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JOHN STOA: Help the planet by planting a few more trees in your garden

Rose pot plant
Rose pot plant

The new year has just begun, so it’s a great time to plan the year ahead determined that 2020 will be better than 2019, so we can start off with good intentions.

Climate change and global warming are constantly in the news, and the level of all my successes and failures in the garden have largely been due to weather.

While it may be nice to see warmer weather in Scotland which would be great for my outdoor grapes and peaches, unfortunately it is accompanied with excessive rainfall, and our mild winters are also so damp that we cannot get on the land to do our winter digging.

Mature fig Brown Turkey

However, it is not just us gardeners that are suffering. Newspapers and television tell us about the problems of climate change on a global scale, so action is needed to play a part in trying to address the problem.

We now all understand the part trees play in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water from the soil and with energy from the sun they create food for the plants through photosynthesis in the green parts of leaves (the chlorophyll).

Oxygen is given off as a bi-product which we need to breathe.

However, man has been removing trees all round the planet at an alarming rate for fuel, building materials and clearing land for crops.

Cordyline australis in summer

It is time to redress this imbalance on a global scale, but at the domestic level, gardeners can play a small part by planting a few more trees in their gardens.

Although most houses today only come with very small gardens we can still find some trees for small sites.

As it is leaf coverage that is important, even some shrubs will help to add to the green coverage for those with small gardens.

I have seen some huge Berberis darwinnii, magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias and even my fig bushes have grown into wee trees.

Weeping Birch

Many trees now come in upright forms so do not require a lot of space.

My favourite is the upright cherry, Prunus Amanogawa and Eucryphia Rostrevor with white flowers.

There are also upright forms of hornbeam, oak and rowan trees.

The dwarf cherry tree Prunus Shirotae has horizontal branches and is a mass of flowers in spring. Another tree form suitable for small gardens is weeping forms of birch, beech, lime, flowering cherry and ash.

Then of course we have our local dwarf weeping elm, Ulmus camperdownii, first found in Camperdown Park by forester David Taylor in 1835 to 1840, but now all over the world.

Flowering Cherry

I have grown the weeping birch, Betula pendula youngii from a small sapling, but trained it up a tall stake for five years to give it a bit of height then removed the stake to let it weep.

I now grow the white stemmed very impressive Betula jacquemontii, which makes a great specimen for the small garden.

However in Scotland Rowans are a favourite and my orange berried Sorbus Joseph Rock puts on a great display of berries just loved by blackbirds and thrushes.

Lilacs come in many varieties and the best hawthorn for small gardens is the Crataegus Pauls Scarlet.

Eucryphia Rostrevor

If you have a sheltered garden it is worth trying the Australian bottlebrush tree Callistemon citrinus. A hardy palm tree is also very impressive, but Cordyline australis can get cut back to ground level in a severe winter.

Eucalyptus gunnii is another evergreen, but a wee bit hardier, though these two usually grow back again from the ground.
Gardeners on an allotment plot may wish to plant a fruiting tree of apple, plum, cherry or pear.

We are spoiled for choice as there are so many, but where space is limited apples come as narrow columns in Starline Firedance and other come as low stepover forms, and for planting against a wall you can get a fan trained tree.

Eucalyptus gunnii

Even our humble gardener with a small garden can still plant a tree in the fight against climate change.

Wee jobs to do this week

Pot plants bought in ahead of Christmas to add to the festive atmosphere such as poinsettias, orchids, Christmas cactus, cyclamen, azaleas and potted roses can still be attractive for a few more weeks, so keep them watered and give them a wee feed to keep them happy.

Grow them on in a light but cool room, though my red potted dwarf rose will be kept in a warm room as it has started to grow and I hope it continues to flower and stay dwarf. Time will tell.

Australian Bottlebrush

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