Root pruning

If time allows root pruning / root preparation  can provide huge benefits when transplanting trees.  If however specimens are being transplanted with sufficient rootball the benefits are negligible.

Roots are pruned at a diameter just inside the rootball size the specimen will be lifted with. This diameter has to be sufficient for the specimen, not what you can move! 

The reaction of the specimen is to stimulate root growth primarily along the length of the root, increasing the percentage of root mass lifted.

In addition by spreading the severance of roots over 2+ events, makes it less stressful for the plant and less energy is consumed repairing the cuts.

When root pruning, it is vital to provide a clean cut, a jagged or frayed root is much harder for the plant to repair and provides a much bigger potential area for infection. Do not use a minidigger! This can tear the root at any point upto the trunk and will create a frayed break. 

Ideally root pruning should be undertaken during the period November to mid-March.  When planning root pruning the maximum time should be allowed between pruning and transplanting within the above timescale. Root pruning stimulates a reaction, so a minimum of 3 months should be allowed.  If an extended timescale is available, the optimum will be Nov, Jan, Nov and move early Feb.        

Leave leaves please

Leaves are jettisoned by a tree, they fall to the ground and for eons, where composted where they fell and fed the roots /soil, providing energy to help the tree the following spring create leaves.....  

The original closed loop recycling process?

Then man came along and for urban trees, either removed the leaves with a OCD like drive or cut the grass so that it no longer held leaves.

Kew gardens (Tony Kirkham)  were the first in the UK (I believe)  to recognise this and politely told the volunteers who arrived every autumn to rake up the leaves that new thinking was in play.   They now mulch the leaves with mulching mowers (to cut them up into very small pieces) so that they are consumed by worms "overnight".  

This wisdom has now spread to the main central London Parks and they appreciate how the removal of leaves, removes food for the soil and this is compounded by the years of people walking over the root system. They have now set in process aeration and leaving leaves.

So, leave leaves please.   




BS8545;2014 - Why are councils not insisting on landscape scheme to this?

Trees planted as part of planning permissions are intended to be part of the landscape for decades to come.  Most frequently due to inadequate aftercare, poor choice of trees and inadequate planting specification, the landscape promised by the developers and approved by the Local Authority does not come to into effect. Trees are often dead, dying or in  a bad condition.

There is a solution, a British Standard, BS8545:2014 Trees: From Nursery to Independence in the Landscape. It ensures that:

Trees  selected for the planting area are suited to it.

They are planted correctly

The aftercare period is for 5 years, sufficient for the trees to have developed a root system that can support it and have "independence in the landscape"

Why are Local Authorities not stipulating this?  Do they intend for the schemes to fail? If not  why are they not using the best tool to ensure the landscapes are enjoyed by their communities in the long term.       


Mulch Mulch Mulch

To understand the importance of mulch one should talk a walk in a woodland.  Whilst trees look wonderful when looking up, for this purpose you should look down.

Trees have the original closed loop recycling going on.  The leaves fall and compost down adding nutrients to the soil.  Adding to this are twigs, branches and fallen trees all add to the composted nutrients. 

This layer of composting material is inches deep and slowly turns to organic rich soil.

Now think of trees planted in streets, parks and gardens, often they have bare soil, sometimes grass and occasionally shrubs. Some are even planted in containers.  Rarely do they have mulch.  

Composting mulch fuels the soil.

Trees should be mulched, in addition to the above, this will retain moisture in the soil, reduce competition from weeds and deters strimmers and mowers (which can damage the bark).

Ideally the mulch should be the by product of processing trees. Bark mulch is not desirable as it takes longer to break down. It is has leaves in it, it is ok, although these will take a bit of nitrogen from the soil as it composts.  The mulch should be composted.  The optimal mulch is ones that have been  processed through a mulcher with hammers. This is quicker to breakdown.

Mulch will increase Mycorrhizal activity by upto x15 that of grass (see previous blogs about this vital (for the majority of trees).  

This should be applied 3" deep as wide as possible.  The area immediately around the trunk should be kept clear.  It is not configured to be below ground. The addition of mulch up the trunk will create the same effect as raising the soil and will rot the trunk.

Mulch will compost down, so it should be replenished every 1-2 years.


Trees acting as though it was autumn in summer

A reaction of deciduous trees to stress (lack of water / too much water, too hot / exposed..) is to send a signal to their leaves that they are to be jettisoned. They are removing leaves, that transpire moisture (a cost) so that they can concentrate on their roots (this is simplified).

Prior to their departure from the canopy, these leaves adopt the autumn colours. This is a clear signal that is shown and indicates that an investigation into what is the issue and remedial action could be required.

If the leaves die and are retained on the tree, this is a sign that the stress is so severe that the message to drop has no got through.

Evergreen trees lose their leaves naturally from the inside of their canopy as they are shaded.  It is when this is magnified of the loss is from the entire canopy.


The damp and cool weather - why we are not disappointed

The damper and cooler weather is great for trees. The worst kind of weather dry/drought  especially when combined with high temperatures. 

When moisture is scarce trees can get stressed. When the temperatures are hot, trees transpire more in an attempt to cool down, losing more moisture.

The current weather provides plenty of moisture with mild temperatures, it is great for trees!


How to get a guideline cost for Screening Trees

We are happy to provide budget costs for potential clients. We would love to speak to you about your requirements and explain how we can assist you.

Whether you call us on 01277 849990, visit us at Great Warley or send an email to we will need the following information:

Approximate height of screen (no need to be accurate at this stage, if you have difficulty estimating often just the detail of what we are screening (i.e. 1st floor window) or if you have a fence or wall, visualise putting the fence ontop of the existing fence (i.e. a 6ft fence ontop of itself will be a 12ft screen)).

Approximate length of screen ( again no need to be accurate, we can also translate "the length of a bus",  and " six fence panels").

Your location

Access to the planting location (through house (if this is it a straight line), side gate....)

An image would help of the area needing screening.

If you email, please provide us with your telephone number

Any preferences you have for particular trees or styles of tree.

We would love to provide you with the solution to your screening problem. Normally we can not only create a functional screen to provide you with privacy, that will also enhance your garden. 

It is a delight to see how clients appreciate our screening!  


The different canopy shapes of trees

At maturity trees can have a wide range of canopy forms, created naturally as opposed to created by training/pruning.

Canopies can range from upright, almost columnar (fastigiate), flame shaped, oval (upright), rounded,  domed, bell shaped and irregular.  They can occur from the ground or well clear stem themselves as they mature. 

With regard to the variety of clipped/trained canopies, this is making my head spin at present. Will attempt to outline these later.

Forms (shapes) of Trees available for planting

I will explain the forms of canopies in the next blog, this one is concerned with which you can purchase trees.

1) Standard Trees, these have a clear stem of around 1.8-2.2 metres with a canopy above. From this a half standard (1 metre clear stem) and three quarter stem (rarer but 1.75m) are derived.

2) Feathered Trees, these have branches from near the base, so that there is no area of clear stem.

3) Multi-stemmed Trees, these trees have typically between 3-5 trunks.

4) Pleached trees, are trees usually with a clear stem and then a pleached panel (with branches trained laterally). These can also be pleached to the ground (panels). Pleaching is the same as espalier but the latter is for fruit trees.

5) Roof trees, these have a clear stem and then a square flat (horizontal pleached panel) a top.

6) Cubed trees, a standard stem with a hedged cube atop.  

7) Topiary trees, these are trees with clipped canopies (in all kinds of forms) or trained trunks.

8) Hedged - these are feathered trees that have been clipped to form a denser canopy.

Have you planted or transplanted a tree in the past 5 years?

If you have done the above (and are in the northern hemisphere), your tree is still in a period of establishing.  When a tree is established it has the roots system of a 'natural' tree and can look after itself.  

This period of establishment can last for upto 5 years (and where there is competition from adjacent mature trees or the planting location is poor i.e. lack of rooting space, hard landscaping around the tree, surrounding poor soil, the trees could require assistance for longer).

This length of aftercare is recognised by BS8545:2004. It is appalling that no planning authorities are enforcing this (a far as I am aware).

The assistance required is primarily watering to compensate for the reduced root system, but also includes removal of epicormic/basal growth and should include mulching (see previous blogs).

Transplanted and planted trees must have this assistance whilst establishing,  after the investment in trans/planting, this will almost guarantee the success of your trees.  

Compacted Soils & James Bond

If you can recall the scene in Gold Finger where the girl is painted in gold and dies, the cause of her death is the same as what compacted soils do to trees.  Let me explain:

She died because her skin could not breathe.

Roots need to undertake gaseous exchange. When the soil is compacted this is reduced  or stopped.  The result, a decline/death of a tree is a result.

Compaction can be caused just by foot traffic, but more commonly it is the storage of materials or the traversing of vehicles /plant.  When the ground is damp it's effect is worse.

Air spades can relieve decompaction, but prevention is better than cure. Unfortunately compaction is usually caused when there is a lack of understanding/care about trees, soil and roots.

Rootballed/Bareroot/Container Grown Trees

We can:

Supply and Plant

Supply only

Plant trees you have sourced

There are however options for the trees at various times of the year.

Container Grown trees are available all year round and are available in a variety of types of containers.  Air Pot trees are undoubtedly the highest quality, but they are available in black pots, white bags and other containers. There are a limited number of species of trees that are only recommended as container grown trees i.e. Monkey Puzzles.

Rootballed  and  Bareroot trees are available only during autumn and winter.  They stop being sold as spring starts and start when  autumn takes full effect.  Neither are dates in the diary, it is when nature tells us.

Bareroot trees are offered only  for very small trees and some varieties are not suited to being offered bareroot at all but the very smallest trees. Bareroot trees need careful handling in accordance with simple guidelines designed to stop the roots becoming dried out.

Rootballed trees offer the widest possible range of trees as there are many more growers of this form of trees.     




Pleached Trees

Pleached trees are specimens whose canopies have been trained laterally.  When fruit trees are trained like this it is called espalier.  Usually these are standard trees (with a single trunk around 1.8-2.1 metres in height)  They can also be trees with branches from the base (feathered trees) that have been trained laterally.

Historically pleached trees  we planted in avenues to form pleached walks, with a clear stem of around 2.2 metres to allow them to be walked under.  Pleached trees used to be Lime and Hornbeam species only. These were selected because they naturally produce branches in pairs, making them a neater pleach.  The pleached walks were /are as stunning in winter as the bare branches eventually join and five or so continual  lines of branches run down the walk.

Pleached trees are now predominantly used as screening, as their narrow form consumes a tiny proportion of the garden.   Hornbeam and Lime trees are deciduous and the bare branches provide little in the way of screening.  

We therefore offer trees that either hold their leaves longer than other deciduous trees or are evergreen / holdtheir leaves all year when clipped.  

These are offered with trunk heights to suit your requirements, i.e. to commence the pleach at the height of your wall or fence.

We also offer taller than normal pleached trees. 


Can a tree/hedge/shrub be transplanted?

The answer is invariably yes.  

Here are some of the reasons why it does not take place:

1) Whilst mechanical Tree Moving (with Tree Spades) can be very cost effective with suitably sized trees. When we have to rootball the tree/shrub, when there is no access for a Tree Spade or the specimen is oversized for a Tree Spade (we have the largest in the UK) and a much bigger rootball is required, the budget required can be very large Any size of tree can be transplanted, the budget needed can be large and the timescale needed to root prepare cannot be suitable.  

2) Species of tree, there are few that we do not move, Eucalypts and Monkey Puzzles.

3) Lack of time, with some specimens especially large ones, we recommend root pruning  prior to transplanting.  Sometimes this timescale is not available.  Please contact us early in any prospective project!

4)  Wrong time of year.  We prefer not to transplant during Spring and Summer, when trees are transpiring at their most.   We can translocate move during these times but a much higher level of care has to be taken.

5) Local Authority does not permit.  On occasion if the tree is subject to TPO /Conservation Area status, the application/notification is refused.  This is usually because the Local Authority does not believe our methodology will be successful. Thankfully this is very rare, especially when meaningful root  pruning and aftercare are specified.

6) Unhelpful soil, when the topsoil is very thin the roots will have travelled significantly further to gain nutrients and moisture. In these situations, we need to take a larger rootball or root prune prior to moving.   

Why plant native trees?

1) As native trees have been present from just after the last ice age, they are a essential part of our ecological make up.  They will support many more fauna  (and fungi) than non native. This is then magnified by the fauna that live off the directly related fauna, the fauna that live off of  the indirectly related fauna etc etc   

2) Native trees are optimised to our climate/conditions.  This is also a weakness, if climate changes i.e. it gets hotter/drier  potentially our native trees cannot cope. In this case non-native trees suited to the new climate will cope better.

3) This may just be an Arborist's point of view. Native trees sit better in our landscape.  They do not disrupt the landscape.  Think of a normally magnificent mature Purple Beech central to your favourite bit of woodland. OK the contrast will be stunning, but doesn't it look out of place?

4) There are varieties of native trees  that have different canopy shapes (usually more upright), more flowers, less fruit etc. These will have the same benefits as native trees but may suit the planting location better.  

This is not an exhaustive list!  

The true cost of planting a tree

Once the right variety of tree has been selected for the planting location:

The size/age of tree will influence the cost, there is always a size of tree to suit all but the smallest (<£1) budget.  The price increases exponentially with size. At the larger sizes it is very close to the vertical part of the curve, upto the largest trees commercially grown.

Then you have the delivery/planting cost which again is a function of the size of tree, your location and planting location.

Once planted, please sit back and admire your investment.

Then the cost of aftercare, primarily watering, whilst the tree establishes (gets to the point where  the root system has extended to that of a 'normal' tree and can look after itself).  This period of time can last upto 5 years after planting.   

It is a very false economy to invest all your funds in just the tree and planting. It will need assistance after planting.

The cost of aftercare can be reduced by (cool/damp springs and summers) automated watering systems or drip irrigation that you can  plug your hose into. Mulching will assist

Please allow time (and therefore money) to care for the tree you plant.




Tree Time

I am a small leafed Lime (Tilia cordata) on Twitter @yourtalkingtree

I (as this tree) could live for 700 years, that is 28 human generations or until 2695.

This puts a new angle on long term.  If  humans lived this long,  maybe better long term decisions will be made, those in power would not just be making decisions that affect their children but there children's, children's,children's, children's, children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, children's,children's, whilst they are still alive.


In the most of the UK winter has been notable only by it's absence.

Yes, days are shorter, the sun is weaker and lower in the sky but the average temperatures have been much much higher. In December the South East averaged 8 degrees and London 10 degrees.    The change from the average (so Radio 4 told me) is like Usain Bolt knocking a second off his 100m world record+. Apparently the North Pole is  30 degrees above average!

Trees need the regular rhythm of the seasons. If not the raised the temperatures (of air and soil) can trigger early spring responses (swelling of buds etc).  If we then get frosts and colder weather these new growths can get hit very hard. The trees have to then spend energy repairing and rebudding/leafing.  Losing precious energy.  There are many other impacts of seasons not being seasonal.  

In addition bugs that do not usually overwinter will not be killed off or decimated by the cold weather. They will be available in multiples of their former numbers to attack trees.

We need days of below freezing weather. To kill bugs and remind trees it is not spring. Please 



Deciduous Trees are boring in winter? Not!

Firstly deciduous trees are the ones that lose their leaves in winter, apart from the conifers that are deciduous, the one that doesn't when clipped, those that hold their leaves into winter and any that are marcescent (hold onto their withered leaves through winter, such as the odd Oak tree).

I will only deal with deciduous trees, that are deciduous in the normal way.

These trees can be surprisingly attractive when naked, without leaves.

My personal favourite is Beech, Fagus sylvatica  or the purple version purpurea, when as an individual specimen, viewed against a sky. The way the branches continue to divide until at the edges of the canopy;  they almost disappear into the sky, I find bewitching and beguiling.

I appreciate if you are looking for  specimen to plant in a garden, a mature Beech tree will be too large (for most gardens) and you will have to plant it for your grand children to fully enjoy.

Trees which are more accessible are:

Winter flowering Cherries (pink and white flowers), on a winters day, this tree will be the only one in flower, it flowers intermittently (half heartedly) from November. Although it's flowers are nothing compared to other cherries in spring, their scarcity in winter is welcome.

There is a group of trees with interesting barks:

Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) - this has mottled bark (like a London Plane, but smaller platelets) with tan, cream and grey bark. Also has great autumn colours and interesting flowers.

Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula) - a mahogany shiny brown bark, but underwhelming flowers, it seems to have placed all its energy in it's stunning bark.

Prunus maackii Amber Beauty - with amber coloured glossy bark, better white flowers than the Tibetan Cherry and better leaves on a conical canopy.

Birches - There are many that have white bark( Silver Birch / Betula pendula, Himalayan Birch / Betula utilis var Jacquemontii (very white bark, for the sake of brevity this ignores the varieties bred for an even whiter bark),  Chinese Birch/Betula albonsensis ' Fascination' ( white with a hint of salmon pink bark), Paper Birch ( Betula  papyrifera, peeling white bark). Erman's Birch (Betula Ermanii - yellowish white, turning brownish yellow after peeling)

Snakebark Maples (Acer capillipes, Acer davidii, Acer pensylvanicum, Acer refinerve, a group of trees with vertical stripes in their trunks.

I will ignore Eucalypts, as mature specimens their stability in the UK is not good, they grow too fast in the UK, often needing regular management to control size. They can however make excellent small coppiced / trimmed specimens.

One tree often overlooked is the Cork Oak, Quercus suber.

Beech & Hornbeam (Fagus & Carpinus) have smooth grey bark.

Apologies to any trees I have omitted (the above are trees suited to the UK only), if you are offended / want to correct me please send a direct message to @yourtalkingtree and your message will be responded to with arboreal love.

When choosing trees for their bark, see if you can get them as multistemmed specimens (more trunks), if you can plant them in odd numbered groups to accentuate their trunk colour. With lighter coloured trunks, plant them to draw the eye to accentuate distance.  

In addition to bark, there are fruits (catkins, seed pods...)  that can also provide interest.