Some of our most frequently asked questions, answered.

Browse the FAQs below or choose a category to narrow down your search.

Choosing the Right Rpecies
AUTUMN COLOUR. COULD YOU RECOMMEND SOME TREES TO GIVE GOOD AUTUMN COLOUR?
Most people would start by looking at Acers, the maple family. Many give very good autumn colour, especially cultivars (cultivated varieties) of Acer palmatum. Hilliers Manual of Trees and Shrubs lists around sixty varieties many of which grow to be large shrubs or small trees. Amongst the more famous varieties for autumn colour are “Osakazuki” and “Senkaki” (also known as Sango Kaku). Larger Acers such as Acer platanoides , the Norway Maple, Acer griseum , the Paperbark Maple, Acer japonicum and our own native Field Maple, Acer campestre, may also produce spectacular colours.
Looking away from Acers, the following are all capable of wonderful colours,
Quercus alba, the white oak, a medium sized tree,
Liriodendron tulipfera , the Tulip Tree is a large and vigorous tree,
Liquidamber styraciflua , a large and beautiful tree not happy on thin chalky soils,
Cercidiphyllum japonicum, the Katsura Tree, has many virtues, one of which its its autumn colour,
Fraxinus excelsior “Jaspidea” is a large clone of our Common Ash with clear yellow autumn leaves,
Cercis canadensis “Forest Pansy” is a large shrub with deep purple leaves turning red in autumn, and
Hamamelis x intermedia, the Witch Hazel is a shrub with many attractive varieties. The Clone “Diane” has particularly good autumn tones.

EVERGREEN HEDGE RIGHT NEXT TO THE SEA. IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Growing by the sea can have both advantages and disadvantages. Plants sensitive to cold conditions may be helped by a milder climate than that found inland where the moderating effect of the sea has no influence. On the other hand salt laden winds are a problem for very many plants and only a minority are well adapted to them.
Griselinia is a classic, and frequently very effective, evergreen hedging plant for coastal areas. It will form dense attractive hedges in areas which are never exposed to very cold winds. There are other evergreen hedges which might be suitable in areas which aren’t exposed to very cold winds – varieties of Escallonia, Holly, Bay, Choisya, Cotoneaster, Euonymus, Hebe, Pittosporum, Pyracantha, Viburnum, and Leyland Cypress. In addition Holm Oak, Junipers and especially Pinus nigra might stand up to very cold winds. Much depends on whether you want a low, formal hedge or a larger, less restricted visual barrier, such as Pinus nigra would give. Holm Oak and Leyland Cypress might also provide this.

EXPOSED GARDENS. WHAT KINDS OF TREES WILL THRIVE IN THESE CONDITIONS AND HOW SHOULD I STOP THEM FROM BLOWING OVER AFTER I PLANT THEM?

There are many kinds of tree which are adapted to exposed conditions. I will assume that you are not subject to salt-laden winds from the sea which bring with them additional problems. Whichever type of tree you plant you will need to keep in mind that the drying effect of strong winds will make it even more important to ensure that your trees do not dry out during their first couple of years. After that they should have established a new, vigorous root system allowing them to survive some periods of dry weather.
The first place to look for wind-tolerant trees is the uplands of Britain. Here hawthorns(Crataegus), rowans(Sorbus), Ashes(Fraxinus) and birches(Betula) can thrive where others may not. Cultivated varieties similar to these are often therefore very tough indeed. Depending on your exact conditions some of the following are worth considering – you may wish to check your exact situation against those recommended in a textbook such as The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs.
Crataegus Thorns such as the native Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) or the Cockspur Thorn (Crataegus x lavalleei) will thrive in very tough conditions and are available in several varieties.
Sorbus These are available as Rowans (Sorbus aucuparia varieties), Whitebeams (Sorbus aria varieties), Swedish Whitebeams ( Sorbus intermedia) and indeed many others from mountainous areas of the world.
Betula The birches come in many hardy and attractive forms. Native species such as The Silver Birch (Betula pendula) and the White Birch (Betula pubescens) are tough and attractive but the White Birch can tolerate far damper ground. The Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis jacquemontii) and the Holland Birch (Betula ermanii) are both tough and renowned for their attractive bark.
Fraxinus Ashes such as our native species (Fraxinus excelsior) and some of its varieites can make large and attractive trees in difficult conditions.
Acer Our native Field Maple ( Acer campestre) and Sycamore varieties like Acer pseudoplatanus “Crimson King” can take most of the winds which would be thrown at them in our gardens.
WHAT TYPES OF TREE CAN I PLANT IN A VERY DAMP CORNER OF MY GARDEN?
I will assume that it is not possible to easily improve the drainage of this corner of your garden and that the dampness is more than just a wet patch for a few weeks of the year.
For very small trees it is sometimes possible to improve things by raising some of the ground above the wet soil. For most trees however this is not practical. There are common trees which will thrive in damp corners. Willows, alders and poplar hybrids are the most likely. A good book (such as the Hillier’s Manual of Trees and Shrubs – see question 6 above)) will give you plenty of these to choose from and also let you have an idea of how high they may grow and what other conditions, such as wind exposure, they will put up with. There are other larger trees which will put up with, or even enjoy, permanent dampness. I include a list below. Beware however that some of these trees may finish up very high – again the Hillier’s Manual would give you some idea of the mature tree height. For large trees whose height you wish to control it may be possible to prune their canopy regularly to keep them to your desired final size.
The following are good in these conditions – Red Alder, River Birch, Liquidamber, Black Gum, Caucasian wingnut, Scarlet Willow, Corkscrew Willow, Chinese Swamp Cypress, Dawn Redwood, Pond Cypress and Swamp Cypress.

FLOODING. MY GARDEN FLOODS OCCASIONALLY. CAN YOU RECOMMEND SOME TREES WHICH MIGHT THRIVE HERE AND HOW TO PLANT THEM TO GIVE THEM THE BEST CHANCE OF SURVIVAL?
If you were to look at the question above, it addresses some of these problems and gives a list of trees which are suitable for wet ground. It is best to choose from these species to get reliable results. However some other species may survive brief floodings if they are planted to optimise their chances. For instance the Common Silver and River Birches, Hawthorn, Pin Oak , Rowan and Sitka Spruce are amongst these. Native Oak (Quercus robur) and Ash will tolerate some periods of dampness. To give any of them the best chance they should be planted with over half the rootball above the surrounding ground level. The soil can then be haunched up around the roots. This will allow essential air to reach the roots during periods of flooding. This planting system can be extended to planting the trees into raised mounds. The roots can grow out into the mounds helping to stabilise the trees in the long term. Without the mound many of the roots might die during extended flooding and the trees become unstable.

HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE A FRUIT TREE FOR MY SMALL GARDEN?
November and the months until March are the perfect time to plant fruit trees. Now that the leaves are off the trees, and the ground is not too cold, roots can establish themselves without any burden of feeding the tree. And in northern latitudes fruit trees are all deciduous, they lose their leaves in the winter.
Why plant fruit trees? Apart from the fact that many are very beautiful they are also extremely useful and help us to make our personal contribution to reducing climate change. Fruit, or for that matter vegetables, grown on our own piece of land reduce CO2 emissions. Avoiding delivery from far flung orchards or distant countries means no use of oil and no greenhouse gases.
In my own small garden the fruit tree of most importance is my Bramley apple. This is large enough to sit under in the summer, provide wonderful blossom in spring and a large and reliable crop of cooking apples each autumn. All winter I can watch birds moving onto it and through it to find a seemingly inexhaustible supply of food. What more could anyone ask from a single tree?
The range of fruit trees suitable for a garden is enormous. Most types of fruit, be they apples, pears, cherries, plums, damsons or gages have been grafted onto rootstocks to control their heights. This is a process where the top of the tree, above the graft, is the variety you want for its fruit but the bottom, below the graft, has been chosen for its vigour. The same variety, a Bramley apple for instance, may be available on very dwarf, dwarf, semi dwarf, semi vigorous or vigorous rootstock allowing you to choose the one which suits your garden best. In addition there are trees trained in the nursery to give different shapes such as cordons, espaliers, fans, stepovers and ballerinas. Cordons, fans and espaliers are trained flat to give small trees useful as a hedge or trained on a wall. Stepovers are so low that you can literally edge a garden bed with them and ballerinas give tall thin trees. Whichever form you choose is likely to be available in a huge range of apples. The other fruit, pears etc., are also likely to be available in a considerable number of varieties. So how would you choose the type of fruit to suit you?
This of course is a very personal matter. To consider only apples, there are lots of factors, starting with taste. This is entirely a personal matter but such issues as time of fruiting, ease of growing (some varieties are far more fussy and may need lots of spraying to produce decent crops – anathema to the organic gardener), whether dessert or cooking or both, ease of storage and pollination group should be considered. Get these wrong and you may have plenty of years to regret your mistake.
The best place to start is with a gardening book and one or more catalogues. There are many reliable nurseries with free catalogues of fruit trees which have been developed from ancient times to the present. But before you start looking at them you would be well advised to think about which varieties taste best. Then the finished size of the tree and lastly the pollination group. Some trees are self pollinating but most will need another tree flowering at the same time if they are to produce fruit. Some indeed, such as my Bramley, need two other pollinators flowering at the same time and these would usually have to be within around 100metres of my tree for the bees to travel between them. In towns or near orchards this is rarely a problem but with more remote gardens you may have to plant more than one tree to get decent amounts of fruit. Again a good book and a decent catalogue will help you out here.
After you have planted your tree don’t expect a crop for the first year. If it produces a small one you should probably remove it as soon as you see the fruit set and leave the tree to gather its strength during that first crucial year. Water it well in dry spells during the first couple of summers and get ready to wrestle with the joys of pruning. It is quite possible to get crops without pruning but better crops produced more frequently, ie yearly instead of every two years, are more likely if you learn the beginnings of the art .I would always recommend referring to the Royal Horticultural Society, www.rhs.org.uk, for books and information on the subject.
Fruit tree catalogues in the UK can be obtained from www.frankmatthews.com or www.kenmuir.co.uk. Googling will produce very many more fruit nursery addresses.
HIGH EVERGREEN HEDGE. I NEED ONE TO BLOCK OUT A VIEW. HOW SHOULD I DECIDE WHICH TYPE TO BUY?

There are many varieties of plant which make excellent evergreen hedges. The first thing to bear in mind though in the UK is that neighbours and local authorities can object if boundary hedges are higher than 2m.
For many people the first plants which come to mind will be conifers. Leyland Cypress are infamous for making enormous hedges which can be a problem both for the owners and their neighbours. If clipped closely twice a year they can make excellent hedges but it is common to see Leylands which have grown enormous, very tall and very thick, or both, and which will never look good again. A similar plant, but one which is more attractive and has fragrant leaves is Western Red Cedar. This will also grow away rapidly if not tightly controlled. Both of these types of conifer will grow in poor conditions such as thin soils or a degree of shade. The best conifer hedges, and the most traditional, are undoubtedly Yews. These venerable plants have been used in formal gardens for centuries. They make close, dense hedges which can be clipped to shape. Their preference is for lighter, drier soils and they should not be considered for damp situations or heavy clay. They are slower growing than Leylands or Cedars but are readily available as large plants which will soon grow into each other. They are also more expensive.
There are broadleaved plants which make good hedges. Two varieties of Laurels, the common laurel and the Portuguese laurel, are frequently used. They both have large leaves which can look untidy after cutting – their edges tend to go brown for a while – but are tolerant of shade and a variety of soils. Portuguese Laurels have neater leaves and can be used in shallow, chalky soils where common laurels may not thrive. Smaller leaved plants such as privet, Lonicera nitida and escallonia
are commonly used in urban gardens. Privet will grow tall and is tolerant of most soils and situations although in the coldest regions it can lose it’s leaves in winter. Lonicera nitida is quick growing and can be tightly clipped though it has a habit of leaning or even collapsing when tall. Of the many varieties of escallonia, which have the advantage of attractive flowers, the variety rubra Macrantha is probably the best for hedges and is particularly good near the seaside where it withstands salt-laden winds. In this situation Griselina littoralis is also excellent.. It clips well and is salt tolerant. Box (Buxus sempervirens) makes an excellent hedge suitable for very close clipping and the smaller leaved box, Buxux microphylla, is also a good low hedge. Both are rather slow growing. Many other evergreens will make quite good low hedges but would not be suitable for blocking out a view. There are good holly hedges, but often plants are gappy if not well grown and they may leave prickly dead leaves around the garden. Eleagnus, Euonymus, Pyracantha, Osmanthus, Bay, Berberis, Aucuba and Abelia will make good hedges under the right conditions. Ivy is available in the UK covering wire mesh panels 1.8m (6ft) high which can be used instead of fence panels to give thin evergreen screens.
Finally we should consider two cheap and effective plants which are not really evergreen but can be just as affective. Beech and hornbeam are very good hedging plants and will keep their brown leaves through the winter if trimmed in late summer. They can form hedges which make equally effective screens as genuine evergreens but they are native and tough.
LEYLAND CYPRESS FOR HEDGING? IS IT A RISK TO USE IT?

The Leyland Cypress ( Cupressocyparis Leylandii is its Latin name) is a cross between two other species of conifer and is a classic example of hybrid vigour that are used to create beautiful hedges which are excellent screens. It is a very fast growing plant, indeed the fastest evergreen with the exception of some Eucalyptus species. Even in poor conditions, such as thin chalky conditions and exposure to coastal winds, it is capable of decent growth. It can even tolerate a certain amount of shade. A healthy Leyland Cypress can make several feet of growth a year. To contain it as a hedge needs ideally three sessions of trimming a year, in late spring, summer and early autumn. This is partly because it grows so fast but also because it will not grow again from the older, brown wood. Only the fresh green growth can be clipped effectively and this is at the end of all the branches. It is however possible to maintain a decent, though not perfect, hedge by twice yearly clipping. Anything less and gaps will start to appear at the bottom of the plants which will then look less attractive and stop working so well as a hedge.
Leylands have also frequently been used as screening. They are easily capable of forming a dense line of trees 15metres (50ft) high in reasonable conditions of soil and exposure. As with hedges, this can cause difficulties with neighbours and local authorities who may resent their overbearing effects and the loss of light and view which results. There have been many disputes between neighbours in the UK, several resuting in expensive law suits. The result has been legislation so that it is now possible for Councils to require any evergreen boundary hedge or screen to be reduced to 2m high. It is worth remembering that there are several alternatives to Leylands which, though less vigorous, make very good substitutes. Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) and Yew (Taxus baccata) may substitute well depending on the situation. In addition there are many non-coniferous evergreen hedges such as Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) which thrive in similar conditions to Leylands.

ORNAMENTAL TREES IN MY GARDEN WHICH WILL ONLY GROW TO AROUND 15 OR 20 FEET. HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE THE VARIETIES?
The trees to choose will of course depend on many variables not least of which are your own personal taste and the conditions in your garden. We can only give general guidelines to help you choose.
Trees suitable for your conditions. Each garden is different but a good starting point to see what would thrive in yours is to check the plants which do well in your neighbours’ gardens. If a tree does well locally there is a good chance a similar one will do well in your garden unless your garden has very different conditions of shade, exposure, soil or dampness.
Which should I choose. If you have not seen a tree which you like, or if you don’t know the name of one you have seen, then there are several starting points. Firstly there are several groups of trees which are especially good for small gardens or to provide trees which will only grow to 15-20 feet. These are Malus (apples and crab apples), Prunus (flowering cherries and related trees), Sorbus (rowans), Acers (maples) and Betula (birches). Within these groups is a huge selection of many of the most valuable small trees. However, since the selection is so large, you will need to be pointed in the right direction to make your choice. If you don’t have the name of a particular tree you will need to either visit an arboretum or other public garden where trees are labelled for you to judge them or you will need to look the trees up in books or on the web. There are two outstanding books useful for judging trees (and indeed other plants as well). These are –
The Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers published by the Royal Horticultural Society. This contains brief details of most of the most useful trees and garden plants and photos of a huge number of them. It costs around £30 but could save you from making all sorts of mistakes in choosing the wrong plants. It makes a wonderful present.
The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs which covers most of the plants in these categories commonly grown in gardens.
The pocket edition costs around £15.
A useful source of information on the web to help you choose trees is
http://www.barcham.co.uk/trees
PLANTING A HEDGE OF NATIVE SPECIES. HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT VARIETIES?

The correct mix will depend on your soil and site conditions and varies around the country and from site to site. The table below may be of help to you.

nativehedgingchoices
Hedging mixes are often around 50% hawthorn with the other half made from a mix of plants suitable to the conditions. You can see from the table however that hawthorn is not suited to wet or shady conditions. For these sites it may be better to use a large percentage of blackthorn. It is often a good idea to look at the hedging which thrives in your neighbourhood to see which plants are likely to do best.
SCREENS OF EVERGREEN TREES TO BLOCK OUT A NEW BUILDING. THE SCREEN WILL NEED TO BE AT LEAST 5M HIGH AND 6M ACROSS. WHAT WOULD BE POSSIBLE?
There are lots of possibilities but not all of them would suit all conditions. You will need to take into account that there may be legal problems if you plant this screen as a large hedge at the end of your garden. Neighbours and the Local Authority can object to evergreen hedges over 2m high and can enforce reduction of its height down to this size. Of course if you were able to plant the screen well back from your boundary this might not be a problem. It would also reduce the risk of the trees undermining the building which is being built. Of course a screen of a given height planted nearer to your viewing point will be more effective in blocking out an unpleasant view than the same screen planted further away.
Choosing the type of screen to be planted will depend on several points. Firstly do you want to plant a screen small and let it grow high or do you want to buy mature trees close to the final height. It may not be possible to plant very large trees in your garden if the access to your land is limited. If there is easy access both to your garden and to the road you live on large trees may be quite possible. Of course the same more mature trees have been nurtured for many years and their costs reflects this.
Evergreen trees for use as high screening will be either conifers or broadleaf trees.
CONIFERS FOR SCREENING.

There are many excellent conifers which will reach this kind of height and provide a good screen. Leyland and Lawson Cypresses are the commonest in use. They both give excellent, quick growing dense hedges but will need to be well trimmed at least twice a year to give a dense hedge. They will both tolerate poor conditions although Lawsons need slightly acid soil. They should not be planted into permanently waterlogged ground.
Other conifers such as Scots pine (Pinus Sylvestris) and Austrian pine (Pinus Nigra Austriaca) also make good, tough screens but they are generally more open trees. They will rarely provide a complete visual barrier.
Thujas also make very attractive large screens with leaves giving off an attractive smell. Thuja Plicata, Western Red Cedar, is also tolerant of shade and thin chalk soils.
BROADLEAF TREES FOR SCREENING?

There are only a few good broadleaved evergreen trees suitable as screens. With the exception of Laurels (Prunus laurocerasus) they are far slower growing than equivalent conifers. Holm oak (Quercus ilex) gives a very tough hedge suitable for exposed conditions but to make a large attractive, mature tree with dense foliage takes many years. It is more appropriate as a specimen tree than as a screen. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) can provide excellent dense screening and, as a native tree, looks good and thrives in most UK environments. It is capable of achieving over15m in favourable conditions and has the added advantage of having berries and being host to native butterflies. It will take most conditions except for permanently damp roots.
SHADE IN A SUNNY POSITION. COULD YOU SUGGEST SOME TREES TO PROVIDE THIS?

 

There are many trees suitable for providing shade. In my own garden a Bramley apple does it very well but a Betula would also do. A gently weeping Prunus (flowering Cherry) such as Shirotae – also known as Mount Fuji – would also be good but the roots are shallow and might be a problem if you are planting into a lawn. Sometimes the roots break the surface of the grass and make mowing more difficult.
As regards the soil, all three varieties should tolerate clay and sand. The amount of shade given by birch may be slightly less than for apple or cherry as their canopies are lighter. This can be an advantage if you wish to plant into a lawn as it allows some growth of more shade-tolerant grasses.
All these trees are quite small and suitable for small gardens. The Bramley apple would need to be grown on a more vigorous rootstock to allow for walking underneath. You would need to make it clear for each of these trees that you want to buy one with enough clear stem to allow walking, or at least sitting, underneath.
SIZES OF TREES – WHAT DO THE SIZES LISTED IN CATALOGUES MEAN?
Trees (except conifers with no visible trunk which are often specified by height) in the UK are usually listed by trunk size and by size of container. For instance a tree listed as a 12-14 is a tree with a single stem. The girth (circumference of the stem measured 1metre above the ground level) is in the range 12-14cms. This girth is about three times the diameter of the trunk at this point. By happy coincidence, for quite a lot of these standard trees (a standard tree has a clear stem up to at least 1.8metres or 6ft with a formed head above) the height of the tree in feet is close to the girth in centimetres. So a 12-14cm girth tree is likely to have a height of around 12-14 feet. Of course this is not an absolute rule.
Sometimes trees are sold with several stems (called multi-stemmed) and these usually have an overall height listed in a catalogue instead of a girth.
Pot sizes are often given but it may be hard to imagine them. Start with the information that a standard bucket is around 10 litres. Trees in pots up to sizes of about 50 litres can often be moved by one strong person and up to around 75litres by two people. Large trees in pots bigger than this will usually need machinery to move, lift and plant them and may weigh a lot. For instance a specimen tree in a pot of 350litres may weigh in the range of 350kg.
To give some idea of pot sizes, a 70litre pot will usually be around 45cms high and 50cms diameter and a 250litre pot may be 65cms high and 70cms diameter.
Planting Advice.
GARDEN TREES AND THE UK LAW
We sometimes receive enquiries about the legal situation regarding trees in domestic gardens and try to give some basic guidance. The information given below is offered in good faith to cover some situations in the UK but we can’t guarantee that it will apply in all situations. Before taking any of these matters further please check with your local authority or a bona fide legal adviser.

1. Q A neighbour’s tree overhangs my garden, cuts off the light to my house and blocks my path. What can I do about it?
A The first thing to know is whether the tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order or is in a Conservation Area.. Permission from the Council may be needed in either case to undertake work on the tree so start by contacting the Tree Officer from your local authority. In civil law you can take back to the boundary line any branches that overhang your property from trees not covered by these restrictions. This can be done without informing your neighbour or gaining their permission but it is always better to let them know in advance. In law the timber removed belongs to the owner of the tree and should be offered to them. If you think that a tree blocks off light to your house or garden without overhanging your property then the problem becomes more complicated and you may have to take legal advice after you have spoken to the owner of the tree.
Similar points apply to overhanging fruits which technically belong to the owner of the tree. However you have no right to insist that your neighbours clear up fallen leaves or fruit in your garden.

2 Q Do I need permission to cut down or prune a tree in my garden?
A Again you need to check whether the tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order or is in a Conservation Area. Contact the Council Tree Officer to clarify this. You will also need permission from the landlord if you are in rented property. If you are in a newly built property trees in your garden may be covered by the original planning permission for up to five years so there may be restrictions as to what you can do.

3 Q My neighbour has a high evergreen hedge which is cutting out my light. Can I make him cut it down?
A The first thing to do of course is to discuss the options with the owner of the hedge. If this fails to produce the result you want then the local authority is empowered to adjudicate. You will need to approach them formally and to pay them a fee. They may dismiss the complaint or issue a formal notice of remediation to the hedge owner to remedy the situation. Usually this means a reduction of the height of the hedge to no less than 2 metres (about 6ft 6in). If the hedge owner doesn’t carry out the work the Council can prosecute, issue a fine, and undertake the works themselves and recover costs. Information on this process is available from
http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/overgardenhedge
http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/highhedgescomplaining

4 Q How can I get a Tree Preservation Order made
A This is a legal process which is decided and implemented by your local authority Tree Officers.

5 Q My neighbour has started to cut down a tree. Is he allowed to do this?
A If the tree is not protected (see question 2 above) then he won’t need permission unless –
a) the tree is on a joint boundary or access is needed to the adjoining property to undertake the works. Permission under civil law is then needed from the other party or
b) the tree is so large that the work, especially felling, poses dangers to land and property and would therefore require clearance under Health and Safety regulations.

6 Q What can I do if I see someone working on protected trees and I think that they may not have permission?
A Firstly don’t take the law into your own hands but approach the owner or tradesperson
politely and ask them whether they know whether the tree is protected and whether they have approached the local authority for permission to work on it. If the situation remains amicable ask whether you can see the written answer from the Council officer. If you don’t feel able to do this you can approach the Council tree officers directly to inform them about the situation. If it is out of work hours you should report the matter to the Council as soon as possible on a working day making as many notes of the details as possible. This might help if the Council decides to start a prosecution. You can also approach the police and ask to speak to the wildlife officer if you think that there may be danger to protected species or it is the bird nesting season.
HOW SHOULD I PLANT MY IVY SCREENING?

When you receive our ivy screening you will find a biodegradable trough 1.2m (4ft) wide supporting a rigid galvanised steel screen. Ivy plants will have been trained from the trough to almost cover the screen. The entire trough needs to go into a trench, ideally 30cm (1ft) deep and wide, backfilled with soil and compost and with a little slow release fertiliser mixed in. The screens must be attached to something – either an existing structure like a wall or fence or posts put in for the purpose – otherwise they will move in the wind. The most common means of fixing is to place 4in wooden posts at 1.36m (54in) centres and to attach the screens using the brackets which we provide for the job. After that the ivy should grow away and soon leave the mesh virtually covered. Ivy is a very tough plant but will still need basic aftercare ie it needs to be watered in at planting and then it needs to be watered during any periods of drought for the first year or so. Trimming can be carried out once or twice a year.
LOOKING AFTER LARGE HEDGING PLANTS AND TREES AFTER YOU HAVE HAD THEM DELIVERED?
How to look after new plants when they are delivered to you will depend on the type of plants and the time of year. It is essential for all plants in containers, and for all trees and hedges facing their first year in a garden, that their roots are not allowed to dry out. Judging this is not however all that easy. Large plants standing in containers prior to planting may need a lot of water during dry periods in the spring, summer and autumn. If they are from a reputable grower and the compost is of good quality they can be watered at the top of the pot until the water starts to come out of the bottom. In very dry weather this may be needed every day but in general will not be more frequent. Once planted, watering during the first year, or even two years, will be needed in dry spells.
It is generally easy to spot stress in broad leaved plants – the leaves start to curl and wilt. For conifers, and evergreens such as Laurels, it may not be so easy to spot this and by the time signs of dryness are obvious the plant may be in difficulties. For these plants it is even more vital to keep plants, both in containers and in the ground, well watered. Brown patches on conifers can be difficult or impossible to reverse. Part of the plant, or even the whole plant, may be permanently lost.
During winter months, especially once the leaves have fallen from deciduous leaves, watering problems become less severe. The air is cooler and plants which have lost their leaves lose little moisture. Watering is not generally needed. There can be a problem for evergreens in the coldest months if the containers freeze solid for several days or weeks. This is because evergreen plants can still lose moisture throught their leaves in the winter and this needs to be replaced by their roots. Their roots, frozen solid in pots, may be unable to provide this. In the coldest regions it may therefore be useful to find ways to prevent long-term freezing of the pots by moving them to warmer areas or insulating them with bubble wrap or straw.
Plants bought with the intention of planting them out will generally appreciate being planted as quickly as possible. Weather conditions may not allow this in the first few days. For instance the ground may be frozen or waterlogged by rain. Other approaches are needed. Many large hedge and tree plants provided in the winter months are rootballed. This means they have been lifted by machine and their roots have been wrapped in hessian sacking. This gives a ball of roots and soil which can be planted without removing the wrapping. The whole rootball can be planted with the top of the hessian close to ground level. If plants arrive when weather conditions prevent planting they can be left for some time. Plants in rootballs can be left away from drying or freezing winds until a suitable time arrives and, indeed, are sometimes left several weeks in the winter without suffering harm. When a suitable time for planting does arrive it is still important to ensure that planting holes or trenches do not fill with water and that the plants do not rock in the wind. On clay soils especially it is vital not to dig holes which fill with water leaving a plant’s roots effectively in a pool. And in the winter, when winds are generally stronger, plants need securing so that they don’t rock in the wind, loosening the roots and destroying the intimate contact with the surrounding soil. A solid stake, or a rail attached to sturdy posts, and efficient tying should achieve this. If in doubt we always recommend that a competent professional is brought in on planting and aftercare.
MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI?
These fungi live in a natural relationship with the roots of trees which is beneficial to both the fungi and the tree. The fungi receive sugars from the tree which they are otherwise unable to produce alone and the trees receive nutrients from the fungi. Amongst these are nitrogen and phosphorus – both vital to tree growth. Use of mycorrhizal fungi at planting is now widespread and is recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society. Their use has been shown to improve the establishment and growth of newly planted trees although they are not usually recommended in situations – such as non-organic gardens or agricultural situations – where phosphate rich fertilisers are used. These situations tend to suppress the benefits of the fungi. The Royal Horticultural Society can recommend and supply suitable products to use when planting.
PLANT A HEDGE. HOW SHOULD I DO THIS?
Hedges come in many shapes and sizes so planting them can be just as varied. So let’s start with the
simplest. In the UK our landscape is crossed by tens of thousands of miles of hedges going back
hundreds of years – or even longer. The majority of these were planted using very small plants,
which we now call whips, and the variety of plants in the hedges has increased with time. Indeed it’s
possible to estimate the age of a hedge by measuring the number of different species in the hedge
for every hundred metres.
The cheapest and easiest way to plant a modern hedge is to buy whips. Whips are small trees which
normally have side branches, depending on the species. They are at least 2-3 years old and have
been transplanted to ensure a compact and fibrous root system for successful planting. Nevertheless
when you buy them they will probably look to you like sticks with a small bunch of roots on the
end. They are purchased and planted in winter when the leaves are off the trees and don’t look
impressive at all. They are very cheap however and will soon leap into growth in the spring.
Whips can be bought to suit your local conditions. Sandy soil mixes, clay mixes and chalky soil
mixes are available and you can make up your own mixtures to suit your conditions and wishes.
You will not find evergreen plants as whips as they do not lose their leaves or become dormant in
the winter. If you want Holly or other evergreens you will have to buy them grown in small pots and
they will be a little more expensive.
To plant whips you will first have to clear the ground. Small trees do not like to compete with
weeds and grasses for the nutrients and moisture in the ground. You can get round this clearing to
some extent with a mulch made of a modern landscape material which will suppress the weeds and
keep the roots of these small plants moister in their first, critical growing season. If you have
cleared the weeds then a mulch of bark or other natural material may fulfil this function just as well.
The whips are usually planted at 5 plants per metre in two staggered rows about 30cm apart.
Usually there is no need to feed these tough native species but it is vital to ensure that they don’t
succumb to drought in their first couple of growing seasons. A mulch will help but some watering
may be needed.
New plants often need protection from deer and rabbits so cheap tubes and coils of plastic are
readily available to act as guards until the plants are large enough to look after themselves.
Hedges can be planted in several other forms which give more maturity from the start. These vary
from larger individual plants in pots, through plants in troughs which are starting to grow together,
to fully mature hedges knitted together and planted by professionals to give a truly instant effect.
Within this great range there are all sorts of possibilities. You can buy large plants up to the size of
small trees which will grow into each other to form a tall hedge or screen. These are available as
trimmed plants or even as squared off units which will fit next to each other to give a continuous
hedge almost from day one. These are especially effective when they are evergreens (though please
note that, within the UK, neighbours and local authorities can object to evergreen hedges over 2m
high and require you to cut them back). When you are dealing with these plants at large sizes be
aware that they may be very heavy and difficult to handle, move and plant. Professional help and
even machinery may be needed.
To prepare the ground for larger plants, or troughs with several plants in them, will be more
complicated than for whips. Whips can often be planted simply by making a slit in the soil with a
spade, placing the roots of the plant in the ground and firming them in with the heel. Larger plants
and especially those in troughs or with enormous rootballs, need trenches or large holes. This can
cause problems in heavy clay soils where a hole dug in the clay can become waterlogged and act
effectively as a small pond. This would give very bad conditions for root growth so drainage at the
bottom of the hole is essential before planting.
Rootballed plants come with their roots wrapped in hessian ready to be placed straight in the ground
without unwrapping. These and plants in containers need firm ground around the roots to stop them
swaying in the wind – a process which stops the roots from growing into close contact with the
surrounding soil. In windy situations, and especially for large plants and evergreens, it may be
necessary to restrict the movement of the plants by tying them to wires attached to tensioning bolts
and braced fenceposts. This however is usually a job for professionals, not for someone attempting
the job for the first time.
Feeding plants with slow release fertiliser is worthwhile but the number one essential is to avoid the
roots of your new hedge drying out completely during the first year or two. An automatic watering
system is the best way of ensuring this but, at any rate, vigilance and an effective back-up system
for watering are vital.
PLANTING A LARGE AREA WITH WITH LARGE TREES. HOW SHOULD I START PLANTING TO ACHIEVE FAST RESULTS WITHOUT SPENDING A FORTUNE?
Many people want to create small woodlands or simply make their land more attractive but don’t want to wait too long for results. In the past the reasons for planting woods were often different from today’s reasons – for instance planting to produce valuable timber or cover for game. These days the reasons are more likely to be aesthetic as there is a general understanding that huge areas of woodland have been lost and the countryside looks poorer as a result. Landowners may also be inspired by the valuable habitats which woodlands can provide or the future use of managed woodlands as sources of biofuel.
The first place to start when considering planting a woodland is to try to ensure that the trees planted suit your environment. For residents of the UK it is straightforward to discover what is native to your area by entering the first three digits of your postcode into the appropriate part of the website www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/plants-fungi/postcode-plants which is a national database provided by the Natural History Museum. This excellent resource will tell you all the native plants, not just the trees, for your local area. You should then look at any particular problems which your land may provide for a growing tree. These would principally be problems of drainage, soil type and exposure. All three of these could vary within a very small area so that very damp or dry patches, extremely windy areas or local soil problems might produce situations which may not be obvious from the database. The soil for instance may have been compacted by building machinery or polluted by previous use. If any of these problems seem likely than a site visit from an expert may be necessary and soil samples may need to be taken and analysed. However if your site is fairly typical of your neighbourhood the database will give you a good idea of where to start in choosing trees (or for that matter hedges and smaller plants).
There are several varieties of trees known for the speed with which they grow. Poplars, Willows and Eucalyptus are amongst the commonest. Indeed Poplars are the fastest growing source of hardwood in the UK. These varieties may not give you the end result which you need especially if you have a vision of stately trees with large spreading crowns lasting through the centuries. If you imagine your land covered in large Oaks, Beeches, Ashes and the like you will need to take a longer term view. Planting a fast growing species to give an early effect, with these larger species growing more slowly next to them, one day to take over from them and shade them out, may be your best approach. Willow, Alder, Poplar, Sorbus (such as Rowans) and Birch will give you the fast growing “nursery crop” amongst which the giant trees of the future can develop. Willows and some Poplars can sometimes be grown successfully simply by sticking suitable branches straight into damp ground, though they will need protection from rabbits and deer.
Buying and planting these larger trees is not entirely straightforward as there are several options. Mature trees, up to 9m (30ft) tall, can be bought, transported and planted by experts but this is a pricey business. You will be spending thousands per tree and access for large machines will be necessary. Trees smaller than this can also be bought and planted in a similar way but sometimes they can also be dug up and moved using tree spades where suitable specimens are available locally. Moving trees can work out far cheaper than buying new, purpose grown specimens.
At the other end of the spectrum trees can easily and cheaply be bought as bare-rooted plants. As the name suggests these are smaller trees, usually up to around 3m (10ft) high, which have been dug up during late autumn and winter when their leaves have fallen off and they are dormant, and are sold with no soil attached to their roots. They can be a very cheap way to buy trees and they usually establish well but, despite the fact that they come into leaf in the following spring and appear healthyl, they may sit still in your soil for several years without making much growth. They are building up their reserves and growing roots during this time. It may be very frustrating to wait for them to start back into serious growth after several years.
More expensive, though often very reasonably priced, are rootballed trees. These are grown in open ground and are prepared for movement in advance of digging them up. When they are lifted their roots are surrounded by some of the soil which they have grown in and are then wrapped in hessian. They are transported like this and the tree, complete with rootball and hessian bag, is planted into the new ground. Over time the bag rots and the trees strart back into growth with less of the disturbance which bare-rooted trees have suffered. They generally establish and grow more effectively than bare-rooted specimens.
The final option is to plant more expensive trees grown in containers. The art of growing trees in pots and bags has advanced greatly in recent years as our understanding of the needs of trees, and especially their roots, has moved on. Container-grown trees up to a considerable size can now be bought though it becomes difficult, and a little dangerous, to plant by hand trees in containers larger than around 70-90litres. Back injuries can easily result. Plants larger than these sizes need to be moved and planted by machine. Having spent more on these container-grown plants, whose chances of survival and speed of growth are likely to be greater, it is well worth getting professionals to plant them and look after them. If however you wish to plant them yourself you can usually buy container grown trees around 3-4m high for around £75-£100. They can be delivered to you and can sit happily in their pots for a time, as long as you look after their needs for water and support, whilst you wait for a suitable time to plant them.
With all of these trees aftercare and planting will matter even more than choosing the right varieties. A dry period in the years before a tree has settled in can kill off any tree and poor planting can produce all sorts of problems.
PLANTING HOLES. WHEN I PLANT MY LARGE TREE WHAT SORT OF HOLE AND SOIL WILL I NEED?
Large trees will usually arrive as either containerised plants (in a pot or other container) or rootballed. Containerised trees have been grown in their container for a time and their roots should just have reached the inside of the walls of the container and so be ready to grow out into their new environment. Plants which are rootballed have been grown in open land and will have been transplanted regularly, sometimes five or six times, to keep the roots fibrous and in good health. They will have been expertly dug and their roots wrapped in hessian or, for larger trees, in hessian tied with wire. This rootballing keeps a ball of soil around the roots of the tree and minimises the disturbance it suffers. The hessian and wire should be left on the tree at planting as the hessian will easily rot over time.
Tree pits need to be wide and loose, especially in their top third where most of the root growth happens. When digging out the pit you should keep the topsoil and subsoil separate. The topsoil is usually darker than the subsoil as it contains lots of humus and enormous amounts of life. When planting the tree the subsoil should again be at the bottom of the pit and the topsoil above it. Reversing this can result in the build up of toxic gases as the living material in the topsoil rots.
The bottom of the pit needs to be broken up to some degree to ensure that you don’t produce a sump – a pool full of water in which the tree roots are unlikely to thrive.
When placing a rootballed tree in the tree hole make sure that the rootball is about three centimetres above the level at which it was planted in the nursery. Trees in general dislike to be too deeply planted or to have soil up against their bark. The exceptions to this rule are willows and poplars which are planted around 20cms deeper than they were in the nursery. Their trunks will make new roots directly from the bark and this will help to stabilise them and help them settle in. Trees in containers are generally planted at about the same level that they had in the pot although willows and poplars again can be a little deeper.
To prevent subsidence of the soil in the tree pit the soil can be compressed every 30cms or so as you plant. The question of whether to add soil ameliorants such as composts, mycorrhyzal fungi or slow release fertiliser will depend on the partcular soil conditions and specimen. Watering and aerating pipes may also be useful. It will be vital to ensure correct watering of the new tree, neither allowing it to dry out or to be waterlogged. If in doubt seek expert opinions
PLANTING LARGER ROOTBALLED PLANTS?
Rootballed plants are generally evergreens and have been grown in open ground, usually a field in fact, and then dug up during a time of year when they are not subject to too much water loss. This means that they are available from around November until April. Once lifted from the ground their roots are wrapped in hessian. A reliable grower will wrap enough roots in the hessian to ensure that the plant can grow healthily. The hessian should be left on during planting and will slowly rot allowing the roots to grow into the surrounding soil. It is usually recommended that the top of the hessian is visible after planting.
Some plants such as Yew are more at home in dryer soils and should not be planted too deep. A couple of inches of the hessian should usually be visible above the ground. As with most plants it is important not to dig into dense clay which could form a trough of water capable of drowning the roots.
It is important that the rootballs do not move once they are planted as this would make it more difficult for the roots to make contact with the soil. The larger the plant the more difficult it is to stop them moving in the wind. Large rootballed trees may need guying above or below the ground to ensure that their roots don’t move. For hedging plants and smaller trees, stakes will work. Hedging plants can sometimes be attached to a line of taught wire. With both stakes and wire some cushioning will be needed to stop the tree bark rubbing away.
As with all larger plants it is important to ensure that they are not stressed by drought during their first couple of years at least. Once the leaves start to droop or to lose their healthy colour it may be too late to save the plant.
PLANTING TREES NEXT TO HOUSES AND WALLS?
The question of how close to your house to plant a tree is a complicated one. After a dry summer there is usually a rush of claims to insurance companies after subsidence occurs. The problems generally happen in areas where there is clay soil as tree roots can remove the water from the clay producing shrinkage. This shrinkage may result in movement of foundations and the walls which they support. Exact information is hard to give but it is possible to give a few generalisations. I take my information from a textbook on the subject – “Tree Roots and Buildings” by Cutler and Richardson published by Longman Scientific and Technical. They work from reported problems and give the distance from buildings within which 50% of the incidents occur. If the incidents occur close to a building for a particular species this is considered to be a less dangerous tree to plant than one which gives problems at a greater distance from the house. So Willows, Poplars, Oaks and Elms can give problems at far greater distances than Birches, Hollies, Apples Rowans, Pines, Yews, Magnolias, Laburnums, and Cherries.
It may be wise to consult your insurance company before you plant a large tree in your garden. Be aware however that they are likely to give a very conservative response and that our towns and cities would have far fewer fine trees in them if insurance companies had been the arbiters of what to plant.
There is another way to look at this problem. In many countries street trees are planted into prepared planting pits along the sides of roads. These are effectively large sunken plant pots which allow space for tree roots to develop without interfering with buildings, drains or other services. If you are keen to plant a large tree into a space near to walls, buildings, or services it may be possible to create a pit. For large trees you would need a pit around 2m x 2m and 1m deep. This would have thick walls of blockwork or alternatively welded steel. You would be making an enormous container with drainage holes to prevent it turning into a sump or underground pool. It would be essential to ensure that the container can drain properly and so it is unlikely to work if the pit is dug into clay unless you can arrange good drainage through the clay and away.
In order to water the tree effectively and, almost as important, to allow air to the roots a perforated plastic tube around 50mm in diameter should be buried to the depth of the pit but with its inlet just above soil level. These are available from tree and landscape suppliers but you could improvise one from a length of drainage pipe.
If made well this should allow a tree to thrive in a limited space without danger to its surroundings.

RAISED TREE SCREEN? HOW CAN I CREATE ONE?
There are many situations where a raised screen of trees is useful. For instance, if you have an attractive wall which is, say, 6ft high and you wish to screen out a distant view above it without obscuring the wall you might like to use trees which have been grown as standards or high panels. What however do these different terms mean and how can these plants be used.
Standard trees are grown with a bare trunk around 6ft high (occasionally they are slightly higher at 2m and half standards are also available with shorter trunks). These bare trunks are usually easy to keep bare and you can allow the tops of the trees to grow to suit your needs. However you will need to buy trees to suit the situation. For instance a row of Birch trees may eventually grow to 45ft in good growing conditions and be 20ft across the crown but this could take many years. You would have to decide when you plant them just how far apart they should be. They will also be deciduous so the leaves will fall in winter and they will not form the same screen. There are alternatives however which will make it easier to provide a quicker and more controllable screen.
Both deciduous and evergreen standard trees, such as Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex), Laurels or the shorter Photinias, can be bought as standards and tightly clipped to create a screen limited to the size you want. Left to themselves Holm Oaks would grow as large as any Oak tree but clipped they can be kept to the size which suits you. This however requires a clip at least once a year. There are nurseries which sell a range of deciduous and evergreen trees clipped as high panels that is bare trunks with a rectangular panel of branches carefully trained to shape on top of them. These can be planted next to each other to give an instant high screen. More decorative, but less effective as screens, are pleached trees where the high panel is trained along horizontal wires. Similarly espaliered fruit trees can be bought ready trained to give horizontal tiers of fruiting branches but these are usually on much shorter trunks for ease of picking and are less effective as screens. They are however a very effective way of dividing a garden into sections being both productive and extremely attractive.
To achieve the sort of high screens you want you will have to work out the overall width of the screen and the height which it needs to achieve. Then there is the question of tree variety. Do you want evergreen or will deciduous do (deciduous is often cheaper) and do you require anything else from the tree such as attractive foliage or flowers. Finally will the trees thrive in your garden conditions or will soil and drainage problems compromise their development. You will probably need to refer to a textbook or speak to an expert to answer these questions. A site visit may also be needed.
SMALL TREES IN AN URBAN GARDEN. IS IT SAFE TO PLANT WITHIN 5M OF THE WALLS OF MY HOUSE OR WILL I BE RISKING SUBSIDENCE WHEN IT BECOMES A LARGE TREE?
The question of how close to your house to plant a tree is a complicated one. After a dry summer there is usually a rush of claims to insurance companies after subsidence occurs. The problems generally happen in areas where there is clay soil as tree roots can remove the water from the clay producing shrinkage. This shrinkage may result in movement of foundations and the walls which they support. Exact information is hard to give but it is possible to give a few generalisations. I take my information from a textbook on the subject – “Tree Roots and Buildings” by Cutler and Richardson published by Longman Scientific and Technical. They work from reported problems and give the distance from buildings within which 50% of the incidents occur. If the incidents occur close to a building for a particular species this is considered to be a less dangerous tree to plant than one which gives problems at a greater distance from the house. So Willows, Poplars, Oaks and Elms can give problems at far greater distances than Birches, Hollies, Apples, Beeches, Cherries, Laburnums, Laurels, Magnolias, Pines, Spruces, Yews and Rowans.
It may be wise to consult your insurance company before you plant a large tree in your garden. Be aware however that they are likely to give a very conservative response and that our towns and cities would have far fewer fine trees in them if insurance companies had been the arbiters of what to plant.
There is another way to look at this problem. In many countries street trees are planted into prepared planting pits along the sides of roads. These are effectively large sunken plantpots which allow space for tree roots to develop without interfering with buildings, drains or other services. If you are keen to plant a large tree into a space near to walls, buildings, or services it may be possible to create a pit. For large trees you would need a pit around 2m x 2m and 1m deep. This would have thick walls of blockwork or alternatively welded steel. You would be making an enormous container with drainage holes to prevent it turning into a sump or underground pool. It would be essential to ensure that the container can drain properly and so it is unlikely to work if the pit is dug into clay unless you can arrange good drainage through the clay and away.
In order to water the tree effectively and, almost as important, to allow air to the roots a perforated plastic tube around 50mm in diameter should be buried to the depth of the pit but with its inlet just above soil level. These are available from tree and landscape suppliers but you could improvise one from a length of drainage pipe.
If made well this should allow a tree to thrive in a limited space without danger to its surroundings.
STAKING MY TREE? HOW SHOULD I TACKLE THIS?
For very large trees, say those over 30cm girth (girth is the circumference one metre above the ground for a single-stemmed tree), special staking methods may be needed which can only be undertaken by professionals. For smaller trees however it is usually practical to undertake staking oneself. The basic intention is to stop the root system of the plant from moving in the wind whilst allowing the trunk to flex. It is also important to prevent the roots from being broken by the stakes during planting.
One modern way to approach staking is to think of the stem and branches of a tree in a similar way to the muscles of an animal’s body – they are both strengthened by use. Thus allowing a tree to move in the wind without allowing the roots to move is likely to create a stronger tree in the long term. For trees with clear stems in situations of normal wind exposure a tree should be staked with a single stake driven in at 45degrees to the vertical and crossing the tree trunk about 450mm or 18inches above the ground. The stake should be driven in outside the rootball. A rubber tree tie should be tied round the tree and attached to the stake and a rubber cushion placed between the tree and the tree tie. These ties will need to be inspected each year and loosened as the tree grows.
In very windy situations or for larger trees, say greater than 20cm girth, two short stakes with a wooden cross piece are best used. The cross piece has a rubber cushion attached between it and the tree and rubber ties are used to bind the tree to the cushion.
Very large trees may need ground anchors, or bracing using wires attached to the branches of the tree, but these are more jobs for professionals.

WINDBREAKS IN A VERY EXPOSED PLACE. HOW SHOULD I PLANT ONE?
There are many situations where creating a garden is made very difficult by strong winds. These in themselves can make it hard to establish more sensitive plants but if the winds carry salt from sea water or are particularly cold the challenge is even greater. Planting a windbreak can dramatically reduce the winds suffered by both our plants and ourselves.
The first thing to remember in establishing a windbreak is that it is better to filter the wind rather than create a solid barrier. A wall or a building might at first seem like the best way to protect an area, but solid barriers create eddies and turbulence around them which may be worse for plants and for you. We are all familiar with the strength of winds between city buildings. In a similar way walls which create immediate barriers to wind also produce strong eddies and swirls of wind around them. Plants tend to filter the wind rather than deflect them so that the strength of the wind is reduced rather than simply moved to another place. They are also less expensive and generally more attractive than walls, generally improve with time and may need less maintenance.
In planting a windbreak you will need to start with a good idea of the predominant wind in your neighbourhood. For most places there is a direction from which the majority of winds arrive. For instance most of the UK is subject to predominant winds from the south west although damaging cold winds can also come from other directions. For a garden located on a cliff or headland there may be frequent strong winds from more than one direction. Whichever you suffer from you will need to know about them in advance so that the trees you plant will be in the right place. It may take years to establish the windbreak so it is definitely worth getting this right the first time.
The general principle when planting a windbreak is to establish a row of large trees with dense smaller trees and shrubs either side of it on the windward and leeward sides. These smaller trees and shrubs greatly add to the overall filtering effect. As a general rule the effectiveness of an established windbreak usually stretches on the leeward side of the break for a distance which is around 5-10 times the height of the trees, but there may be some effect up to around 25 times the height. So if your trees are 30ft high the windbreak may be effective for more than 2-300 ft.
To choose plants which will do the job in your difficult situation the first thing to do is to look at the trees and shrubs which are already thriving in your neighbourhood. You may find that there is Sycamore and this is one of the few situations in which the planting of these tough trees can be easily justified in the UK. Generally they are considered a “weed tree” as they are very invasive and support little wildlife compared with native species. They are however a traditional windbreak for hill farms and exposed settlements and can provide the same function for a garden. They will of course lose their leaves in the winter and so a large evergreen tree species should be added to the windbreak. Austrian Pines, Pinus Nigra, are excellent in this situation as they are resistant to strong winds and salt and do not need good soils. For an understorey of smaller trees and shrubs you would again be well advised to find out what thrives already in your neighbourhood. Near to the sea likely evergreen candidates will be Griselinia, Arbutus, Holly, Hebes, Eucalyptus Gunnii, Olearia, Berberis Darwinii, Phormium and Cordyline. Many of these will not thrive in cold and exposed sites. Evergreen shrubs for colder areas might be Eleagnus, Euonymus,Mahonia, Myrica, Rhododendron, and Viburnum. Deciduous trees for both situations may include Rowans and Whitebeams, Birches, Ashes, Beeches, Alders, and Willows. Shrubs could include Fuchsia Riccartonii, Rosa Rugosa and Gorse.
Of course planting and establishing trees in exposed conditions is also a problem. Our natural instinct is to stake them high and tie them three or four feet above ground level. However there is a problem with this. We should think of the trunks of trees in some respects as being like the muscles of an animal’s body. The more they flex and are challenged the stronger they become. Therefore if we stake a tree high and then, after several years, untie it from the stake we will often find that it has not built up sufficient strength to stand alone. Our aim should be to stake it low so that it can still flex but the rootball can’t move and loosen the roots. It is sufficient here to say that the tree should either have a low stake at an angle to the tree trunk, have two low stakes joined by a crossbar or should be secured by ground anchoring. Whichever system is used the stake should not go through the rootball, the above ground ties should be loosened a little each year and the tree roots should not be allowed to dry out for a year or two at least. Ground anchoring is a specialized way of securing a tree by tying its rootball in a non-damaging way below ground. If done correctly the rootball won’t move and nothing except the tree is visible above ground. It is an ideal way of planting a tree but requires rather more skill and expense than the conventional ways using stakes.
A good windbreak will take some years to establish but within it a surprising range of delicate and sensitive plants can often survive and, in addition, we humans usually feel a good deal more comfortable as well.
I WANT TO PLANT A MATURE TREE WHICH IS TOO LARGE FOR A SINGLE STAKE. HOW SHOULD I STOP IT FROM MOVING AFTER I’VE PLANTED IT?

Below are two drawings suggesting other methods of securing mature trees. On the left is a large tree secured by ground anchors. You will see that little is visible above the soil surface. Screw anchors are fixed into the ground at the bottom of the planting pit. This usually requires clay soil to give a good anchor. It is also possible to place large pieces of timber or concrete beneath the tree to use as anchors attached to the straps. Straps attached to the screws go over the rootball of the tree and are prevented from digging into the tree roots by padding. You will notice that a well has been left around the trees in both cases to give efficient watering. The tree on the right has been fixed using three stakes placed outside the rootball of the tree and wide flexible tree ties have been placed round the trunk of the tree. Again a well has been created around the tree by making a depression in the soil around 150mm high. Remember that most of the root growth will generally happen in the top 500mm of soil so make sure that this is where you place most of the topsoil – not buried beneath subsoil and rock.

Staking a large tree FAQs

After Care.
BEECH AND HORNBEAM HEDGING. HOW DO I KEEP THE LEAVES ON THROUGH WINTER?
The answer to this is very straightforward. Trimming should be undertaken in late summer in order to maximise the number of leaves retained during the winter.
CUTTING MY HEDGE. WHICH IS THE BEST WAY AND THE BEST TIME TO CUT IT?
There are two main reasons to keep a hedge trimmed – to make it look attractive and to make sure it grows dense. If you plant hedging plants and then leave them to grow without regular clipping you are likely to get a very leggy hedge with light between the individual plants. Left long enough, like a farm hedge that has not been cut for years, it will eventually stop being a hedge and become a row of taller trees and smaller shrubs. As such it is not likely to act as an effective physical or visual barrier.
There are several methods of trimming hedges depending on the plant varieties used. For newly planted hedges some species such as blackthorn, hawthorn and privet can be reduced to around 10cm immediately after planting. This helps to ensure that they will branch from low down and make thick formal hedges. Most other deciduous plants are best reduced by around a third in the autumn after planting. To keep a hedge growing densely the main leaders of deciduous plants can be cut back in the following years and the side shoots shortened a little. The principle is to make the shoots on the plants divide frequently to give dense growth and this is best done by frequent trimming. In general the more frequent the trimming the denser and more formal the hedge. Once a hedge has reached the size you want the trick is to cut new growth just outside the basic framework of the hedge allowing a small amount of new growth to be retained.
Conifers are not normally pruned until they have reached the desired height of the hedge. They can then be trimmed several times each growing season if you have the time and patience. Along with privet and lonicera nitida (shrubby honeysuckle) leyland cypresses develop their best form if clipped in late spring, midsummer and autumn. Some other evergreens such as box, lawson cypress, holly and yew do best with a midsummer and autumn cut whereas cherry laurel, oleaster and lavender should be pruned once in autumn.
There are other details to keep in mind. If you want the leaves on your beech or hornbeam to stay on through the winter, which many people do to maintain a visual barrier, they should be pruned in late summer. Hedges of laurel, holly or other broad leaved evergreen plants should ideally be cut with secateurs. If you cut them with shears you will produce unattractive brown edges on the cut leaves. Tall formal hedges should be cut to be a little wider at the bottom than at the top. This stops the bottom becoming brown, adds to the stability of the hedge ( some tall hedges such as lonicera nitida have a habit of starting to lean when they are more than 1.5m high) and reduces the likelihood of snow pulling the hedge apart.
There are many other details to maintaining a good hedge. I would recommend the RHS booklet called simply “hedges” by Michael Pollock (ISBN 0 7513 47280) as a very good introduction to the subject.
DAMAGE TO A MATURE TREE IN MY GARDEN. IS IT POSSIBLE TO REPLACE IT?

It is unfortunately a fairly common experience for builders and contractors to work too close to mature trees and not to understand how much damage can be done. A mature tree may have developed a very wide spread of roots and the tree will be feeding using the small roots at the edge of this spread. Damage to a large part of these can result in severe damage and die-back. Damage to bark, or as a result of piling soil against the trunk ( something which is dangerous for almost any variety of tree) can result in death or an ailing tree. It is not uncommon however for the contractors to have a legal duty to replace damaged mature trees and this at least can provide a reasonable budget to take on the work. Of course if the contractor’s appear to have deliberately endangered a tree in order to facilitate their works the local authority may become involved and there may be a more serious legal outcome.
What is then possible as a replacement for a mature tree? Trees up to 10m, 30ft, high can be moved and planted but this of course is not a small undertaking. Often these trees will have been grown far away from your garden and will have to be moved a large distance by special transport. Access to the garden for large machinery will be necessary to bring the tree in, to excavate the planting pit and to remove the soil. The ground will have to be free of underground services and will need to be suitable for the chosen species. Water tables and drainage will need to be suitable. Between the largest trees which can be planted and the small ones available from a garden centre is a range of trees of intermediate size and price. In addition it is sometimes easier and cheaper to move a semi mature tree from a location closer at hand as an alternative to buying a new tree. Tree spades mounted on the back of trucks are able to dig, remove and replant surprisingly large specimens.
Finally, and vitally, it is important to have a professional to keep an eye on a newly planted tree and to advise on aftercare. It would be very frustrating to plant something so impressive and expensive only to have it die soon after.
DRY SPRING. AFTER THE VERY DRY SPRING IN 2011 SHOULD I BE WATERING MY TREES?
The spring of 2011 was an exceptionally dry spring in most of the UK. Only the north west has received normal amounts of rain. It has followed a very cold winter and a recent prolonged windy period has itself caused extra drying. There are worries that the combination of extreme seasons may be of particular harm to larger plants which have been planted within the last couple of years. These may not yet have developed the extensive root systems which would see them through a drought and the result could be die-back or the death of the plants. A sign of the stress which the plant is suffering might be the loss of leaves or sections of the plant or, for fruiting trees, the loss of fruit.
If you are worried that these conditions might apply to your plants, or you see signs of stress, then you should take action during the growing period of the trees. Fruit trees in particular may need attention as fruit, which is mostly water anyway, will be swelling and may require more water than the tree can provide. Fruit trees may cast off a large percentage of their growing fruit to reduce the stress they are suffering. To counter this a regular application of a trickling hose to the soil surface around the trees will help. If this is not possible then a bucket, or watering can, of water applied regularly may have the same effect. Action in the summer may prevent fruit fall, leaf loss or the death of a large plant.
EXPOSED GARDENS. WHAT KINDS OF TREES WILL THRIVE IN THESE CONDITIONS AND HOW SHOULD I STOP THEM FROM BLOWING OVER AFTER I PLANT THEM?
There are many kinds of tree which are adapted to exposed conditions. I will assume that you are not subject to salt-laden winds from the sea which bring with them additional problems. Whichever type of tree you plant you will need to keep in mind that the drying effect of strong winds will make it even more important to ensure that your trees do not dry out during their first couple of years. After that they should have established a new, vigorous root system allowing them to survive some periods of dry weather.
The first place to look for wind-tolerant trees is the uplands of Britain. Here hawthorns (Crataegus), rowans(Sorbus), Ashes(Fraxinus) and birches(Betula) can thrive where others may not. Cultivated varieties similar to these are often therefore very tough indeed. Depending on your exact conditions some of the following are worth considering – you may wish to check your exact situation against those recommended in a textbook such as The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs.
Crataegus Thorns such as the native Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) or the Cockspur Thorn (Crataegus x lavalleei) will thrive in very tough conditions and are available in several varieties.
Sorbus These are available as Rowans (Sorbus aucuparia varieties), Whitebeams (Sorbus aria varieties), Swedish Whitebeams ( Sorbus intermedia) and indeed many others from mountainous areas of the world.
Betula The birches come in many hardy and attractive forms. Native species such as The Silver Birch (Betula pendula) and the White Birch (Betula pubescens) are tough and attractive but the White Birch can tolerate far damper ground. The Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis jacquemontii) and the Holland Birch (Betula ermanii) are both tough and renowned for their attractive bark.
Fraxinus Ashes such as our native species (Fraxinus excelsior) and some of its varieites can make large and attractive trees in difficult conditions.
Acer Our native Field Maple ( Acer campestre) and Sycamore varieties like Acer pseudoplatanus “Crimson King” can take most of the winds which would be thrown at them in our gardens.
As regards planting these trees. Our natural instinct is to stake them high and tie them three or four feet above ground level. However there is a problem with this. We should think of the trunks of trees in some respects as being like the muscles of an animal’s body. The more they flex and are challenged the stronger they become. Therefore if we stake a tree high and then after several years untie it from the stake we will often find that it has not built up sufficient strength to stand alone. Our aim should be to stake it low so that it can still flex but the rootball can’t move and loosen the roots. For details of this see question three above. It is sufficient here to say that the tree should either have a low stake at an angle to the tree trunk, have two low stakes joined by a crossbar or should be secured by ground anchoring. Whichever system is used the stake should not go through the rootball, the tie should be loosened a little each year and the tree roots should not be allowed to dry out for a year or two.
Ground anchoring is a specialized way of securing a tree by tying its rootball in a non-damaging way below ground so that the rootball can’t move and nothing except the tree is visible above ground. It is an ideal way of planting a tree but requires rather more skill and expense than the conventional ways using stakes. Question 11 above will give you some idea of how this is done.
HORSE CHESTNUT DISEASES?
” Many thanks for your quotation for the Red Oaks. I have posted this on to our estates manager. However we may have hit a problem as these trees are to replace two dead horse chestnuts within an avenue.These have died due I suspect to PHYTOPHTHORA disease. Others on the estate are showing similar signs of stress – leaf fall early, sap leaking at the trunk etc. and I believe there is no cure. My point is that my employer was thinking of either red oaks or copper beech but I’m not too sure if these types of trees can get this disease. I was told by a tree surgeon that it was only a chestnut problem. Would any other type of tree be a safer bet”. ML Yorkshire. Nov 07
Unfortunately there are severe problems with Horse Chestnuts at present of which the most worrying is bleeding canker. This is caused by a bacterium and is very difficult to control or manage. There is also damage caused by Horse Chestnut leaf miner which can look bad but does not threaten the survival of trees. Some believe that the canker could spell the end of Horse Chestnuts in Britain. They are the single most important broad leaved amenity tree in Europe.
The disease appears terminal for both white and red flowered horse chestnut but seems not to affect other species of tree. Red oaks or copper beech should be fine, other conditions being suitable.
For a full description of the present state of affairs we recommend you to the Sept 07 edition of Forestry and British Timber magazine. Tel 01858 438893.

IVY ON A LARGE TREE. SHOULD I REMOVE IT?
There has always been a lot of controversy about the effect of Ivy on trees and whether it is a good idea to remove it or not. In the end your decision may depend on what you want from your tree – a classic uncluttered shape or a wildlife habitat and a more natural, woodland appearance.
Ivy is a native, evergreen climber able to thrive in very low light levels such as often exist on the woodland floor or underneath the canopy of a tree. It uses a tree as a means of support, a way of climbing from the darkness at the ground to the relatively higher light levels at the top of trees. When it arrives there it changes form and starts to produce differently shaped leaves as well as flowers and seeds. In the process it does not generally harm a healthy tree but may contribute towards removing light from the leaves of an old or dying tree. In addition some trees with lighter canopies, such as Ash, which let more light through may support larger Ivy plants but these are not expected to shorten the life of the tree. They may however make it more top heavy and likely to fall in a storm or they may disguise damage to the trunk or branches of a tree making it more dangerous. In woodland situations this may not matter but in private gardens, in parks or on roadsides consideration may need to be given to this. In addition you may feel that a tree covered in ivy does not look as good as one without.
Before taking the decision to remove Ivy from your tree however please consider that it creates an excellent wildlife habitat. As well as providing cover and food for a huge range of invertebrates (insects, spiders etc) it can give excellent roosting places to birds and bats, overwintering niches for butterflies and moths and, of course, nesting places for a range of birds.
if you decide to remove your Ivy it is generally done by cutting the plants low down. They rely entirely on their roots in the ground for nutrition, they do not take any from the tree, and so cutting the stems will kill the plant above. It will go dry and brown with time and can more easily be removed from the support of the tree.
To sum up, the decision on whether to remove the ivy will depend on what you want from your tree. If you want it for its form rather than its value as a habitat you may decide to remove the Ivy. In a woodland setting the choice is usually easier as the form of a tree grown in the relative open space of a park or garden is rarely achieved and you can appreciate the tree for its role in the woodland ecosystem.
IVY ON THE TREES IN MY GARDEN? SHOULD I REMOVE IT?
In Britain there is always a debate about the desirability of allowing ivy to grow on trees. Many people consider that it is harmful to allow it or, at best, that it spoils their appearance.
Ivy is Britain’s only native climbing evergreen and is very widespread. It can tolerate deep shade. If it were an exotic plant imported from far away it might be widely considered a great boon for gardeners. As it is, we frequently think of it as a weed. Is it actively harmful? It can of course be annoying, invading shady borders where tidy gardeners might not want it. It can radically change the appearance of a tree, removing the beauty of a clear trunk or its classic appearance. Long term experiments have shown however that the effect on the growth of a tree of allowing free rein to ivy is negligible. Only aged trees are likely to be affected by the reduction of light caused by the ivy leaves or the greater profile offered to the wind. Unlike parasitic mistletoe, ivy does not take anything from trees as it grows, it merely uses them as a means of support. In the process it provides a wonderful habitat for birds to nest, insects and invertebrates to live and bats to roost. Flowering late in the year ivy gives pollen and nectar at a time when there is little else around. These flowers produce berries in March and April which are an excellent food source for thrushes, pigeons, starlings and overwintering blackcaps.
Many people will however decide that the appearance of a cherished tree is being spoiled by ivy and will decide to remove it. This is is often easily done but keep in mind that cutting the stems of a large ivy plant on a tree will result in brown unsightly remains and these may take a year or two to fully remove. If the ivy is removed during the spring or summer it is important to realise that this may disturb nesting birds or roosting bats, both of which activities are against the law. If you still want to remove your mature ivy from a trunk it is best done in early autumn when these problems are less likely to arise.
In the end the decision to remove ivy from your trees is probably more of a personal matter. It is likely to be about neatness or the pleasure derived from seeing the uncluttered tree. In their natural situations trees and ivy, at least in Britain, have achieved a balance which provides a very valuable habitat.
LEYLAND HEDGE HAS DEVELOPED LARGE BROWN PATCHES. WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THEM?
Hedges which had grown happily for many years develop brown areas which can vary from a few inches across to several feet. Hedge owners are then faced with a dilemma. Can the hedge be saved or improved or must it be removed entirely.

The Royal Horticultural Society (http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/Profile.aspx?pid=132#top ) suggests that there are two major reasons why these patches might appear – attack by aphids and fungal diseases. Damage caused by aphids develops in late spring and summer and is found more often at the base of hedges though it can develop at any height. The browning can develop long after the aphids have left the foliage. The RHS suggest that spraying can be effective if the aphid attack is caught early and that some regrowth of new green shoots is possible. As a general rule however growth of new green shoots on brown conifers stems is slow if it happens at all. The Cypress aphid also affects Thuja (Western Red Cedar) and Lawson Cypress.

Fungal disease is also a common cause of brown patches. Over enthusiastic hedge trimming, especially at times when a hedge is stressed, may increase the likelihood of die-back. They suggest that trimming in April, June and August is safer than in autumn. They especially suggest that you don’t trim in hot or dry periods or in the autumn and that you never cut into old wood but only trim the outside growth. By old wood they mean thicker stems deeper into the body of the hedge. Feeding and mulching of the hedge in late winter, in preparation for spring growth, is recommended.

With an established hedge there may be nothing significant to be done to remove the brown patches and it could be necessary to take the plants out entirely. To replace the removed plants can be a difficult matter as the roots of an old hedge will be extensive and they will have removed most of the nutrients from the ground for quite an area around. Full removal of the stumps and replacement of the surrounding soil is the most likely way to provide a decent environment for a new hedge to grow. This might need the use of a mini-digger and is likely to involve professional landscapers. As replacements you should consider tough evergreen hedges such as Laurels, Portuguese Laurels or Western Red Cedar which would grow relatively quickly. Ivy screens are an option where an instant evergreen fencing/hedging solution is needed which will stay at around 2m high. Yews may also thrive and provide excellent formal hedges long into the future.
LOOKING AFTER A HEDGE? NOW THAT MY HEDGE IS PLANTED HOW SHOULD I LOOK AFTER IT?
The answer to this question depends on the type of hedge you have planted and how formal or informal you would like it to be. For a good formal hedge you will need dense branches from low down near the ground. This may not be so necessary for informal or country hedges unless they are required to keep animals out (or in). Some plants needed for a formal hedge can be pruned when they are planted to just a few inches above the ground. This will encourage them to become bushy and dense. Hawthorn and privet respond well to this. Other deciduous plants (those which lose their leaves in the winter) should be reduced in height by around a third during the first autumn after planting. On the other hand most evergreens, including conifers, and plants for less formal hedges are best left until the plants have started to make vigorous growth before they are reduced in height.
As the hedge grows it will need regular trimming. If hedging plants are simply left after planting without any trimming an open, loose hedge will usually develop – more a row of individual plants than a knitted together barrier. This would rarely serve the purposes for which we grow hedges, usually as boundaries or visual screens. Trimming a hedge generally helps it to thicken up by encouraging the branches to divide.
For formal hedges trimming should be fairly frequent, generally several times a year during spring, midsummer and autumn. However some such as Cherry laurel and lavender are better trimmed in autumn only. All formal hedges will need cutting back to a basic structure to limit their growth without going in to the old, brown wood at the centre of the plants. Most can be trimmed with electric trimmers or hand shears but evergreens with large leaves such as holly and laurel should be cut with secateurs to prevent ugly brown edges on cut leaves.
Informal hedges tend to need less pruning but may take up more of your garden. Once a year will probably be enough and you will need to know a little about the plant’s special characteristics in order to make a good job of it. For instance plants which flower attractively often need pruning after flowering, forsythia or escallonia are examples, whereas those with attractive stems may need hard pruning in the spring.
When your hedge is nearing its final height, and this should not be so tall as to make trimming difficult or dangerous, you will need to adjust your cutting. Generally you can let the top get about 6-12inches above the height you want it and then trim the top back to 6-12inches below its ideal height. This leaves a little scope for it to grow and be cut each year. Remember that in the UK neighbours and the local authority can object to evergreen hedges higher than 2m and you may be required to cut it back to this height.
Formal hedges should be clipped to ensure that their widths are greater at the bottom than the top to allow light to the bottom of the plants and healthy growth throughout. Additionally some formal evergreen hedges may be given pointed tops to prevent heavy snowfalls from pulling them out of shape

RESTORING MY OLD HEDGE TO ITS FORMER STATE. IS IT POSSIBLE?

A well maintained hedge can last for centuries. Indeed old boundary hedges in Britain may be over a thousand years old. But modern garden hedges are often created from a range of exotic plants and may not look good when they get old. They become too thick, gappy, full of weeds or diseased and you may be faced with the options of removing them or trying to restore them to a more useful and attractive state. So just what kind of restoration is possible.
For most conifers the possibilities are limited. When old they are usually green on the outside but the inside of them is brown, old wood. With the exception of Yew these old conifers will not re-grow if you cut back into the brown branches. They will remain brown and an eyesore. Yew however is capable of growing from brown, unpromising wood although decent regrowth may take a year or two. To restore such a Yew Hedge it is recommended to undertake the job over a couple of years cutting back one side at a time. The best time to undertake this is in spring when evergreens tend to be less active. Start near the base on one side of the hedge and move upwards cutting inside the desired final shape to allow the hedge to grow to its final shape. After this pruning the hedge should be given a dressing of general fertiliser and a mulch of organic matter to help it to recover from the works. There is no point in attempting this with a Leyland Cypress or other conifer as new shoots will not grow from the old brown wood that severe cutting will expose.
There are many other evergreen hedges which can take quite severe pruning. For instance Escallonia, Holly, Laurel and Privet can recover from fairly severe pruning in mid to late spring. They will also benefit from a feed and mulch to encourage regrowth. When reshaping remember it is normal to create hedges, especially evergreens, which are a little wider at the top than the bottom. This allows extra light to the base of the hedge which is usually more often in shadow.
Deciduous hedging plants such as the traditional Hawthorn, Beech or Blackthorn can take very severe reduction. Indeed the classic way of keeping farm boundaries as effective barriers to cattle and sheep is to lay them during the winter. This involves cutting deep into the main shoots of the plants near their bases and bending them over. They will regrow as a denser hedge than before they were cut. This is rarely appropriate for garden hedges however where a visual and practical barrier is normally needed throughout the year. It is worth noting that these plants will take any amount of reduction even down to ground level if needed. The general principle is to reduce the height and width of the old hedge to a foot or two inside the desired final height and width. The regrowth can then be trimmed each year to the shape needed
Hedges thrive on annual or more frequent clipping. This keeps the individual shoots and branches dividing from their bases instead of their ends. The result is a denser hedge restricted to the shape you want. If you leave the hedge for a year or two between cuts it will soon become a row of individual plants instead of a dense, well knitted hedge.
YEW HEDGE. WE HAVE AN OLD ONE WHICH IS NOW WELL OVER A METRE THICK. IT IS TAKING UP TOO MUCH OF THE GARDEN. HOW CAN WE REDUCE ITS THICKNESS?

Yews make wonderful hedges which can last for a very long time. However if they are not closely trimmed they may gradually become thicker and need reducing. Yew, unlike many other conifers, will generally tolerate quite heavy pruning back into old wood. If you were to try this on Leyland or Lawson Cypress you might find that no new growth would spring from this old wood.
For all evergreens spring is a good time to attempt this work when the plants are starting into vigorous growth. For very severe cutting back it is usually advised to cut back one side in the first year and the other side in the next year. This gives the plants more time to recover. It is generally worth leaving the hedge a little wider at the bottom than the top to allow more light to these darker areas.
After the work it is a good idea to mulch the ground around the bottom of the hedge and to give it a feed to encourage its recovery. In succeeding years the hedge can be pruned as normal.