Thursday, 31 October 2013

A How-To on Native Hedging Plants

Crataegus Monogyna 40/60cm Bare Root
Planting a native hedge is not only makes your garden more diverse and interesting, but it is also a fantastic way to attract wildlife. It won’t take long until you reap the benefits that your native hedging plant will bring. The berries, seeds and flowers will help attract a variety of birds, insects and more than likely a number of small mammals to your garden.
If you have the patience then the best and cheapest way to create a native hedge is from whips. Whips are young, bare-root saplings, that can be bought in bundles or as single plants around autumn to early spring. They tend to be around a year old when you buy them.
Whips can be easily sourced from your local garden centre. It’s also fairly easily to get hold of them online, where a number of companies will provide them by mail order. It may also be worth contacting your local council as some are able to provide grants under certain circumstances.

Once you’ve got your whips you must then make the preparations for planting. Autumn to spring is the most ideal period for planting, but as long as the ground isn't frozen or waterlogged, you should be fine. Bear in mind that the native hedging plant will be in place for several years, so making sure that the preparations are thorough is essential. Start by removing any weeds and large stones. After that you should dig the area over and mix in some soil

Plant the whips roughly half a metre apart. The spacing of each native hedging plant really depends on how quickly it will grow, as well as how big it is likely to grow. It's better to air on the side of caution when it comes down to spacing because you can always fill in any gaps later on. Make sure the entire area is well watered and give the hedge thick mulch which will help combat any weeds causing a nuisance to the hedge growth.  

Make sure that you feed the native hedging plant every year as well as topping up the mulch. You may also be required to help water the hedge during dryer periods. If you are going to prune the hedge then autumn is the best time to do so. This is so you don’t disturb any nesting birds and the deciduous trees and shrubs are dormant.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Wollemi Pine; A Prehistoric Plant With a Remarkable Story

Wollemi Pine 45/60cm 3ltr

Every year, hundreds of new plant species are described as new to science. Most are of interest only to specialists and have no commercial significance. 

The discovery of the Wollemi pine in Australia in 1995 was a sensation. The genus Wollemia was formally described a year later with W. nobilis as its only species. The tree is so different from all other known conifers that it did not sit comfortably in any existing genus and so needed a new one to be created.

It belongs to an ancient family of conifers called Araucariaceae which previously comprised only two genera. There is Araucaria, famous for the species A. araucana that is commonly known as the ‘Monkey Puzzle’ and is frequently planted in British gardens. The other is Agathis, a massive tree from New Zealand. Trees of the Araucariaceae were much more widespread in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, sharing their environment with dinosaurs, but are now restricted to the southern hemisphere. There are fossil records of Wollemia dating back more than 100 million years.

It is truly amazing that a tree that can grow to 40 metres tall should have escaped detection until 1995. The reason is that only a small relict population, comprising less than 100 trees, survived in a few canyons in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. The difficulty of access to the habitat accounts for its late discovery.

Since Wollemia was discovered, there has been an effective programme of propagation to make the plant available to cultivators around the world and it is now planted in many botanical gardens. It is also available to gardeners, its unique appearance and remarkable story make it a real ‘talking point’. The limited experience of its cultivation suggests that it is tolerant of most well-drained soils and hardy down to -15°C.

Even young specimens in containers are capable of producing cones, both male and female on the same tree. These add to the appeal and help to make Wollemia a suitable candidate for a large pot which can be given some protection in winter by being placed in a glasshouse or conservatory. Container grown plants are available for sale and these can be purchased and placed in a large pot or outside at any time of year. Soil preparation is important so incorporating organic matter and, on heavy soils, some grit will help the tree to establish.