Trees - Page 2 - Any Questions?

"A garden without trees scarcely deserves to be called a garden." -  Henry Ellacombe


Q. I recently bought two Malus Red Jade weeping crab apple trees. They had a general plant description label, which said they would grow to 10ft by 10ft, however they also had a small sticker on the labels which said they were M27 dwarf root stock. I assumed all Malus Red Jades had this root stock as they are small trees. However I have since found out that they do not. In which case, how big will the trees I purchased grow to?

A. I have never actually come across this tree grafted onto this root stock, so this is a rather generic answer. M27 is a very dwarfing root stock and you wouldn't usually expect a tree on such a root stock to exceed much over 6ft in height. As Red Jade is a weeping tree and so will not grow upwards, then I wouldn't expect it to get much higher than this.

Trees on M27 usually need good growing conditions to do well, they don't perform on poor soils as the roots are unable to go and seek out extra nutrients. I'd give them a good start with manure or compost in the planting hole and some blood, fish and bone fertiliser and then a good mulch of manure or compost very year to get the best from them.


Q. Can you recommend a fast growing tree that would be good for climbing, that is for children to climb?

A. I'd go for an Acer, maple, of some type. They have smooth bark and are pleasant to touch and are fast growing. Usefulness as a climbing tree is more a case of being able to let it develop with branches low down rather than a high clear trunk which is how many trees are pruned in their early years.

It's difficult to recommend particular varieties as they vary so much in size, many have good autumn foliage colour too, so I'd go for one with this as an added feature.

Native British trees such as oak, ash and beech are good too, it's the early training and development of spreading branches low down that is more important than the variety.

Ultimately it's probably time that is the most important aspect. My youngest son is 10 now and if I planned ahead I might have a tree large enough for his children when they're about the same age. I don't know of anything that would grow fast enough in the UK to keep up with a child already born, maybe a Eucalyptus if it's in a favourable position.


Q. I have recently planted a Salix Caprea 'Kilmarnock' willow. I kept it well watered while it was still potted and it looked very healthy with flowers and green leaves when it was planted. I gave it a good watering when planted but then nothing all week as I was away. However, we did have quite a lot of rain recently. Unfortunately, the leaves are dry and curling and it looks very poorly in general. I have given it a good watering this weekend but it still looks poorly. Can you suggest what might be wrong and what I can do to help?

A. It's difficult to say without seeing it and the conditions that it is growing in. Many plants take a knock back when planted particularly if they are large and planted during the peak growing season.

Lack of water is a possibility, willows require large amounts of water and trees in general need looking after through their first season at least. It is possible that the damage was caused if there were a few dry windy days in a row with no rain, the limited root system may not have been able to cope with drying out soil.


Q.   We have two or three by now very large elderberry trees growing inches away from our house wall, one which totally covers the front window. Each year I cut them down, at first I didn't mind (I love wild plants) but I now have MS and find it very difficult to gardening. the other problem is the damage they may be doing to my property as they are becoming so big. Can you please give me some advice on removing them, thank you

A.  There's a chemical you can get to kill stumps, based on ammonium cholate, comes in various brand names that will be the least effort way. Cut it down to leave a short stump a few inches high and then apply the chemical.

You can get rid manually by cutting it down and then removing any new shoots on a regular basis at least every month rather than leaving it.

There is no effort-free way of doing it unless you pay some-one else or poison the whole thing when you have one large dead tree that will slowly rot and drop branches while looking very unsightly.


Q.  I have a Malus, not sure which, but a few years ago it started to lose leaves early due to very long hot summer we thought. It came back the next year but appears to have got worse in the last two. We have had it pollarded but have now noticed that the bark is peeling off in places and woodlice are eating away. Has it had it or is their anything we can do. It is a very old tree at least 40 years old apparently.

A.  Some Malus varieties are short-lived trees 30-40 years, so it's likely that yours was on its way out before you tried to take action. Pollarding it wouldn't have really helped such an old tree and it seems like this was the last straw. Time to cut your losses (and the tree) and replace it.


Q. When I moved here 4 years ago I inherited in my garden a small rowan tree. It was quite badly stunted, and was very reluctant to put on leaves or flower, and for two years I gave it some some extra feed. It has now put on new growth, but has become very lopsided, with the new branches some 4 or 5 feet long, on a tree that is only just about 6 feet!.

My question is when is the best time to prune it, and how? Should I cut back some of the stunted growth that remains, should I cut back the new growth as well, and try and re-shape it?

A. Rowans can do that sort of thing sometimes, develop very strange shapes and growth patterns. My favourite was a 10ft tall one with virtually no side branches, but one enormous bunch of berries right at the top that was bending it down to about 7ft and swinging round alarmingly in the wind. The lady who owned didn't like to take them off as "it was trying so hard". Anyway, back to your tree:

The bad news is that Rowans don't really like being pruned at all and badly misshapen ones are often best replaced. Now is the time to do it though (winter) before the buds break for spring. I think your best approach is to try to re-shape it irrespective of strong or weak growth. Why is it lopsided? Is one side in a lot of shade? Can you do anything to remedy the cause? The usual advice for pruning is to prune strong growth lightly and weak growth hard. Try not to remove more than 1/3 of any branch, but you can go to 1/2 in some places. It's difficult to be precise without seeing the tree itself.


Q. I have a 25 year old plum tree in my yard that has never flowered or fruited. I have heard that pruning all the leafing branches off the tree will allow the tree to restart production. Would you recommend this? Is there any less severe action you can suggest? It is a pretty landscape tree, so I would hate to kill it.

A.  If it hasn't flowered or fruited in 25 years, then it probably never will. My guess is that it's a tree grown from a rootstock that was never intended to be planted as a fruiting tree in its own right. It might of course not actually be a plum tree.

You might be able to mutilate it into a flowering panic, but probably not and you'd have a poor looking tree at the end of it.

Less severe action? Buy another tree that you know will fruit. If it's a valuable landscape tree, then leave it and enjoy it for that.


Q.  Why does my Stella cherry tree produce masses of blossom, but never any fruit.

A.  My guess is that it does produce cherries, but the birds get them long before they're ripe and you notice them. I used to have a Stella in my garden planted before we moved in until I replaced it for this reason. You need to put a fruit cage over cherry trees in most places if you're to actually get a crop from them, my view is that the tree isn't earning it's keep.

In my case, just to take the p**s, the birds would eat the cherries, then roost in the tree over my compost heaps and deposit the cherry pips directly onto them.


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