20 October 2013 - 7:51pm

Take time to chose a tree

We inherited some beautiful mature trees when we moved to ‘Charnwood’. To make sure we continue to enjoy them and pass them on to the next owner in good shape, we occasionally ask a tree specialist to help us to look after them. It’s always money well spent: to see an expert lift and thin the crown of a big old tree is like watching a sculptor make a work of art and the result is at least as good. No cruelly shorn lollipop style trees are allowed here! It was reassuring to hear, too, that our Ash trees have not succumbed to the latest nasty disease, or that our sadly deceased Robinia I wrote about a couple of months ago was not ravaged by honey fungus. Buying in this kind of work is an expense though, so if you are planning to plant a tree it is worth taking the time and effort to think hard about what it is you want from it as some take more keeping in shape than others. It sounds obvious but, if you have a small garden or a small space to fill, don’t plant a big tree and then chop random lumps off it; it almost always looks horrid. There are some lovely small trees that put up with all kinds of weather and need minimal maintenance. Medlar has simple, striking white flowers in spring and grows gently to a short, fairly spreading shape. Euomymus Alata is a tree-like shrub with brilliant, bright red autumn colour. I’ve eulogised several times in this column about the gorgeous dwarf Japanese cherry, Prunus incicsa Kojo-no-mai (pictured) and am doing so again. It has beautiful almond pink blossom on bare, delicate twiggy branches in March and lovely autumn leaf shades. After 15 years or so, ours in now about 3 metres tall. If you have the right soil and a reasonably sheltered spot an Acer is always worth consideration. Some stay quite compact but check before you buy how tall it will get, garden centres can sometimes be a bit unspecific with eventual tree heights. A few years ago, and with the help of our aforementioned tree experts, we started a stumpery in a dark corner of the garden where nothing much grew because of the heavy tree canopy. After a dubious start it’s coming on. Our kind and creative pals Alan and Lauraine built us a magnificent jungle hut that has complemented it very well and I planted some woodland plants and hoped for the best. These include the easy ferns, hardy cyclamen, corydalis, bamboo, periwinkle and spring bulbs such as daffodils and bluebells and they are all doing pretty well. We get some amazing looking fungus appearing,which all adds to the woodland effect and every time we cut a tree down there are a few more lumps of wood to add in. It’s been great fun and it’s a really peaceful spot to sit in and think great thoughts. Or, in Pooh Bear’s words ‘sometimes I sits and think and sometimes I just sits’. Plant tulips now. No excuses, you will thank me next spring. Soak the bulbs in cheap tonic water with quinine in before you plant them and the squirrels won’t eat them. Well, they may have a go but they won’t all disappear overnight! I’ve got two big half barrels of yellow wallflowers; I’m going to plant white tulips among them for a lovely effect. White triumphator are the best in my opinion, they are tall, elegant and seem to withstand a fair bit of bad weather. Burgundy are also a good ‘un, another graceful, lily flowered variety. When we opened the garden in late April last year loads of visitors commented on them. It’s a lovely autumn evening so I’m now going to sit in the garden with a glass and the paper. Cheers!