kept free round the base of the plant. You need a circle four feet in diameter for trees for the first four years at least. Later if you wish, grass can be allowed to grow right up near the base. Mulching will keep this clear and cool at the same time. A smaller circle, some two feet will do for shrubs.
Pruning trees and shrubs appears to bedevil many amateur gardeners and I find, as a general rule, that men are inclined to overprune often with no knowledge and little skill, while women do not prune enough! My advice is, if you are not sure, let it stay as it is and do no more than clean up by removing dead flower heads and obviously sickly or very weak stems.
Newly planted flowering shrubs are helped to grow to a good shape byin their early years. After they have obviously settled down, in the second or third year after planting, look each one over and take away the tops of the strongest growing branches. Cut off about six inches. After this, let them grow unaided and they should then make a good shape. Invariably, a good catalogue will advise you on pruning procedure for the plants you buy but here are a few general rules:
Shrubs flower either on stems (usually referred to as wood), made during the previous year or otherwise they flower on the current year’s growth. Usually, the spring flowering types bear bloom on the current year’s wood. Pruning should be carried out immediately flowering is over, and its purpose should be to encourage new growth. I would like to point out that gardeners who grow spring shrubs for cutting actually prune as they gather. When doing this, it is wise to look round the bushes and to take out twisted, weak, crossing stems and also those which are growing too close to the soil where this is not desired.
Summer and autumn flowering shrubs which flower on the current year’s growth should be pruned in March. In this case, cut away the wood made the previous year to the lowest bud. This will promote new, vigorous growth. Always cut a stem near a bud but not so close that you injure the growing tissue. Snags and long pieces of bare stem should be avoided for disease often affects these and can spread over an entire plant.
Owners of small gardens often like to keep plants pruned to keep them within bounds and under control. Where it is necessary to cut a shrub or tree, never lop branches halfway, leaving a mutilated plant. After pruning trees and shrubs, a plant or tree ought still to look lovely and not violated. It is better to take a complete bough right away down close to the main stem of the shrub or tree and to do this every few years, treating a different part of the plant than to hack at it annually. This is a good method to use for plants grown for their arching beauty and which have got out of hand.
Where you want to allow trees to remain but fear that they will cast too much shade, you can safely remove lower branches to let in light. Again, this should be done by cutting them flush with the trunk.
Variegated plants sometimes produce a shoot of green — their original colour. This should be cut out, or the whole plant may revert.
Always use good sharp secateurs and efficient saws and pruners.