Last week there was precisely one day when it was possible to get outside and garden. Every other day was “blessed” with wind and rain, in biblical quantities, though happily the only damage we incurred from the hurricane that swept through was broken glass in the greenhouse. I am painfully aware that this makes us extremely lucky. The greenhouse is a hassle, but my livelihood doesn’t depend on it being in tip top operating condition, and our house remains warm and dry. We didn’t even experience power cuts for long, just a few hours one afternoon to allow much needed repairs to be made to the network. I am very grateful. I was even more grateful that this parcel arrived on that one day of relative calm.
I love receiving parcels of any sort – who doesn’t – but my favorite kind contains plants. This one was even more exciting than normal as it contained trees.
Beautifully packaged, three plum trees and a sorbus. I bought from R. V. Roger on VP’s recommendation, and they are wonderfully healthy bare root specimens, with good shape and lots of buds. When we first moved here I despaired of being able to plant trees at all, there are so many overhead cables, not to mention a wonderful view of the sea that we want to maintain from various windows! Its amazing what you can persuade yourself you have room for when you really want to though, and by choosing bush-trained plums they will remain a reasonably size and also be easier to harvest. So, as soon as the parcel arrived I carefully unwrapped it, saving the straw and plastic for “useful purposes”, and got on with planting. I’d long since worked out where each was going, and happily the soil in this garden is a pleasure to dig, even when well soaked by the seemingly endless rain. It would have been a different story in my previous garden, with its heavy clay.
Another advantage to buying bush-trained plum trees is that they don’t need staking, so in short order they were planted in the back garden. I know it will be years before I am blessed with the kind of plum harvest that requires jam making and the consumption of many, many pies, but I am very excited to have them.
‘Opal’ is an early season plum, and has an RHS Award of Garden Merit (actually all three do). Apparently it should provide really tasty fruit over several weeks, so no glut.
‘Blue Tit’ is a mid season plum, and even as a bush should also help with privacy. As you can see I have made a start on staining the fence in the back garden. I am so not looking forward to getting to the trellis. I hate painting trellis, particularly when I have to be really careful not to blob paint on the other side!
Finally I have ‘Marjorie’s Seedling’, a late season plum. They are all self fertile, and hopefully will provide several months of delicious home grown plums in due course. And blossom. Lots of lovely blossom.
I fell in love with Sorbus vilmorinii thanks to a photograph on Patient Gardener’s blog. The native British sorbus is said to protect a household from evil, so I am hoping their Chinese cousin will do the same. Even if it doesn’t, it will give me creamy-white flowers, leaves that turn crimson in autumn, and berries which will turn from red through pink to white over the course of the seasons, and will hopefully last well in to winter. I felt slightly guilty for not picking one of our native Sorbus aucuparia trees, since the berries would be preferred by the local bird population, but hey, I grow plenty of other plants with the birds in mind and I fell for vilmorinii!
So where did I put it. Therein hangs a tale. I’d planned to plant it in the front garden on the opposite side of what will eventually become a path from the silver birches I planted a few weeks ago. But when I came to discuss the exact planting site with TNG we decided that we would much rather have it on the other side of the path, to keep the view of the sea that we get as we come out of the front door. Which was fine, except then it would have been too close to the birches. Happily I had already decided to move the birches anyway. I promised myself, when we moved here, that I wouldn’t allow myself to fall in to the trap of just doing what I had done before when it came to choosing plants and plant combinations. Some of this comes easily, since soil and climate are so different here. But when I planted the birches I didn’t even think about planting them other than as a close trio, just as I had done in my previous garden. Which made me cross, because if I had just taken a step back and thought more about it I would have realised that I could get an interestingly different effect – and better screening of the house opposite – by spreading them out more. In the end, because of where we decide to plant the sorbus they are not actually spread out much more anyway, but at least I thought about it this time! And as the day darkened and the slight warmth fled, I planted the sorbus having marked with canes where I was going to move the birches to on the next available gardening day.
Which was today! No wind, blue sky, sunshine, warm enough in my sheltered back garden to eat my breakfast toast outside. Perfect.
Here is Sorbus vilmorinii, with a short vertical stake because that is what the nursery told me to use. They are also, incidentally, totally unimpressed by all this root trainer business! They definitely believe that field grown trees, delivered root pruned and bare rooted, establish the best, so I will be interested to see how the development of the sorbus and birches compared – not that it is really fair to compare two such different trees, but they are aproximately the same size.
The trio of birches is now far closer to the road, and I am excited about planting up the rest of this area now. I am going to get rid of the two evergreen shrubs behind the sorbus, there isn’t anything particularly wrong with them, although they need some renovation pruning to correct bare patches, but I want plants here that give me more seasons of interest, and I also want to plant this area alongside the drive in such a way that it looks good from both sides, rather than hiding the rest of the front garden.
So there you have it. For someone who wasn’t going to be able to plant many – if any – trees I seem to be doing pretty well. A trio of birches, a sorbus, three plums, two black elders, an Amelanchier, a magnolia, an acer, a conference pear and somewhere, currently smothered by an Acanthus mollis plant that has leapt at the opportunity provided by the removal of the conifers. Which brings me to Lucy@Loose and Leafy’s tree following challenge. The challenge is to pick a tree – it doesn’t have to be in your garden – and follow it through the year, observing what it does, when leaves, blossom, fruit appear and disappear, what critters, if any, use it. But my dilemma is, which to choose? In the end I have chosen none of the above. They have all – apart from the acer, which I will be obsessive about anyway – been planted by me. So I will inevitably be paying them close attention. I hope. But at the side of the house, in a rather inconvenient spot, alongside the compost bins, bordering the park, is a hawthorn. And I don’t pay it nearly as much attention as it deserves. A case in point, I completely forgot to take a photo of it today before the light went. So I will have to introduce it properly another time, but here is a teaser of it in full bloom at the beginning of last June:
Why don’t you sign up for Lucy’s challenge too? In the mean time, hope you are all staying safe, warm and dry, and that weather isn’t getting you down too much, whatever the weather in your neck of the woods. I am choosing to believe that, here in the UK, this seemingly endless cycle of storms is, in fact, going to end soon and we will have a good Spring. Fingers crossed…