Ten tips for planting new trees

Spring blossom on Malus 'Everest'

Spring blossom on Malus 'Everest' - Credit: Archant

PHILIP NIEUWOUDT, Managing Director of New Wood Trees, offers ten handy tips on how to introduce a new tree into your garden

Summer is drawing to a slow, beautiful end, the nights are drawing in and the leaves are beginning to turn, heralding the arrival of autumn. Strange as it may seem, now is the best time to plant trees in your garden.

At New Wood Trees, deep in the South Hams, our 20-acre nursery is entering its busiest time. This is the season when much of our stock of over 5,000 trees leaves us for pastures new.

Having worked in nurseries across the UK and South Africa for over 15 years I’m always struck by the unique conditions to be found in Devon. A long, mild growing season, lashings of rain and sun, as well as an array of microclimates – some very exposed, others wonderfully sheltered. It makes for interesting planting, that’s why choosing the right tree is crucial; here are my top ten tips for success:

1 Find a passionate plantsman.

Get sound advice. No-one wants to end up with a problem tree that doesn’t thrive. Yet planting the right tree will bring you a lifetime of enjoyment.

2 A tree for all seasons

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When I show people around our nursery, they’re amazed at the abundance of different varieties - trees for flowers, bark, leaf contrast, fruit or autumn colour. Make your choice with all these factors in mind.

3 Buy local

Buy from nurseries that grow in Devon and sell in Devon. Many import trees from overseas that don’t cope with our climate - budding one year, sickly the next. If your nursery stocks hardy native species, it’s a good sign.

4 Mull over multi-stems

They have more foliage than standard trees and are now popular with landscape designers and discerning gardeners. You get more value for money and they can add style and structure to your plot.

5 Aim for architecture

A tree with a natural shape that’s easy, yet interesting on the eye, is an elusive quality that takes years to develop at our nursery. But boy, when you find a good one it can compliment everything in your garden.

6 Scope out your nursery

You can always spot a good supplier, there will be no weeds among uniform rows of trees with good crowns and no dead wood – it’s a giveaway to me. If the nursery’s in good shape, the trees you buy there will be too.

7 Go native

Trees indigenous to Devon are not only in vogue, they’re sustainable and good for local wildlife. They also have the potential to invigorate your garden’s ecosystem.

8 Think specimen tree

Everyone needs the X-Factor, and a semi-mature tree that draws you in can do just that. Yet they’re a costly investment - it’s why I spend time choosing them with our customers, because it’s a decision that can make or break a garden.

9 Health check

All trees should have a well-balanced set of branches and no bark wounds or dead foliage. Check the roots, they should not be uncovered or dry. Never accept any tree with signs of disease.

10 Enjoy the planting

Planting a tree will always be a special moment for me, for so many reasons. A tree is a long-term investment, one that will benefit your garden for many years to come. They stabilise the soil, offer protection against the elements, encourage wildlife and help absorb our over supply of carbon dioxide. Trees can be inspiring, delightful, calming or even reassuring. They can be serious and formal or wild and chaotic, they can be extravagant or simply charming…and it all starts with a spade in the ground.


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