Guidance on considering when to order trees and shrubs

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Please read this in conjunction with the associated chart which you can download by clicking here: The Forest Garden tree availability guide

I find myself writing this item in the February / March period, unusually with 75mm of snow on the ground, as this is the time when I usually get a flurry of enquiries from people trying to fulfil their tree and shrub requirements for the forthcoming growing season.  Just as I did some years ago when I started out, potential customers can get a little frustrated when the plant of their choice is no longer available due to it being already sold out or in the case of e.g. Japanese plum and Almond trees, they can no longer be lifted because they are flowering (as is the case at this very moment).  Hence, I have produced the chart (referred to above) to help prevent you being frustrated during this process.

By studying the chart, you will note that it is not advisable to use the long winter evenings to decide which trees and shrubs you require during the approaching season. Instead, winter is the time to consider which annual plants you will require, though they do not feature in this particular chart. This chart encourages you to make your selection of trees and shrubs in the summer when you might like to obtain a species seen in someone else’s garden.

You can pre-order now for the autumn but the optimum month to order them and to ensure availability, in most cases, is August when the nurseries are organising their stock for the winter.  Please see the chart for clarification.

You can still order after the optimum months (indicated by the darker shades in the chart) but the lighter shading indicates the period when you risk the stock being no longer available for the above reasons.

Note that within the industry there are many variables so the chart is written as a guide for the majority of species and does not cover every method of propagation or size of tree or shrub available.

‘Liners’ refers to plants that are usually in a 7 to 11 cm pot (as a guide a 9cm pot is referred to as a P9) and, for all species, they are ideal for mail order as each container is of minimum weight, which is particularly helpful for ground cover plants where large quantities can be required.

After the plant has outgrown the liner size pot it will be in its second year and, most likely, be in a 1 – 2 litre pot.

Cell grown plants are seeds germinated or cuttings rooted and grown in what looks like a very deep egg tray with a typical cell being 30mm across and 100mm deep.

Young bare rooted native trees 1 to 2 rears old like wild cherry and hazel are usually known as whips or in the case of fruit trees the term ‘maiden’ is used.

The term ‘year old’ refers to a growing season.

Hardwood cuttings are usually bare root or like the seeds can be grown in cells in their first year. However many species don’t make enough size in their first year to sell but can be either bare root or containerised for the second year when most of those species are usually saleable.

It’s worth noting that due to various diseases like Ash dieback there is less movement of native species from Europe and in some nurseries demand has outstripped supply.

A future diary note will include guidance on deciding whether to order ‘Pot Grown’ or ‘Bare Root’ options.

Simon Miles NCH RHS 07/03/2018