Imagine you have commissioned a new build property and want to feel that the garden has been there for 20 years. Perhaps you want to disguise an eye sore in the garden next door or a new development has sprung up within your favourite view. Corporate clients may want to impress their customers with lavish mature landscapes or perhaps the Planning Authority have insisted that mature stock must be replaced like for like. One of the greatest challenges in any landscaping project is the use of semi-mature trees but one that certainly affords the greatest rewards.
In the last decade this area of the market has developed leaps and bounds. A new growing industry has evolved to supply mature trees and shrubs to the landscape industry. These specimens are used widely in projects such as business parks, shopping malls and townscapes. Corporate clients realise that a mature landscape has become as essential an element as something like air conditioning, The up shot to this Corporate revolution is that a much greater array of plant material in now available to you, the home owner. The stock comes from Northern Europe, with Germany, Holland, France, Spain and Italy the major suppliers. The nurseries are really something to see; hundreds of acres of neatly planted fields of a bewildering selection of trees that in some cases have been tendered for up to 20-30yrs. They are repeatedly lifted and re-planted each autumn when the trees are dormant. This encourages the tree to make fibrous root growth that allows it a speedy recovery and establishment when finally planted. All year round armies of Nurserymen tend, water and prune the trees. I often think it like looking after a fine wine that has been laid down for years. Every autumn the Nurseries race to lift and ‘root ball’ the trees, wrapping the roots in hessian sacks and wire to retain soil around the fibrous root ball. They are carefully tied up and loaded onto covered articulated trucks bound for all countries. For example wealthy Russians have brought up large conifers by the thousand as they build brand new houses in the more affluent areas of Moscow. This can have a dramatic affect on the supply chain, so much so that some species are no longer available.
Some of these trees are sold to UK nurseries that ‘pot’ them on to then sell them throughout the year. This takes out the seasonality of the process and means you can purchase and plant a tree at any time of the year.
The impact of semi-mature tree planting can be amazing – the instant WOW factor. Imagine planting a 12-15metre tall Oak tree with a canopy spread of 4-5metres which will literally block out any eye sore that lies behind it. Costs vary so much from type to size and also the location. Some of these trees will weight up to 10 tonnes and costs can be up to several thousands of pounds each. We were recently asked to source two amazing trees for the entrance to a substantial home. They had to be evergreen and unique. We found a pair of cloud pruned Yew that were 120yrs old and to die for! These are the most expensive trees we have planted at a cost of £20,000.00 each. You may find this staggering but there were only a few left out of a batch of 30 in a Dutch nursery. Size should never be a barrier – Landform were contracted to plant six 14 Metre+ Quercus palustris (Pin Oak) for the Tree Top Walkway, Kew Gardens in May 2008. The trees weighed in at 8 tonnes each were manoeuvred using a 100 tonne crane.
If you are planning to plant semi-mature trees, make a plan before you visit the nursery. Ensure you have a qualified and experienced contractor on board to carry out the planting works. Think about access to the planting location – we often use cranes to place a tree if access is restricted. Visit the nursery and ‘tag’ the tree (s) you want. Just be aware that if you are someone who loves your trees/plants you’ll be like a kid in a sweetie shop.
Mark Gregory is a director of the The London School of Garden Design, one of the leading garden design schools in Britain