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Tree Planting - Part 1

A lot of us have heard the story of the guaranteed 'dwarf' tree which thirty years later has developed into a garden consuming green monster.

With the current interest and government promotion for trees it has become very environmentally friendly to plant trees. Unfortunately in this rush to cover as much ground as possible with trees of all shapes and sizes the wrong decisions or advice is often followed.



This results in disappointment, a waste of money and effort and a tree that can be unhealthy, of low vigour and is unsuitable for its surroundings. Basically it is the right tree in the wrong place or the wrong tree in the right place. Too often when selecting, buying, planting and maintaining a young tree is concerned the wrong decisions are made but with a little planning, research and applied knowledge it can be the right tree in the right place every time.

Tree selection

Before buying your tree you need to think carefully about the following.


  • What is the trees mature height and spread as it will require space to grow and develop. Also consider the effects of roots on any surrounding features and structures.

  • The type of effect you require - for example autumn colouring leaves, decorative bark, flowers or fruit.

  • Evergreen or deciduous foliage – evergreens will provide all year round screening but there is very little or no seasonal changes in their appearance.

  • What type of soil is in the area, is it a heavy clay type or sandy and free draining.

  • Some trees such as Yew and Laburnum produce poisonous foliage and seed which should be avoided if you have young children.

  • Native or non-native – native trees are better for nature and biodiversity but the non-native garden varieties are more decorative and colourful. Native trees are also more suitable for rural areas while non-native are acceptable in urban gardens.

  • Large or small – if instant impact is required a larger tree may be need to be purchased but there is a lot of pleasure in watching a smaller tree grow, they are also cheaper to buy and easier to plant. The purchase of a larger tree can be a significant investment and it may be advisable to obtain professional advice and guidance.

  • The trees effect on any surrounding properties – shading out the neighbours patio is not going to make you popular.

Purchasing your tree

There are a number of ways to buy a tree such as a visit to a garden centre or plant nursery or via mail order. There are advantages and disadvantages with all of the above. The larger garden centres often have a good range of trees but can be expensive.


As specialist producers plant nurseries can be cheaper and have a large range but you may have to travel further to get to one.

With mail order trees you often have a large selection to choose from but you cannot check its health and condition until it arrives on your door step.

Wherever you buy your tree from make sure of the following;

  • The crown, stem and root system are all free of damage and disease.

  • It has a well-balanced form and evenly spaced branch structure.

  • It has a healthy, strong central leader – unless it is a weeping form.

  • There are no areas of bark damage on its branches or main stem.

  • If containerised it has been regularly potted on to avoid it becoming pot bound and to avoid future problems such as root girdling.

  • If it is purchased as a bare root tree it should have a well-balanced fibrous root structure and it is vital that it has not been allowed to dry out or frosted after lifting from the ground.

  • And finally make sure it has been labelled correctly. It would not be the first time the appearance of your tree is completely different to what you expected when it breaks into leaf in the spring.

Tree planting - Part 2 will follow within the next few weeks when planting and after care of your young tree will be covered.

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