Q. We want to move some trees most of them are about 6 year old evergreens, do you have any advice please. Or can you advise of any contractors in the Cambridgeshire area.
A. You need to wait until they are dormant to have a good chance of success. This is towards the end of November or early December when all of the leaves have fallen off for the deciduous ones, and when all the leaves have fallen off the neighbourhood trees for evergreens.
Dig around the trees and aim to bring up as much of the root ball as possible, you will probably have to cut through deep roots if the trees are very large. For a tree about 6 feet tall, you want to aim to have a root ball about 2 feet across if possible and about a foot deep. Then plant the tree in its new place immediately, stake it and water it and wait for it to wake up again in the spring. This is most effective with deciduous trees and if you have a good amount of root, stand an excellent chance of success. Evergreens are less easy to move and if are very large, success is rare.
If you can't wait until the tree is dormant, there's little chance of success as you will lose much of the root system at a time when the tree needs it all to replace water being lost by the leaves. It is not impossible, but unlikely to work well. You will need to water like mad when re-planted so that the root that does remain can get all the water possible.
As for contractors, I don't think any would want to take the job on before the winter dormancy period.
Q. We are planning on moving our Katsura tree to a different location in our yard. We only want to move it over a few feet to accommodate a widened laneway. The tree was planted about 2 years ago and has done very well...although it has not grown in height much. Do you foresee any problems with moving this tree? Can we do it anytime without risk of damaging it?
A. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst times to move a tree (early summer). Ideally, they should be moved when dormant and before they come into leaf. If possible, leave it until after Christmas (!) and before the spring.
I assume however that this is not a possibility in your case, if you HAVE to move it now, then try this:
Postscript - I received an email several months later from the original poster saying that the tree not only had survived the move, but was thriving, so it can work.
Q. A friend of mine has extensive gardens which contain a large number of yew trees and bushes . Whilst most are very healthy some have died or are in the process of dying. Can you please give possible causes and remedies ?
A. It's always difficult to give a reply to this kind of question without seeing the plants or symptoms. Yew are usually very resilient to most pests and diseases, but the one thing that does get them is a type of phytophthora or foot rot. If it is this, then it will be caused by too much winter wet, the damage won't really show in the winter, but in the following spring and summer when the plants start into growth again (or not). There have been warnings that the loss of Yews could be a consequence of our warming climate due to excessive wet at the roots over the winter, maybe what you're seeing is a symptom of this.
What to do about it? Improve drainage where possible and practicable, I'd guess though that if you have a large number of large trees and bushes this would be more of a civil engineering task.
Q. Can you recommend a small (preferably not more than 10ft) tree with all-season (or three at least!) interest for the center of a small front garden lawn? It gets some morning sun and is slightly exposed to N and E winds.
A. There aren't many trees that will only grow to 10ft and those that do tend to be very slow growing so would be much smaller for many years.
I suggest that you go for a smallish tree and trim it to size if it starts getting too large, which won't happen for several years anyhow. I'd suggest the following;
Malus toringo ssp. sargentii. This is a crab apple and won't get much beyond about 12ft. Crab apples are good because you get spring blossom, summer foliage and fruit that continues through to autumn when the foliage turns as well.
Other crab apples and flowering cherries could be used though will grow beyond 10ft, taking usually over 10 years to do so, so it depends how adverse you are to removing it once it gets too big. Cercediphyllum japonicum, the katsura tree also fits into this category, about 15 years before it gets beyond your required height.
If height is all important, you could go for a weeping tree such as birch Betula pendula "Youngii" or cherry Prunus "Cheal's weeping" these are grafted at the nursery and spread wide with time but put on little height above the original graft.
A third option would be to go for a large shrub that can be trained as a tree, shrubs respond better to pruning to control height than trees. Euonymus lamarckii (shadbush), Euonymus europeus (spindle tree), Rhus typhina (stags horn sumarch) or several types of Cotoneaster can be trained as small trees.
I planted 3 birch trees of this variety three years ago. Of the three, one looks considerable healthier and is growing larger than the other two. The curious part is that while they all appear to be the same type of tree, the larger of the three does not have the hanging "pods" that are on the others. My garden book says that all Betula have this characteristic. Any ideas?
A. My first thought is that your third aberrant tree is not what it claims to be - it isn't a Betula jacquemontii. The second possibility is that it is a "sport" of jacquemontii, Betula utilis jacquemontii is quite a variable group with several named cultivars within it and the ability to occasionally throw up unusual forms, which you may have. The fact that it doesn't have "pods" (actually male catkins or flowers) may be a question of age - it might have them later - or a characteristic of that particular tree - if it's not putting energy into catkin formation, it's got more available for growth.
Q. A young plum tree I recently planted (purchased in a dormant state) does not look healthy and is mildewed, however, what would appear to be a sucker, growing from the base, is doing well and budding as usual. Should I cut back the original tree growth to ground?
A. It's far more likely than not that the sucker is part of the root stock of the plant and not the cultivated plum that you bought it for. Cultivated fruit trees have a well performing variety of top growth grafted onto a wild or semi-wild rootstock. That way you get the quality of fruit and top-growth that you want but with the vigour of native rootstock. Cultivated varieties tend to have fairly poor roots.
If the top growth has died, the sucker will be from the rootstock and while vigorous will produce poor quality fruit. Best to pull it up and start again. Might be worth asking for a replacement from where you bought it if you treated it properly i.e. didn't keep it in the wrong conditions for too long (days or weeks) before planting it.
Q. I have a large 60 year old Walnut tree in my garden. At this time of year it is coming into leaf, but the tree is raided by grey squirrels who eat off the new succulent shoots, and leave the tree looking very bare. I have already filled a large plastic bin liner with new shoots littering my lawn left over from the squirrel raid.
Will this treatment from the squirrels eventually kill the tree, and is there any action I can take to stop the squirrels doing this?
I don't mind them eating the nuts when they are formed, but I fear for the tree if this goes on year after year
A. First of all, there's little or nothing that you can do - the good news however is that it is unlikely that your tree will be permanently damaged. If the tree is already 60 years old, the chances are it's had this kind of treatment before and has survived. If the squirrels are fairly recent or the attack has become particularly bad compared to previous years, then it is still far more likely than not that the tree will survive. Even fairly young trees can lose all of their first leaves of the season and then replace them without long-term damage.
Of course it will affect the tree and it won't put on as much growth as it would otherwise. I have a similar tree in my own garden about the same age too. While we don't get the same level of attack as you seem to, it's not far off and the tree grows away quite happily.
You could try helping the tree along a bit by fertilizing it, though it depends what's underneath it. If it's soil, then I'd fork in some blood, fish and bone meal or Gromore. If it's grass, then the grass will likely get at the fertiliser before the tree does, but a really good dosing (like most of a packets worth - at the usual dilution) of a soluble fertiliser will get down to the tree roots and give it a boost.
Q. I have three maple trees in my yard. They are Norway Maples I think. I wonder if you know how deep these roots grow. That are mature, taller than a two-story house. I am asking because soon there will be some horizontal directional drilling going on close to my trees. They will be drilling 6 to 8 feet under the ground and supposedly will not harm the roots of the trees. Can you help me?
A. In my experience any company that is not a gardening company that has to do anything around trees always claim that it will cause no harm. The classic example in the UK in recent years is of thousands of street trees that have died due to the road / pavement (sidewalk) being dug up to lay various cables. The roots are cut through and damaged, the trees don't die for a year or two, but die they do.
This may or may not happen to your trees. If they are large, they will have deep roots, how deep depends on a whole host of factors. How damaged the roots may be - I can't say. If they were mine on my land and I didn't have to go along with the drilling, I wouldn't. If they are damaged, then the damage won't show until long after the drilling is over and they wouldn't be damaged by drilling directly but fungal disease/drought/stress brought on by it so it would be very difficult to prove. If you have a choice, say no.
Q. We have a small back lawned garden with fruit canes and ground covering flowers. We are trying to attract birds into the garden. We back unto farmland, but there are no trees within 400 yards or so of the garden. We are wondering if the addition to our garden of a small tree say (under 4 foot high) or shrubs would help attract the birds. What would sort of tree or shrub would would recommend we consider purchasing - fruit bearing, evergreen or what?
A. Not sure that anything under 4 feet high could be called a tree unless it was a bonsai. The best bet is native hedgerow shrubs. For best effect a variety of trees would be best in a short span of hedgerow, holly, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, Viburnum etc. but to be effective you need to go a lot more than 4 feet tall.
If attracting birds is the aim, the easiest way is a flat-topped bird table (none of those twee thatched roof efforts) with a regular varied menu.
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