Saturday, 24 January 2015

Plan ahead for fruit trees in your garden

Fresh fruit from the garden is very tasty and can beat food miles and supermarket packaging for a few weeks.

Designate a space in your garden, go to a local garden centre were they will have a good variety of Apple and Pear trees at this time of year. Buy a couple of trees. Plant them as soon as possible and by next spring they will be in blossom.

Planting trees has become a popular way to mark a special occasion.  Fruit trees are especially effective at connecting with the seasons during spring, summer or autumn they offer something that can add beauty.  Even in winter they become a focal point and somewhere to hang Bird Feeders.

Apple or Malus, is a vast family with edible and ornamental varieties. All offer blossom in spring, and can be attractive simply as garden trees. Nothing gives quite such a powerful sense of achievement as branches laden with ripening fruit. Pear or Pyrus, is a more individual choice.

There are varieties which are ideally suited to smaller gardens. Local garden centres will stock a range of dessert or cooking apples, including varieties sold in supermarkets, 'Sunset' and 'Fiesta', can easily be grown at home together with Cox's, Braeburn's or Bramley's.

If you are not interested in eating the fruit, choose an ornamental variety. Malus 'Evereste' is a small tree, suited to the domestic garden.  It has a wide pyramidal crown with spring blossom that ranges from light purple to pinkish-white.  In the autumn the fruits are orange and red and last throughout the winter. 'Golden Hornet' has light purple and white flowers in spring with yellow fruits in autumn.

For Pears there are small trees suitable for the garden which will produce either edible or ornamental fruit. October is a good time for planting, as fruit tree growth is slowing but the soil is still warm.

Container grown trees can be planted at any time other than drought or frost if properly fed and watered after planting. Plant fruit trees in fertile soil, where they will get sunshine although apple will tolerate shade. Plant away from underground pipes, and drains. Prune untidy or excess shoots in late winter or early spring.

If you are looking for climbing plants, clematis offer glories at this time, as Garden Centres have reduced the prices to make way for winter stock. Many varieties have large blooms. Rouge Cardinal, a summer flowering type bears red flowers. Royal Velours, produces, as the name suggests, velvety flowers with a red-purple colour, from 4-8cm across. 'Ville de Lyon' produces really big flowers (10-13cm across) that are rich red.

Red foliage is on offer from Virginia creeper or Parthenocissus, a fantastic plant that self-clings to walls, fences and even trees using suckers on the tips of its tendrils. The leaves of most Virginia creepers are brightly coloured in autumn. Parthenocissus Henryana turns bright red as summer fades, as does Parthenocissus Thomsonii.

Virginia creeper is ideal for clothing vertical surfaces that are otherwise uninteresting and may in fact help to keep buildings a little cooler that are in sun drenched courtyards or other full sun positions. Virginia Creepers are sold in pots ready to plant out; it is a great time of year to buy as the Autumn foliage can be appreciated before purchase.

Japanese maple Acer palmatum, is a foliage plant that brings its own specific style to the garden as well as colour. Some maples bear red or coloured foliage right through the growing season, others colour red as autumn comes on. If you're worried that space is a problem, remember that some cultivated maples will live happily for years in pots. 'Crimson Queen' is one container candidate. Otherwise there is great choice for gardens of all sizes.

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