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Spring is just around the corner and thank goodness for that, it's definitely felt a long time coming. The last hoorahs of Storm Eunice and Franklin seem to have blown the cobwebs away, quite literally - or should I say a good portion of the dead leaves, solitary plant pots and garden furniture. It has made me far more grateful for the sunny days that follow and who doesn’t love seeing the first signs of blossom erupting from the trees? This almost always sends me scurrying around getting the last minute ‘dormant season’ jobs done before the big grow. I've managed to get a bare-root beech hedge planted in a sunny yet sparse end of my garden here in Norfolk along with a new hedge in our drive.

Beech grows almost anywhere and will tolerate partial shade as well as full sun. Although it’s not evergreen, it spends its winter with beautiful copper coloured leaves that turn from their lush green in autumn. So you get all the privacy and noise reducing benefits of hedge in leaf, but with a seasonal twist - one that the birds particularly love because its so dense year-round. It’s worth having a look at purple beech too, which is an incredibly striking alternative. Beech is pretty resistant to disease and other things like a severe and inexpert haircut (I’m talking from the experience of a much younger, much less knowledgeable version of myself wielding a hedge-cutter) although to really rejuvenate a beech hedge is it best to do it over a few seasons. I’ve incorporated it in quite a few of garden designs too as it can be sculpted to fit all manner of design styles, from strong architectural shapes to very shaggy informal hedging.

Choosing to plant bare-root is a no-brainer for me, there is a huge array of choice for hedging whips (baby hedge plants) but also bare-root perennials, trees and roses. Since the planting season for bare-root is around November - March, when the plants are fully dormant, you can generally buy hedge whips with a heavy discount. Generally speaking, it is much more cost effective to buy plants this way anyway, especially in larger numbers. Plants are grown in fields with significantly less costs to grow, care for and for shipping when ready. They are fuss-free with no repotting or fancy compost requirements and are healthier for it as they have not been constrained by sporadic watering or lack of root space. They often establish much better than pot-grown counter parts because they are sold to order and have enjoyed the independence of growing straight in the ground. The other real selling point for me is they are much more environmentally friendly and when planning our gardens this needs to become a top priority. Bare-root plants require far less finite resources like water and are often shipped in minimal packaging. My beech whips were delivered in cardboard boxes with a single bin bag wrapped around the roots and I have simply repurposed this for the last of leaves to make some more leaf mulch. I've also planted up seven or so bare root roses from David Austin roses into the garden, which I just cannot wait to see bloom...

Planting bare root is also very simple. With hedging whips the main method is planting a staggered row in a pre-dug over trench. The trench should be a spade wide and a spade deep, some recommend dipping the roots in a special root-grow solution that you can buy and others talk about adding mulch. It’s actually quite difficult to get this wrong and I have been quite successful just ‘slot planting’ which is where you stamp your spade in, give it a wiggle, then slide the bare-root whip down the back of the blade as you pull your spade out, and then stamp it in. Always best to follow the advice of the supplier though and there are some great videos online too. It’s also worth considering whether you need to use a cane or spirals to protect them from pests (we’re fortunate that nothing has nibbled ours so far).

Anyway, that was the last of the late winter jobs for me and now we have everything reasonably tidy in the garden, ignoring the large expanse of soil near the house waiting for our patio works to start. I am very much looking forward to the longer, warmer days here as our newly planted space springs into action (no pun intended!) and the mass weeding ensues. The next job on my list is deciding what to plant in this years veggie patch, any suggestions?

Speak soon, E

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Updated: Dec 6, 2021

It’s that time of year when our gardens really start to wind down, looking more brown than green, with faded flowers heads and leaves slowly dying back. This is where evergreen shrubs come into their own, becoming the true ‘backbone’ of your garden space. Having mentioned shrubs many ornamental grasses also lend structure to the garden throughout winter, with the added benefit of gorgeous spider webs glistening between the blades (grasses are for another day).

Planning in evergreen structure, whether a more naturalistic form shrub or clipped into a sphere, rectangle or any shape you fancy, brings you greenery all year round, which in the depths of winter is greatly appreciated. Talking of shapes, go with what suits your garden style best. I for one love a mix of formal and informal (helpful I hear you say), so I mainly have a mixture of soft naturally sphere shaped shrubs which suit many styles of garden. These are contrasted with the strong rectangular shapes of my hedging, I have beech hedging which isn’t technically evergreen but holds its lovely bronzed leaves through winter.

If you love the more formal style you could consider topiary, again any shape goes. More typical shapes include spheres, rectangles and lollipops however for a more contemporary vibe why not consider bold square clipped blocks or if you’re both brave and creative create your own shape? The contrast of these formal shapes with herbaceous perennials is beautiful.

Box (Buxus sempervirens) has always been a favourite for topiary, but with box blight and box caterpillars causing issues throughout the UK, gardeners and designers have been choosing other suitable plants as a substitute. You could consider using yew (Taxus baccata), Japanese holly (Ilex crenata), bay (Laurus nobilis) or other conifers. Remember the more informal evergreen shrubs can look just as good but lend a different feel.

Here are some favourites for evergreen structure in your own garden:

1) Yew (Taxus baccata)

A very tolerant plant, great for clipping into shapes whether spheres, rectangles or chickens...

Red berries are produced through winter and are a great source of food for our garden birds.

2) Dwarf pine (Pinus mugo 'Slowmound')

A gorgeous compact coniferous shrub, for a more informal style of planting.

Looks great on its own in a gravel garden, with Mediterranean style planting

or even in an informal rockery.

3) Mahonia (Mahoniaeurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis 'Soft Caress')

I've never been a huge fan of mahonias, with their harsh spiny leaves

but this is a game changer for me. As the name suggests the leaves are soft with no spines!

Plus scented yellow flowers in later summer - lovely, also good for partial shade.

4) Holly (Ilex crenata)

Slow growing, low maintenance and a great substitute

for Boxwood due to its similar sized small leaves and habit.

Great for clipping into smaller shapes or for low level clipped hedge in your garden.

5) Bay (Laurus nobilis)

We have a few small standard bays in our garden, they look great and add structure - ours are kept as very informal lollipops as punctuation through the borders.

Perfect for popping into the garden to collect some leaves for the kitchen...

just remember to keep them within arms reach if used for cooking!

Just remember they do like the sun.

6) Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

A stalwart of the formal garden, this dense evergreen shrub has been used as topiary for many years. Unfortunately it has now become prone to both box blight and box caterpillar, therefore thinking of alternatives is wise. Otherwise it remains a fab shrub for winter structure, just think about future proofing your garden.

7) Pittosporum (Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball')

A firm favourite, this shrub naturally grows (as it's name suggests) into an informal globe shape.

I have these dotted through my borders and they're currently covered in lush new green leaves.

Will suit contemporary or more traditional planting plans for a lovely pop of green.

8) Choisya (Choisya ternata)

A slightly larger shrub, this will grow to around 2m wide and tall. Another with lush, glossy green leaves, producing deliciously scented white flowers through the year (if enough sun). Another winner for bringing a very lush green into your garden all year long.

9) Osmanthus (Osmanthus burkwoodii)

Another with a naturally rounded growth habit, this gorgeous large dark green shrub flowers

in spring, producing beautiful highly scented white stars.

Consider planting it in the dark, shady corner of your garden or even as a hedging plant.

10) Red robin (Photinia × fraseri 'Red Robin')

Describing this plant as an evergreen never feels quite right as its new leaves are a most gorgeous, vibrant, glossy red colour. Can be used as a hedging plant, as pleached trees for screening and structure or even as a small multi-stem tree.

Hope this helps to inspire you this winter. Let me know your favourites below!

Keep safe and warm and speak soon,


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Autumn is not only a great time to plant your tree(s) - the more the better - it’s an incredibly beautiful time of the year. Evergreen trees continue being their own beautiful, sturdy, structural beings and deciduous trees start to take on their own gorgeous russet autumnal colours. It doesn’t get much better than crisp, clear blue skies with green, brown, orange and yellow leaves dancing in the breeze, gently falling from their branches to the ground. Who doesn’t love the crunch of crisp leaves on their wanders?

If you’re thinking about planting your first tree or planting further trees in your garden, consider what they can add through all of the seasons. Spring, do they have blossom? Summer, I mean summer generally means glorious greens, greens, greens for any tree (unless it's not a green leaf tree...). Autumn, as you well know brings those beautifully fresh mornings and ever so cosy evenings, with the full glory of the autumn trees looking magnificent. And winter, last but not least - evergreen trees will look good all winter long, with their green coats firmly in tact. Deciduous trees however, will loose their leaves and this is where carefully selecting them for their trunk and branch structure is really key.

Anyway I digress, below are my top five (small to medium) trees for autumn interest - providing glorious colour and gorgeous structure from autumn into winter:

1) Rhus typhina (Stag’s horn sumach) - I’ve actually just planted three young trees, donated by my parents, in my own garden. The delicate leaves turn the most incredible ombre red, orange through to yellow and flutter gently in the breeze. If you can find yourself a handsome multi-stem specimen, you’re really on to a winner.

2) Snowy mespilius (Amelanchier lamarckii) - a true stalwart in the world of garden design. It looks so good all year round! Spring blossom, small fruits for the birds, lush summer greens and beautiful autumn colour before shedding its leaves for winter. Find a sublime specimen, preferably multi-stem in nature and get it in the ground now, you'll thank me later.

3) Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum) - this is a great small tree with many varieties on offer - a versatile tree which also does very well in a pot, so if you’re looking for a stunning specimen for a feature pot then this tree could perfect for you.

4) Beech (Fagus sylvatica) - this one doesn’t fit so well into the small-medium category if grown as a natural tree. If you haven’t seen it growing as a large magnificent tree, then it’s a good excuse to get outside to a deciduous woodland or parkland and see it in all its glory, especially in autumn with its burnt orange leaves. It’s a perfect tree for creating those ever so satisfyingly crunchy leaf lined pathways, however a beech hedge if trimmed in late summer will usually keep its leaves through winter. An option which can be classed as a small-medium tree would be to grow these beautiful trees in a pleached form, a raised square crown above a straight clear stem, giving a formality to your garden whilst also providing screening or helping to create rooms within your space.

5) Dogwood (Cornus kousa) - Another all year round beauty, especially if you find a specimen with a beautiful stem and branch framework for winter interest, still looking good once the leaves have dropped. A relatively small tree with gorgeous white bracts and flowers in early summer and as this article might suggest, the most stunning autumn colours!

Why don’t you see whether any of these are suitable for planting in your garden this month?

*Always check the trees requirements against your soil type and the aspect for planting!

Anyway, who else is ready for that warm spiced latte... do let me know what you plant in your garden below!


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