Look for the bare necessities
November to March is the perfect time to get bare root plants into your garden. Philippa Pearson recommends her favourite plants and the Herts places to buy them
The beauty of bare root plants and where to buy them
If you’ve been planning putting in new trees, a hedge or roses in your garden, now is the best time to get on with it. Bare root season from November to March, and before stocks of plants are depleted and the weather gets warmer and drier, is ideal.
Autumn and winter were traditionally the main planting seasons for generations of gardeners as this was the only period when new plants could be purchased as bare root specimens – dug up when the plant is dormant. During the 1950s container-grown plants became more widely available which led to the development of garden centres. This expanded the planting period as containergrown stock can be planted mostly throughout the year.
There are huge benefits to planting between November to March however. In autumn the soil is still warm, which gets roots off to a good start over the winter, while watering is less demanding than planting in spring or summer. Another important factor is cost – a barerooted or rootballed plant is quite a lot cheaper than the same size container plant.
You’ll need to get your site in the garden well prepared before your bare root plants arrive, as ideally they should be planted straight away, otherwise the exposed roots quickly dry out. Soak bare root plants for a good 30 minutes in a bucket of water before planting. If you can’t plant immediately, heel plants into a
patch of soil by digging a trench or hole and make sure the roots are covered with soil. It’s best not to plant when the ground is frozen or waterlogged.
If you are looking to plant a new hedge or increase the ones you have, Paramount Plants in Enfield has a great selection, from
‘Plant species together including ones that give dramatic colour’
native beech to hawthorn and holly, and plants to suit different soils and conditions. There’s a good selection of evergreens for screening, and the nursery offers bare root trees for wet or windy sites and autumn colour interest.
Trees that give year-round interest with their bark, foliage, flowers, fruit or shape make a great focal point. If you have room, plant several different specimens together and include ones that give dramatic autumn colour. Maples tick this box and their attractively-shaped leaves turn fiery shades of crimson and red in autumn. Another musthave tree for seasonal foliage colour is Liquidambar styrachiflua (sweet gum tree) which has spectacular rich crimson leaf colour and corky bark. Its handsome star-shaped leaves are similar to some maple and the tree makes a conical outline, adding height to the garden. Tree Heritage in Hertford has a selection of bare root hedging and an extensive range of trees including evergreen, deciduous, standard and feather or multistem trees.
Roses have traditionally been planted during bare root season and family-run nursery Harkness Roses at Hitchin has supplied roses this way to gardeners for over 135 years. There are more than 200 varieties here including shrub, patio, bush and climbing plants. Harkness roses are individually grafted to a root stock, and have 20 months growing time in the field from planting to lifting. It’s a tried and tested way of moving plants from the nursery to the garden.
Choose foliage with interesting shapes and colour