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New Opportunities

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My attitude when a plant dies has changed over the years – although it’s sad, it has to be looked at as a planting opportunity. This kicked in when I noticed a difference to my beautiful weeping pear tree last year – the leaves had been sparse, and I knew it was on its way out.

I shall miss this beauty every spring, but it had to go. I was up there weeding in February, and twigs and branches kept breaking off, so I knew it was dead. I called in my husband with his loppers and chainsaw, and we made a start.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the way the branches and twigs grow on this tree, but I certainly am! They grow in all directions, crossing over, zig-zagging, at various different angles. This makes it very difficult to remove for disposal – I had to cut off small pieces with my trusty secateurs to fit them into the wheelbarrow and onwards to the incinerator at the far end of the garden.

There was also a complication. I had planted the area under the tree in prevous years, and made a bad mistake.

What a pretty plant this is! It’s Vinca minor ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and I planted two in the shade under the tree back in 2008. Well, by 2013, they had spread over an area of about 12′ × 12′, smothering any other plants. They send out tendrils which root themselves, so each new plant had to be dug out individually so we could get the stump out and find the pear tree roots.

That was a major task!

The roots proved to be very difficult, too. There were three major ones, spreading sideways from the trunk, and almost the same diameter. The only way of removing them was for me to sit in the hole, dig away the soil around each root in turn as far back as possible – then my husband would come and cut off another chunk.

Finally, we left the remaining smaller roots as they seemed to grow vertically. I started digging…and digging.

The Cistus x purpureus that had been planted by our predecesssors had had quite a number of dead branches cut out over several years, and now it was looking well past its sell-by date. I dug that out, and also a very scraggy Buddleia that had been hidden at the back by the fence. While I was in ‘clearing’ mode, I removed some ferns and transplanted them in the shade, and filled the trailer with Iris foetidissima. Amazing how that had seeded itself all over the place!

By this time, I’d realised that I had a huge space to fill. I’d had the idea of planting a Liquidamber in place of the pear, but one tree certainly wouldn’t be enough! I wanted a Liquidamber that has really deep maroon leaves in the autumn, and I researched them and found the right one at a nursery in N. Devon – it’s a Liquidamber styraciflua ‘Lane Roberts’. I’d also spotted a very attractive Cornus ’Eddie’s White Wonder’ in a magazine, so I ordered that too. It was quite fun getting an 8’6" tall tree home in my husband’s estate car – it reached from the tail-gate to the windscreen, and I had branches under my chin! I fell for a very pretty Pittosporum at the nursery, so that came home with us too.

Pittosporum ‘Trims Hedger’

The leaves really are almost lime-green, and of course this shrub provides some green in the winter. It should get to 15’ tall, and it’s a hardy one.

I carried on digging in preparation to start planting, and dug out rocks, large stones, more pear tree roots, plus lots and lots of bindweed roots – this area is right next to the farm, and I get brambles, nettles and worst of all, bindweed growing under the fence. I spread four bags of manure over the area as it hadn’t had any nourishment for years.

I had started a ‘shopping list’ of other suitable shrubs and plants, and off I went to see what I could find – armed with my Christmas garden vouchers.

I found a Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’, a Nandina domestica, a Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’, a Clerodendron trichotonum, and Pulmonaria ’Blue Ensign, a few Cowslips, a box of six yellow Polyanthus, two pots of Tete-a-tete Narcissi, and two little pots of Aubrieta.

I also rescued three shrubs from under the Pampas Grass ‘skirt’ – this was cut back to 18" and fertilised in 2011, and it has gone crazy since then! There was plenty of space for them.

I almost forgot – I moved a rose from behind the Pampas grass, and planted that and a new one up against the rather bare fence. In time, they’ll make a big difference. My new area will look much better when all the leaves appear, too, and I’m planning to plant bulbs around the shrubs next autumn.

Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’

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Comments

 

that was definitely an opportunity worth grabbing ~ you have some fabulous new plants, i shall look forward to seeing them grow and blossom!

13 Mar, 2013

 

Fantastic renovation work B! I am so glad you warned me about that vinca...I nearly bought it for my shade garden. Must say, it is extremely pretty, but I definitely don't want anything that rampant!

Isn't it amazing how many plants you can easily fit into the space vacated by basically one small tree! It looks marvellous...well done both of you! I venture you slept a bit better that night after you took out those tree roots!?

13 Mar, 2013

 

What an amazing transformation! I'm sure you'll miss your pear tree, but the consolation will be the enjoyment of watching that new area develop and give you loads of pleasure over the coming years. Your choices for the new area sound very lovely, hope you'll keep us posted as it develops.

13 Mar, 2013

 

What a mammoth task that turned out to be,Spritz..but you will be glad you did it..your new plants sound lovely..and new life is waiting to grow and give you a lot of pleasure...well done..:o)

13 Mar, 2013

 

Job done in stages then Spritz but well worth it, its sad when a favourite has to go and yes it will be missed at first but won't take long for all the new ones to fill the gap and we all know how quickly you replace your plants, the area where the spreading juniper was is proof of that, I will be looking out for your updates as to the area's progress...lol...
Its good fun when travelling home with purchases spread around the vehicle, we always say we'll get it in somehow as long as its safe for the driver and not impairing the drivers vision, determination goes a long way when really wanting something, bet you were also more concerned about the tree than your own skin, been there and done that as well, lol......

13 Mar, 2013

 

Ruthless....that's what u are SptizH......ha ha .But it had to be done! what a shame about the weeping pear..such a lovely shrub/tree.A former customer of mine had one which was huge and obviously very old because the people had been there 27 years and it was there when the arrived! So, they can be long lived!
it, as you say, planting opportunities!

13 Mar, 2013

 

I can't quite believe that I managed it all - it was only a year ago that I had my op and I'm so pleased that my stamina is coming back. When I was digging, I had to take breaks, but doesn't everyone?

Yes, I was ruthless, Paul - but needs must. I'm hoping to make this area interesting year-round. At first I thought it might be a spring/autumn area, but with the transplanted shrubs and roses, it'll be fine during the summer, too, I hope!

Karen, please be warned about Gertrude. She started off as a 'good idea' but look what happened - she changed into a thug when I took my eyes off her!

13 Mar, 2013

 

Don't worry! having read your blog, I am safe from Gertrude! Glad you can feel your stamina returning!

13 Mar, 2013

 

I hope the clerodendron behaves - it does tend to sucker after a few years and then you might wish you had Gertrude Jekyll back instead

13 Mar, 2013

 

You are an amazing woman. I am so hoping we can get down for one of your open days.

13 Mar, 2013

 

As one door closes...
Bringing trees down, as close to the soil as safely as possible, then driving 3 or 4 copper nails into the stump usually does the trick, if
you don't fancy chasing the root & hastens decomposition, too.
You completed a herculean task & should be proud of it & deserve all the praise you get.
I salute you!

14 Mar, 2013

 

I shan't mind if my Clerodendron suckers, Andrew - it's such a beautiful tree. I shall never, ever plant another Vinca!

Thanks, K. Yes, I can get quite a lot of gardening done now, thank goodness. I still take breaks, but I'm a year older, too - so I can't expect to be 'Superwoman'.

I do hope you can, Scotsgran - you'll be able to see the results of all this!

Thanks, Mouldy. That was a lovely thing to say. :-)) Maybe I should change my name to 'Hercules'! I couldn't have left the roots to rot, as I HAVE to fill any empty spaces in my garden...It's a compulsion. LOL.

14 Mar, 2013

 

As our Council Arboricultural Development Officer can now accept donations for memorial trees in the Borough I have offered to pay for a Liquidamber styraciflua, as I saved some money indulging in vegetarian cookery all winter.
Saw Liquidamber on one of Hywel's blogs. Knew my Dad would have loved the red leaves.
The one Hywel photographed was among other small trees in a car park.
Our expert now informs me that this tree needs a lot of space to reach its full potential. So she has to search for the right location. (See photo RHS Encyclopaedia.)
Dont know if this applies to all Liquidambers.
Or if you have bought a smaller species ?
Be awful if you have to cut it down later on.

14 Mar, 2013

 

I have been itching to see what you were going to do and I am pleased that you have finally got round to the blog. especially as you have had all the flooding problems to contend with. superwoman definitely :o)

this area will knit together beautifully. do you have any bits of gertrude left???? I have a spot that resolutely refuses to grow anything. I wonder if she would manage a bit there.

but I do notice some bare soil tsk tsk, thats not like you:p haha

14 Mar, 2013

 

How about potting up Gertrude if she has not left the garden yet and offering her on open days. I would plant a bit in a pot. I have Vinca Major and Minor and a purple one which I banned from the garden but they do well in pots and are lovely flowers.

14 Mar, 2013

 

I forgot to say that I was warned that I could have a similar problem with sarcococca confusa so I put it in a black florists pot with the bottom removed and buried it up to just over the rim and it is easy to cut away the excess growth.

14 Mar, 2013

 

Diane, I know the Liquidamber will grow to be a large tree eventually, but it has plenty of space where it's planted. I chose L. styraciflua 'Lane Roberts' because it's known for its very dark maroon autumn colours. If you do decide to pay for a tree, which is a lovely gesture, then look for one with good colour - some turn orange/yellow rather than deep red.

Sbg, funny you should say that - you know me, I did pop a few pieces in pots, so I'll send you one when it's rooted properly. I don't like the bare soil, but I do want to plant bulbs for next spring!

Yes, Scotsgran, I hope to have a few 'Gertrudes' for sale, with a 'thug' warning!

14 Mar, 2013

 

Good on both counts.

14 Mar, 2013

 

Lovely to see your new plantings Barbara. That vinca reminds me of a mistake I nearly made recently while looking through some old gardening magazines. There was a pic of Fallopia japonica var. compacta 'Milk Boy' in an American garden....such gorgeous leaves ...I WANTED it. Upon googling, I found it was a japanese knotweed!!! Not saying the vinca's that bad lol. I'm thinking along the same lines as you regarding 'out with the old' and have removed a viburnum opulus which was devastated each year by viburnum beetle and another viburnum (summer snowflake) which was no longer flowering so well, though not attacked by beetle. This one had also suckered so I had, more or less , to remove two snowflakes. Ruthless that's me now. Isn't it satisfying:-))

14 Mar, 2013

 

Great blog, Spritz - amazing how much space even a "small" tree takes up, underground as well as over.

Sadly, nothing lasts forever, much though we might wish otherwise; but our gardens would never change and develop in that case.

14 Mar, 2013

 

You're right. We were both astonished at the root system of the pear tree. :-O

Unfortunately, things that were planted by our predecessors have come to the end of their life, and I've had to accept that. I think they'd be suprised how different the garden is from their time here. There are more changes to come, too!

That was a lucky escape, Ba! It might have been a diasater!

15 Mar, 2013

 

I read somewhere that tree roots extend as widely as the branches; they need to, to provide enough anchorage.

"previous tenants" are the cause of a lot of bother, I think: they plant trees which are nice while young, but which, when grown, are much too big for the available space - but by then they've moved on so it's no longer their problem!

What will you do with the wood? use it around the garden, so at least hte pear trea still has some prescence?

15 Mar, 2013

 

No, it'll be sawn into logs for our log burner! :-)) Some of it already is. There wasn't anything that would be usable apart from that.

You're right about 'unsuitable' trees, though. They planted a Cedrus deodara which was about 8' tall when we came, and now it's towering!! We were talking about it this week, and wondering if it should stay or be felled.

15 Mar, 2013

 

does it affect the neighbours' speaces? if it interferes with how much sun they get, sure they'd have an opinion on that! come to that, how does it affect *your* light?

it might be possible to "split the difference" - get it cut back to a more manageable size? Maybe you could get advice from local authority? If they reckon it should be removed they might do it, and save you £££££

I've been listing trees for my garden (for when I get a garden that's worthy of the name!) - I look at "eventual height" and anything over 12-15 feet is crossed off, or moved to "when I get a garden the size of the New Forest" list.

15 Mar, 2013

 

All trees have a root system that extend as far as their branches, Franl155, for anchorage, balance & feeding.
Some extend further. A lot further!
About 70-80% of the rootlets are found in the top 4" of soil.
It's those other 20-25% that we all picture (like the taproot) that Spritzhenry did heroic battle with, lol.

16 Mar, 2013

 

There aren't any neighbours where the Cedrus deodara is, and it's planted in the large lawn, so it doesn't really affect anything! It's just ginormous and OH used to be able to mow round the back of it - but can't now. Its virtue is that it's a lovely shaped tree. It would ruin it to try to take any action. If we had to have it felled, the roots would have to stay in. I certainly wouldn't battle to get those out!

The trees that cause us the most hassle are the three very tall poplars which 'they' planted on our boundary. The roots are at the surface of the ground, and it's impossible to mow over them. They also send up suckers, which I try to rip off, but end up by cutting.

17 Mar, 2013

 

It sounds like those three trees are more in need of corrective action than the big 'un!

I've got a few "garden design" books, and it always amazes me that they site trees on the edges of the garden - it's like these designers live in a vacuum - they obviously don't have neighbours who might object to having someone else's tree overhanging their space.

17 Mar, 2013

 

I think they're scared of legal action, should a tree planted too close to a house undermine foundations & cause collapse.
Those poplar roots are the feeders, Spritzhenry.

17 Mar, 2013

 

They're not anywhere near our neighbours - there's a field behind the boundary, so it's fine.:-) I wish the roots were further down, though.

17 Mar, 2013

 

More nutrients near the soil surface, as frost rises + those they get from the surface itself, like dead grass, plants & their own leaves, 1st as mulch, then rotted organic matter.
Clever things, trees. Lol.

18 Mar, 2013

 

When I repotted large plants I put a bit of plastic tubind in with hit, so that I could water directly to the roots - I'd heard that otherwise the roots will tend to rise to find it. Might be a bit late for your trees, but maybe sinking a tube down might stop them lifting any futher and encourage them to go back down again, even a bit?

19 Mar, 2013

 

No chance, Fran, although it's a good tip! They're enormous mature trees, and the roots go right across the flower beds and lawn. :-O

20 Mar, 2013

 

ah well, it was worth a try! might be useful for planting your next tree or shrub!

20 Mar, 2013

 

Yes, it might - I could try it with my new Liquidamber! :-))

20 Mar, 2013

 

Anyone running a book? Lol.

20 Mar, 2013

 

On what?

I've added a few more plants in the last couple of weeks, but there's still a lot of emptiness. I think I might plant geraniums when the GCs get them in...now there's a surprise!

21 Mar, 2013

 

I've been saving 2-litre milkb ottles for irrigation purposes: prick some holes in the bottom, bury when I repot the plant, so that I can fill the bottle, put the lid on, and (hopefully) the water willbleed out slowly to keep the roots watered - 1-litre bottles for smaller plants.

I did bury a 5-litre wter bottle in our old communal garden for some huge plants - the problem is to get the holes only just big enough for the water to drip out, rather than gush! but even so, maybe the soil needs it - it'd only take the water it needs, so if it gets a lot at once, maybe that'll hold it for a while.

For small plants, I tried using Actimel yoghurt drink pots - the problem, as always, is to get the hole just the right size - tpo small and the water can't get out, too big and the smaller roots might drown.

I did think of putting small cloth "wicks" in the holes and leading them closer to the roots, but that proved to be too much like hard work.

21 Mar, 2013

 

My goodness! I couldn't handle doing all that, Fran.

Actually, as it's pouring again, I need to 'blot up' water, not give my plants any more!

22 Mar, 2013

 

According to the BBC, there's more rain and snow on the way http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21885817

I had a go at potting pots because otherwise everything has to watered by hand every day in dry weather - and I've got about 100 pots to do the rounds of! (well, I had before winter, don't think I'll have that many when they all come out of the greenhouse) - they still all need waterting by hand, of course, but at least it doesn't have to happen every single day!

22 Mar, 2013

 

Cloth 'wicks', there's your answer.
Wicks to blot and bottles to allot...the blot & allot system of water management, or 'BlotAllot'. Lol.

22 Mar, 2013

 

lol Mouldy, you should patent it!

22 Mar, 2013

 

Fran, do you ever stand still?
Whatever it is that keeps you going, now THAT I'd just love to patent, lol!!!

22 Mar, 2013

 

if i could identify it, it'd already be on the shelves!

22 Mar, 2013

 

Probably not...you'd be sold out, permanently. :-)

22 Mar, 2013

 

lol there's always more where that comes from!

23 Mar, 2013

 

You could be a millionaire, Fran. :-D)

23 Mar, 2013

 

sigh, if only!! lol, well I am rich in every way except the financial one! that's the least important, but would still be handy. Oh, the garden I'd have then!

23 Mar, 2013

 

Not having your stamina, Fran, I'd hire a team of minions. Lol.

23 Mar, 2013

 

going to, Mouldy! I'm visually and mobility impaired: I can't drive and there's a few household chores that | can't do, or can't see to do. I'd have a whole team of staff, apart from the garden - that'd be mine! well, I'd have some help to do the actual heavier work but the design would be all mine, and the lighter tasks.

*s* got it all planned, now all I need is the right numbers to come up

23 Mar, 2013

 

Fran's Plans. Sounds like you've got it all figured, lol.
I'm lucky that I don't have any visual impairment, something most of us take for granted.
Physically, however, I'm about ready for the knacker's yard! :-)

23 Mar, 2013

 

Don't say that! Look what happened to me this time last year, and although I'm not 100%, I've been digging, tree planting, etc, etc. I said at the time that I refused to be an invalid, and I really think it's 'mind over matter'. I take breaks and try to pace myself now. My husband calls it 'obstinacy'. LOL.

24 Mar, 2013

 

having even this much of a garden keeps me alive, even if it does half kill me sometimes! But could there be a better way to get half-killed???

Sorry, Spritz, we seem to have drifted away from the original theme of this blog

24 Mar, 2013

 

Yeah, I pace myself, too...about a dozen behind everyone else! Lol.

24 Mar, 2013

 

That's OK, Fran. Don't mind me! :-D)

How do you know that, Mouldy?

24 Mar, 2013

 

How do I know what, Spritz?
Is this a trick question? Lol.

25 Mar, 2013

 

Nope - I meant how do you know you're behind everyone else? ;-)

25 Mar, 2013

 

That Mouldy had better not start muscling in on my entrepreneurial empire>:-[ Anyone want some snow? Fran if you fill your bottles with our pristine Midland snow, all your drought problems this summer will be solved. Snow can be harvested and stored just as easily as water. Anyone interested should contact B.A.Irrigation Ltd, as seen on tv:-))

25 Mar, 2013

 

Thank you, Ba, but I must regretfully decline. I would probably blow a fuse if I caught a glimpse of s**w.

25 Mar, 2013

 

I'm dreading it thawing too Barbara. Our nice neighbours have cleared our drive and piled a lot of the snow on my front beds which have had drainage problems. I'm trying to think how to remove some of the extra snow without hurting their feelings or seeming ungrateful, it's over 2 feet high in parts. My poor tulips had poked their heads out and I even had the odd viola flowering before the snow came:-)

25 Mar, 2013

 

I'm an idea man, BA, so your millionaire plans can carry on as usual. Lol.
F'rinstance your snow problem...Chuck it at them BA!
Double whammy. Pay them back with a smile on your face & make a game of it. Lol.
Seriously? Build a snowperson or big snowflower.
They'll comment on it & you just pretend the drainage problem occurred to you moments after you began to build your snowthingummyjig & you hope they know how grateful you are for their effort.
With luck, they'll appear just after you start this mamoth project, clear the problem & construct it for you.
Free snow figures for life. ;-)
Next!
Ah, Spritz, how do I know I'm behind?
Because they're all in front of me. ;-)l
Nobody else? Then my work here is done. LOL.

25 Mar, 2013

 

Missed this blog, well done, so pleased to see you back to your normal robust health, we had the same problem with the Robinia Frisia, I was in the hole and OH had the job of cutting enormous roots, even though the tree was dead, the roots went down, not out, and took days to eventually get the tap root out, just left us with a big gaping hole, a good excuse to buy more plants though?
Will look forward to your photos, as your new border matures B........love your choice of tree!!

25 Mar, 2013

 

I was in a chat room last night, and someone told me about an enterprising young man who'd put a sign up on his snow-covered garden "Build your own snowman only £3" - he supplied the shovels and the ground space and apparently several people took him up on it!

Maybe advertise "free snow for your own snowman" might work??

25 Mar, 2013

 

BA, you're missing a trick, here.
Those millions won't make themselves. Lol.

25 Mar, 2013

 

I'm afraid Mouldy I would need a passing trade for this one to work, one of the disadvantages of a cul-de-sac:-(

26 Mar, 2013

 

Thank you, Dd. I'm not 100%, so 'robust' isn't quite the word, but I can do most things now. :-))) I'm adding plants all the time. I quite fancy a Cytisus in the middle, but it has to be the right one.

I'm letting Mouldy, Fran and Ba sort out their business plans on their own. ;-)<sigh>

26 Mar, 2013

 

lol we'll need a good backup team!

26 Mar, 2013

 

Count me out, guys.
I'm starting a millinery business.
Motto...If you want to get ahead get a hat.
<<<<<:-)

26 Mar, 2013

 

That's a good motto - now where have I read it before? Hmmm...

27 Mar, 2013

 

It's bound to be from someone clever.
I just 'liberate' wisdom, I don't create it...too busy with my new hat business. Lol.

27 Mar, 2013

 

Let us know when you've made your first million! ;-)

28 Mar, 2013

 

I think you'll find Mouldy tha B.A.Fashions own the patent on the chevron hat, in fact we've cornered the market:-)
Spritz, stop encouraging him:-)

28 Mar, 2013

 

million pounds or million hats? *s*

28 Mar, 2013

 

Was gonna ask the same thing, Fran!
It's a supply & demand business, Spritz & BA has demanded I stop supplying dunces (Ha-ha, BA sells dunces caps!) headwear, so I'm selling to the smart crowd.
Told you I was an ideas man.
Ready to be educated, BA?
How about...a mortar board? L:-)

28 Mar, 2013

 

Stick a brim on a dunce's hat and you can sell to "witches" and open up a whole new market!

28 Mar, 2013

 

BA?
Mortar board?
Education?
Oh, PLEASE, tell me what I have to do to get a laugh?
;-)

28 Mar, 2013

 

I dread to think! The mind boggles!

29 Mar, 2013

 

Mouldy my man, I see your mortarboard is missing a tassel ...ahem... we do a very good line in tassels at B.A.Fashion Ltd at very competitive prices:-)

29 Mar, 2013

 

Lol. Specsavers, BA...tassel's dangling over right eye.
(Mouldy adjusts his tie smugly) :-)<\\\\\>

29 Mar, 2013

 

Nobody would ever think that this blog started out being aabout GARDENING, would they? <sigh>. You two - I'm leaving you to your businesses...while I deal with more pressing things. LOL.

30 Mar, 2013

 

Yeah, I've got some ironing to do as well, Spritz.
These longjohns are a bit wrinkled. Lol.

31 Mar, 2013

 

Absolutely NO comment, Mouldy. ;-Z

31 Mar, 2013

 

Lol.

1 Apr, 2013

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