Pick a choice tree for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions

A tree can be your liv­ing legacy, so plant and grow with care

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Gardening -

One of the best ways to widen your plant­ing hori­zons is to visit a spe­cial­ist grower. At Blue­bell Nurs­ery in Der­byshire (blue­bell­nurs­ery.com), Robert Ver­non and his son (also Robert) spe­cialise in rare trees and shrubs. They are both a mine of in­for­ma­tion. Among the less well­known fac­tors needed to get a tree es­tab­lished is that some choice spec­i­mens are per­fectly hardy when es­tab­lished but are vul­ner­a­ble to dam­age by frost after they come into leaf in early spring. As Robert (se­nior) says: “Bone hardy species that are com­pletely un­fazed by -30C can, es­pe­cially as young plants, be killed once they’re in leaf by -1C or -2C of frost. A typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of this would be Acer tegmen­to­sum, one of the finest snake-bark maples.” It is im­por­tant to leave such trees un­pro­tected when they are leaf­less; oth­er­wise, you will en­cour­age them to come into leaf too early, but as soon as the buds start to open it’s worth cov­er­ing them with fleece or even card­board/ hes­sian on very cold nights. Robert rec­om­mends do­ing the same with Ja­panese maples, flow­er­ing dog­woods ( Cor­nus kousa cul­ti­vars), wed­ding cake tree ( Cor­nus Branch out: clock­wise from left, Ken­tucky cof­fee­tree; con­tro­versa), witch hazels, wal­nuts, hand­ker­chief tree and all mag­no­lias for their first two springs un­less your gar­den is mild. Robert (ju­nior) ex­plained that, as they had run out of room in the more shel­tered part of their ar­bore­tum, they had to plant C. con­tro­versa ‘Can­dle­light’ (a form of wed­ding cake tree) in the ex­posed area. Luck­ily, the late frosts were not harsh enough to kill the trees out­right, but the daz­zling bright gold leaves are reg­u­larly friz­zled from late spring frosts be­fore re­cov­er­ing. So plant th­ese in a west­erly, shel­tered po­si­tion, away from dam­ag­ing early morn­ing sun­light which thaws the frozen leaves too fast. Of the Ja­panese ac­ers, Robert has found Acer pal­ma­tum ‘Osakazuki’, with its chunky leaves, more resistant to late frost; they do scorch but usu­ally come back. One of Robert’s favourite small trees is C. kousa ‘China Girl’, an early-flow­er­ing form of the Chi­nese dog­wood. Usu­ally Chi­nese dog­woods can take around 10-15 years to flower, but this form flow­ers after two to three years with masses of creamy yel­low bracts in June, fol­lowed by straw­berry-like, edi­ble fruits and flaming au­tumn colour. Another un­der­used un­usual tree, ac­cord­ing to both Roberts, is the el­e­gant Ken­tucky cof­fee­tree, Gym­n­o­cladus dioica. New branches have a strik­ing white bloom in win­ter. The dark green leaves, up to 3ft (1m) long, are not dis­sim­i­lar from Koel­reuteria pan­ic­u­lata. It will grow to 33ft (10m). For a flow­er­ing ever­green both Ver­nons rec­om­mend Eu­cryphia x ny­mansen­sis ‘Ny­mansay’ – this grows to 33ft and bears con­spic­u­ous white flow­ers in mid­sum­mer. Found in coastal gar­dens, this su­perb cul­ti­var also flour­ishes in their cold gar­den, in a pro­tected sit­u­a­tion. I would love to plant a Lu­combe oak, Quer­cus x his­pan­ica ‘Lu­combeana’. Th­ese ma­jes­tic trees of­ten keep their leaves all win­ter, though they can also be semiev­er­green. They are dif­fi­cult to prop­a­gate and hence rarely found for sale. Robert sug­gested the more read­ily avail­able Quer­cus x his­pan­ica ‘Ful­hamen­sis’. It has the ad­van­tage of tol­er­at­ing chalky soil, plus fis­sured corky bark and is also semi-ever­green. A client of mine wants to plant some cedar of Le­banon (the only ex­otic tree Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown used in his land­scapes), to take over from an amaz­ing spec­i­men that is be­com­ing over-ma­ture. I no­ticed some newly planted ones in a park re­cently, quite large spec­i­mens sev­eral me­tres high. To es­tab­lish them at this size re­quires a lot of care – it is much more ef­fi­cient to plant trees a foot or so high. Cedars do not de­velop their wide, hor­i­zon­tal tiers of fo­liage un­til they reach 60 years or so. But, when you think of the 400 trees on Mount Le­banon that may be 2,500 years old, why worry?


Eu­cryphia ny­mansen­sis; acer ‘Osakazuki’

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