Tag Archives: planting

Spring flowering bulbs

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bulbs laid out ready to plant

bulbs laid out ready to plant

Although it is possible to have bulbous plants flowering in your garden nearly all year, most of us in the UK and USA treat spring as the most important season for a flowering bulb display. Although they flower in the spring, these bulbs need to be planted in the autumn; so now is the time to be planning and purchasing your spring flowering bulbs.

At Plews we don’t generally plant too many bulbs at one go. Planting hundreds in one day is a chore we leave to those who have park displays to organise. However, we do offer bulb planning and planting as part of our service to regular clients, as well as part of an overall garden or planting design. Designing and planting containers whether for seasonal variation or for a special occasion is one of those tasks which is pleasant to add into a regular maintenance schedule.

Rather than dashing into spring bulb buying and then regretting the result next year, make yourself a coffee and

“Take the time to plan before you buy. Some questions you may like to ask yourself: are you planting in borders, containers, naturalising in grass? How many containers and how big are they? If in the borders, let’s be practical, consider how many bulbs you have the time to plant. Oh yes, and is there currently room in the border where you’d like to plant or do you still have late flowering Helenium and dahlias in full bloom?

Let’s find some answers. If your borders are still full and looking lovely, then congratulate yourself on a having a fine late display of colour. Make a note to look for and buy later flowering tulips and narcissus (daffodils). These could be planted when your Heleniums have gone over and still flower when they should next year. Another option is to buy the early flowering varieties you covet but plant them in pots. A further choice is to accept that they are likely to flower a bit later as you’ve planted them later.”

(Extract from Plews eBook “In Your Autumn Garden”)

Tulip 'dolls minuet'

Tulip ‘dolls minuet’

As for planting, the rule of thumb is to plant bulbs about three times as deep as the diameter of the bulb. This could be time consuming if you’re going to measure each one! The rough guide we use at Plews is that for larger bulbs, for example, Tulip, Daffodil and Hyacinth, we make a hole about 6-8” or 15-20cm deep. For smaller bulbs, for example, Crocus, Muscari, Bluebell, we make the hole about 4-5” or 10-12cm deep.

So, what are some of the more popular spring flowering bulbs? Some of Plews favourite spring flowering bulbs are:

Narcissus 'jetfire'

Narcissus ‘jetfire’

For vibrant displays:

Narcissus ‘February Gold’ and Narcissus ‘jet fire’ – a mix of to give you a brightly coloured display to liven up your mornings from February to April;

Bright red Tulip ‘Red Riding Hood’ has variegated foliage so extends the interest beyond flowering time; looks good in pots and borders.

Hyacinth 'Delft blue'

Hyacinth ‘Delft blue’

For softer shades:

Tulipa ‘dolls minuet’ has soft crimson red petals, with the subtle markings of the viridiflora tulip group;

Hyacinth ‘delft blue’ has the added pleasure of a delicate scent; plant it near a door so you can enjoy the perfume.

daffodils and pansies in patio container

daffodils and pansies in patio container

Remember to protect your bulbs once planted, so the squirrels don’t dig them up. If you’re planting in pots, we’ve found that adding shallow rooted winter bedding over the top of the spring bulbs generally works. The flowers in your winter display should keep going until your spring bulbs flower; how organised is that!

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design
Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

Garden Visits: Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye

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the ruined castle Armadale

the ruined castle Armadale

Planting inspiration from the historic Armadale Castle gardens on the Isle of Skye, where the Gulf Stream offers a mild climate and the chance to grow a wide variety of species, including many tender ones.

cat in the gardens castle Armadale

cat in the gardens castle Armadale

Armadale Castle is the home of Clan Donald Lands Trust in South Skye. We visited last summer, on a somewhat damp day. The ruined castle looks across to the mainland and formed the starting point of our walk through the gardens.

white peony

white peony

The yellow themed border with Giant Scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) and tall Elecampane (Inula), Achillea at middle height and low growing Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) was in its early flowering stages when we saw it. This was a good mix of plants, giving flowers from late April through to September, a range of heights that would change over the same period; and a variety of foliage colour and form. It’s the sort of mix that could look a mess unless you find a link between the different plants; here the link was, if I may sound artistic for a moment, that the flowers all had the same tone of yellow as their base, although the shades of yellow were different.

yellow flower border castle Armadale

yellow flower border castle Armadale

 

steps to the woodland walk

steps to the woodland walk

We decided it was a bit too wet to explore the woodland trials as fully as we would have liked, but we did have the opportunity to see the Museum of the Isles which had some fascinating displays and educated us about the Lordship of the Isles. The Raven on the Rock memorial outside the Museum is stunning and eerily lifelike when first viewed through a mist of rain.

Raven of the Rock memorial

Raven of the Rock memorial

The playful otter as a central feature to the pond was a welcome change from the more frequently found fish or small cherub. It is in keeping with the location of the gardens, and would look out of place in an urban garden; but the concept of adding a beautiful statue as the pond’s focal point, something which has meaning for the owner of the garden, is an idea worth considering.

pond with otter

pond with otter

As well as planting inspiration, we came away with two new herbaceous plants, Geranium ‘hocus pocus’ with dark highly serrated foliage and mid purple flowers and Centaurea Montana ‘Jordy’ a perennial cornflower with almost black flowers, both of which we’d seen in the castle gardens. There were quite a few different geraniums in the borders; they do well in the damp conditions being mildew resistant unlike some herbaceous perennials. A factor worth considering if you have a damp shady garden, as many of the varieties will tolerate shade. Many of them will also be happy in dry shade or even a south facing border; you just need to pick the right cultivar.

Geranium 'hocus pocus'

Geranium ‘hocus pocus’

The perennial cornflowers are more often found as blue flowering forms. They can be prone to mildew, and to flopping; the best way to get round this is to cut them hard back after the first flush of flowers just as they’re starting to flop. They will repay you by flowering again in only a few weeks; cutting the flowers to take into the house is another tactic to reduce the flopping tendency – and give you pretty flowers too.

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

raindrops on Hosta leaf

raindrops on Hosta leaf

 

Patriotic Gardens or how to find Summer Planting Inspiration

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red pelargonium,blue front door

red pelargonium,blue front door

How does your garden grow: colourful in the spring and then all green in the summer? If you missed out on using last year’s Diamond Jubilee as planting inspiration why not celebrate sixty years since the Queen’s Coronation instead?

The plants below flower during the summer months so will brighten up your garden. Plant them in combination: for example, one white rose at the back, three blue delphinium and five low growing red dianthus at the front.

Red roses

Red roses

white iris

white iris

geranium johnsons blue

geranium johnsons blue

red dianthus

red dianthus

white rose

white rose

blue delphimium

blue delphimium

red cytisus (broom)

red cytisus (broom)

white lily

white lily

blue eryngium bourgatii

blue eryngium bourgatii

Some more planting combinations

red persicaria, white geranium, blue pansies

red persicaria, white geranium, blue pansies

white cosmos, red scabious, blue eryngium

white cosmos, red scabious, blue eryngium

You could even have Coronation colours in the vegetable garden with red strawberries, blueberries and white currants…well, at least until you ate them!

Marie

Plews Garden Design offers design and build gardens and planting designs for borders. Drop us an email with your query.

Design Inspiration from Cawdor Castle Garden

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A rainy day in June and a Scottish garden full of interesting plants. This week’s blog is largely a photo blog, letting the flowers, trees and shrubs do most of the talking.

It was a very damp day, overcast with that constant fine drizzle that epitomises a British summer. But the weather didn’t stop the garden at Cawdor Castle from looking wonderful. Or rather the three gardens – as the whole is made up of The Walled Garden, The Flower Garden and The Wild Garden.

The family motto ‘Be mindful’ may not mean ‘take time to reflect on the delights of this garden’ but it is a good interpretation – the garden has many different faces and they reveal themselves through glimpses and long vistas and then suddenly close to.

 

 

 

The Walled Garden
The Holly Maze was being renovated when we were there (a good excuse for another visit) but the knot garden was a delight, as was the orchard with its statuary.

 

 

                                                                                                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

The Flower Garden
Originally the borders gave interest in late summer when the family were there for the shooting season. The planting has been added to and this looked lovely in mid June with Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) and other early herbaceous perennials.

Cawdor castle did not actually have anything to do with Macbeth until Shakespeare put the two together in a play, as the castle wasn’t built until the 14th century and Macbeth was king of Scotland in the 11th century.

“This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses” [Shakespeare, Macbeth]

Is at least a true reflection of Cawdor Castle in its garden; we took away lots of inspiration from our afternoon there and look forward to our next visit.

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens of Remembrance

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The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Even gardeners stop for two minutes to observe the silence.

Remembrance Sunday is about gratitude and respect for those who gave their lives to protect us. The planting around the headstones and in the graveyards is in the charge of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Sir Frederic Kenyon summed up his vision for the Commission cemeteries in February 1918 thus:

“The general appearance of a British cemetery will be that of an enclosure with plots of grass or flowers (or both) separated by paths of varying size, and set with orderly rows of headstones, uniform in height and width.”

Many of you will be surprised to learn that the CWGC is one of the world’s leading horticultural organisations. To keep the cemeteries looking good seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year in all weathers is not an easy task. Not only does the planting need to offer something in all seasons, but the number of visitors in all weathers puts particular stress on the turf paths and lawns.

The headstone borders are generally planted with a mix of roses and herbaceous perennials. Of these latter some will die back over winter and regrow in the spring; others will retain their foliage year round; the Heuchera in the photograph is an evergreen herbaceous perennial except in the hardest of weather. Care is taken in choosing plants for each cemetery, for example, there are Maples from Canada at Dieppe.

Designing the planting requires thought to the length of flowering season, of foliage interest, so that visitors have something to see. It also needs to be reasonably low maintenance, both for the border planting and for the turf, or grass. Not merely from a time and therefore economic perspective, but also because it would interrupt the mood for those paying their respects to have a gardener trundling around with a mower for a couple of hours. These particular pressures have encouraged the War Grave horticulturalists to be innovative in planting designs and in the equipment they use. Petrol lawn mowers were introduced in the 1920s; and many of the mechanical tools developed for the CWGC have since become standard domestic gardening tools and equipment.

Climate change has its own requirements and a proactive approach has been taken. Drought tolerant planting, including turf have been introduced and trialled.

So next time you buy a poppy for Remembrance, important though it is as a symbol, remember it’s not the only flower that grows in Flanders fields.

 

 

 

For garden design and planting ideas; or Christmas gift vouchers for garden lessons in your own garden from a qualified teacher, why not drop us an email? info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

What is garden design?

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We’re often asked what garden design is, and what does having a garden designed actually involve, so I thought a blog on it might help answer some of these questions. Plus it will hopefully give an insight into one of the main services we offer, and help clarify what Plews could offer you in the way of garden design.

All too often the garden becomes an afterthought and the last priority in home improvement budgets rather than being considered as part of the whole ‘let’s improve and renovate our home’ process. Garden design is important in helping you get the best out of your garden, whatever its size.

However, many people are not fully aware of what garden design is, or should be. Getting it wrong can be costly; even ‘just a patio’ can cost thousands of pounds and it would be a shame to spend your money and not get good value and the garden you would like at the end.

If you’re having a total rethink of your whole home environment your garden designer should be part of the beginning conversations that you have with architects, builders, landscapers so that your house and garden flow seamlessly. Asking the garden designer to come in after you have added the extension and narrowed the access when you wanted the steep slope behind the house flattening out, is like asking someone to shut the door after the horse has bolted. Garden designers are clever people but not usually miracle workers.

It may be that your house is fine, but you’re thinking about refurbishing your garden. Once again, garden design is the first stage to consider. A good garden designer needs to consider you and your garden from an expert’s viewpoint to enable you to get the best out of our service (and therefore the best garden possible). It involves a lot of listening and asking of questions, and also includes other aspects that a designer needs to look at and consider, both practical and creative.

A design can be a total re-think of a whole garden, be that rear garden or front garden. It could also be a planting design for an existing border; or a partial garden design, for example, for a vegetable garden, new seating area or wildlife habitat within the existing garden.

We offer, as do most garden designers, an initial design visit. This is an opportunity for you to ‘dip your toe in the water’ and find out more about whether your hopes for your garden are achievable; and what other things may be possible, without committing yourself to a huge outlay.

A full garden design will look at the existing garden in all aspects; what your ideals are; whether these are achievable on your budget; how to manage the budget and project, for example, would a staged approach be more suitable; it deals with hard landscaping, for example, patio, decking, fences; soft landscaping turf, planting; the use of garden space, ie how you use it now, how you would like to use it, how this might change, for example, as the kids grow up or if you have a house extension; and sundries, for example, washing line, statuary, lighting.her your hopes for your garden are achievable; and what other things may be possible, without committing yourself to a huge outlay.
Plews Garden Design can offer you design only or a full design and build package. Look here for full list of options. And some more on the garden design process here. Or email us for more details and to start chatting.Your garden is in all probability the biggest “room” you own and deserves the same thought and design afforded to the kitchen, living room or bathrooms. A courtyard garden or a small roof terrace needs a good designer so the best use is made of restricted space.

“Outdoors and indoors are inseparable; they are complimentary and supplementary, two sides of the same door…” Garrett Eckbo

Spring into bulb buying

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ImageBulb purchasing and planting is an autumn task, but it involves thinking back to last spring and forward to next. A lot of gardening and garden design, if not most, is about planning the future and bulbs epitomise that aspect of gardening.

So, when faced with packets of bulbs with a close up picture of a tulip on the front what are you thinking? When flicking through bulb catalogues, what are you planning? Unless you have a large garden or lots of different areas to fill with bulbs, your main thought is probably how many spring flowering bulbs can you fit into your pots and borders. Or it should be. Be tempted by colour and from when you know how many you need.

Take the time before you buy to plan. Some questions you may like to ask yourself: are you planting in borders, containers, naturalising in grass? How many containers and how big are they? If in the borders, let’s be practical, consider how many bulbs you have the time to plant. Oh yes, and is there currently room in the border where you’d like to plant or do you still have late flowering Helenium and dahlias in full bloom?

Let’s find some answers. If your borders are still full and looking lovely, then congratulate yourself on a having a fine late display of colour. Make a note to look for and buy later flowering tulips and narcissus (daffodils). These could be planted when your Heleniums have gone over and still flower when they should next year. Another option is to buy the early flowering varieties you covet but plant them in pots. A further choice is to accept that they are likely to flower a bit later as you’ve planted them later.

At Plews we don’t generally plant too many bulbs at one go. Planting hundreds in one day is a chore we leave to friends who work in National Trust gardens. However, we do offer bulb planning and planting as part of our service to regular clients, as well as part of an overall design. Designing and planting containers whether for seasonal variation or a special occasion is one of those tasks which is pleasant to add into a regular routine maintenance schedule.

Planting bulbs in the border requires thought as to what else will be on show at that time of year when the bulbs are flowering and also when the foliage is dying down. When designing a border to include bulbs, where the client’s brief is for easy maintenance, the bulbs are part of a long term planting scheme, so we will often plant herbaceous perennials for the bulbs to grow through. These won’t have much if any foliage the bulbs are in flower, but will help distract the eye from the bulbs’ foliage after flowering. They will live quite happily together for some years.Image

Alternatively, the bulbs can be treated as annuals, and dug up after flowering and composted if virus free. Where the space utilised is edged or framed with evergreens this is a good, if more labour intensive option. Hardy and half hardy annuals can fill the same space as the bulbs but at a later time.

Thinking back to the previous spring; this is an opportunity to review what worked and what didn’t in your garden. Taking photos helps with the process, which is why I tell my students to take photos of their own gardens on a regular basis. Perhaps you visited gardens in the spring and were inspired by their bulb displays, or combinations of colours? Much of that can be tweaked to fit your own garden.

ImageRemember to protect your bulbs once planted, so the squirrels or neighbourhood cats don’t dig them up.

If you’d like to know more about our design, maintenance or teaching services, why not get in touch?

Apples:Designing the Garden of Eden?

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Designing a garden to include lots of fruit is always satisfying: at this time of year my imagination leaps off the page and sees next year’s mini orchard in full harvest. Apple trees are especially popular – did you know that Britain is “apple monarch of the world” with over 2000 varieties available?Image

This year’s weather has affected the apple harvest, by reducing the quantity and quality, and generally giving a later harvest. A single apple tree can produce up to 200 apples and live for 100 years, so there is time for another harvest, a better harvest.

Not sure when to pick your apples? If they’re dropping to the ground as ripe rather than unripe ‘windfalls’ then it’s time to start picking. Cup the apple in your hand and twist gently; they should drop easily into your hand. Not all the apples may be ripe at the same time, so it may take 3 ‘goes’ at picking before the whole tree has been cropped.

What if you don’t have an apple tree of your own? If you’re thinking of buying one or two, now is an excellent time to taste different varieties and see which you prefer. You may find a good selection of apples at your local farmers market or farm shop. If you fancy them fresh off the tree why not find out if there’s an apple tasting day near you?

There are apple festivals aplenty – including one at Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection, where they’re also celebrating their diamond jubilee this year, just like Queen Elizabeth II. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale houses the world’s largest collection of temperate fruit on a single site. To see row upon row of apple trees is an impressive sight. And then you move on to the pear trees, the quince, the medlar, the plums, the cherries…

Choosing an apple tree isn’t just about taste of course, the size of the tree, whether you’d like a free standing tree or a trained form are also important considerations. Trained forms are particularly suitable for smaller areas as they make use of often overlooked space, for example, training an espalier along a fence. Single cordon apples can be grown in a large pot, ideal for a patio; I remember seeing some of these at Trinity Buoy Wharf many years ago, as part of ‘growing food in the city’ project.

But perhaps you fancy a tree with history? If you’re a scientist perhaps the Isaac Newton tree might appeal? The story an apple landing on his head in 1667 thus leading to Newton’s laws on gravity may tempt you to have an offspring of the same tree. The original tree stood in the garden of Newton’s home at Woolsthorpe manor, in Lincolnshire, and over the years grafts have been taken to grow new Newton trees. It is claimed that the original is still there, having regrown after falling over in a storm.

ImageThe Egyptians were among the first people to grow apples – apart from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I suppose. But the first person to grow the world famous Bramley cooking apples was Mary Ann Brailsford in the family home in Nottinghamshire in the early 19th century. If you’re wondering why they’re not called ‘MaryAnn’s’ that’s because the family moved away and it was a man called Bramley who owned the tree when some fifty years later a local nurseryman took cuttings and grew the fruit and trees commercially.

So what else do you need to know? Apple trees are sold as scions or grafts onto a rootstock. Basically, the rootstock determines the ultimate size of the tree whilst the scion will give you the variety of fruit. You’ll also need more than one, or need your neighbours to have a tree as well, as apples are not self-fertile.

In the meantime, taste away!Image

Going for Gold?

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The world is watching as the Olympics officially launches in London this weekend. The opening ceremony and Games will be watched by millions; London briefly becomes centre of the world. If quality of garden was an Olympic event, would London get a gold medal?

London gardens account for about a quarter of the area that Greater London covers. For comparison, Sheffield has a similar ratio of private gardens in the main conurbation. That’s gardens, private and communal, but not parks and open green spaces. Look around you; does that feel like a reasonable proportion where you are? Some of you will be in a rural area, but I’m guessing that most of you reading this will be in a suburban or urban scenario.

The problem with our statistic is that it includes front and rear gardens and both hard landscaping – paths, patios, decking, drives – and soft landscaping – plus lawns and plants. As well as ponds, compost heaps and sheds. And this is where the astute among you perceive a flaw. How are we to define ‘garden’?

One person has a block paved drive full of cars and bins but devoid of plants. Another has a rear garden which is mainly grass and weeds such as dandelion, nettle and bindweed. A third has a tiny front patch with recycling bins and two big pots of topiary by the front door. Yet another has a decked rear garden with some troughs of bedding plants for summer colour. Are these gardens?

A first floor flat with a balcony has pots and troughs full to bursting with herbs and red hot chilli peppers. An office block has stunning metallic planters at its entrance; they’re filled with a bit of dirt and some cigarette butts.  A second floor flat has window boxes of sempervirens and alpine bulbs that flower in the spring. A local hardware store has used old watering cans as containers for Hostas. Are these gardens?

The worrying trend over the last twelve years – say since the years since the Sidney Olympics – has been the reduction in the amount of green in gardens.  London gardens may cover a quarter of the space, but of that, just over half is vegetated green space. This is a trend which we need to change – for lots of reasons. Flooding, air pollution, shade, human health, biodiversity and quality of life, for example, are impacts whose effects can be reduced if they’re bad or increased if they’re desirable, by going for gold and turning London and all of Britain into a ‘green and pleasant land’.

And no, I’m not suggesting we have to rip up all the concrete, there are ways around the constraints which we have. For example, we have designed, built and planted raised beds and green roofs over recycle boxes. Low maintenance doesn’t mean boring or no flowers at all, it just needs to be designed well, so the planting adds to the enjoyment of the garden, relaxing not stressing the occupants.

And as we’re going for gold, why not have some gold, silver and bronze flowers and foliage in our gardens and outside spaces, taking a leaf out of the Olympic Park’s scheme of gold, silver and bronze, but translating it into a design that suits you and your life. The Olympics are a chance for us to be inspired and inspirational not ‘just’ in sport, but in our gardens too.

If you would like some design advice, whether that’s a full garden design with plants patios and ponds, or a planting scheme for planters in an Office courtyard, we have the inspiration and the know- how to help you ‘go for gold’! Get in touch

A Jubilee celebration ‘wood’ be fine

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Patriotic planting was the theme of last week’s blog and in some ways we ‘keep calm and carry on’ as the Jubilee Woods take centre stage – lots of newly planted trees in sixty Jubilee woods to celebrate the second monarch to reach her Diamond Jubilee.

In a spirit of biodiversity and patriotism, with a sense of community and history, the encouragement of both flora and fauna by the Woodland Trust is taking the form of a positively Triffid like invasion of trees across Britain, over 250 in total.  Although unlike the Triffids in John Wyndham’s tale of mobile alien plants that blind humans and then eat them, these many new trees include fruit trees for us to eat the fruit from.

All of the individuals and communities who planted trees to celebrate the Coronation of George VI in 1937 were making a statement of hope, that there would be people, their descendants and others, who would see those young saplings in their mature growth. King George’s daughter, our current Queen, was a sapling at her father’s coronation; now she is a mature tree, having reigned over us, sheltered us under her boughs, if you like, for 60 years. Time enough for any tree to grow and thrive. 

Designing a garden or landscape with trees in should be about the future as much as about the present. There was so much hype around the Chelsea Flower Show trees this year – fully grown trees to give the wow factor – that we could forget how long these remarkable plants take to grow. How, by our giving care to ensure they thrive, the trees repay us by soaking up CO2, by sheltering us when it rains, by offering shade on hot days, by feeding us with fruit…

Espalier fruit trees, trained fan-like against a wall or fence are a beautiful and bountiful sight and easy to fit in even small gardens; majestic oak trees need a bit more space than most of us have, but if you’d like one there are Royal Oak saplings to be had, grown form acorns on the Royal estates.

If you plant a tree, you’ll certainly have pleasure from it, but even those mature specimens may outlive you, so have the future in mind; it may be our children or their children who are able to fully enjoy the beauty and bounty. “I think that I will never see, a poem lovely as a tree” is a quote known to many, written by Joyce Kilmer and whether you like poetry or not, whether you’re a royalist or a republican, you’d be a fool not to appreciate trees.

If you’d like to know more or are thinking about planting trees do get in touch – arboriculture is the study, planting, maintenance, of trees shrubs and all woody perennials – and at Plews we love our plants.