Gardening: Trees to protect our sanctuary gardens

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening: Trees to protect our sanctuary gardens

An example of pleached trees

Here we are again, back in our Level 5 lockdown - albeit with some changes from last spring which mean that our retailers can remain open.

Our thoughts are with the restaurateurs and publicans, along with hoteliers around the country. It must be a very difficult and sometimes worrying time - but as someone much more learned than I said to me recently, ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn’.

One of the things we keep hearing and taking from the last nine months is that our homes and gardens have become much more important to us - our safe place, sanctuary, workspace and so much more. Another is that you want to feel protected in your home, you want to feel that it is secure and also private.

We will be looking at screening trees over the next two weeks. These are among our most requested items and messages I get most about, so we’ve dedicated two weeks to the topic.

Screening trees often have a clear stem to reach up to fence panel height of around 1.8-2m, with a full head above. This type of screening is particularly useful if you are overlooked by neighbouring properties, would like to draw the eye towards a specific feature, or would like to retain an attractive wall or meet a hedge so as not to feel too enclosed. We can also supply feathered trees that have full growth from the ground upwards and offer the same screening ability.

We grow pleached or espaliered trees in multiple sizes and varieties. We give them both names as they are very similar in their preparation. These trees have clear stems, usually up to 1.8m tall (6ft) and this allows enough space beneath their canopies for generous planting and seating.

Some of our favourite species for pleaching are Quercus Ilex, Carpinus Betulus and Photinia Red Robin. The head size is usually 1.8m (6ft) wide and 1.2m (4ft) tall and so can be planted in a row at two metre spacings. There are higher options for the heads to give higher privacy or screening but these do tend to have a narrower spread and so you will need more to cover the distance.

In terms of architectural planting, these create a very impactful design and, although the evergreen options are still our most popular, some of the deciduous trees which change in colour with the seasons are stunning - if you can afford to lose some of the cover over winter time. The Hornbeam and Beech are great options here as they do hold on to some of their autumnal copper leaves throughout the winter, giving you some foliage cover. Because they are deciduous they come in slightly cheaper than their evergreen counterparts.

These trees come in a range of varieties and colours like the Eleagnus Ebbengei with its silver evergreen foliage or the Ligustrum Japonicum Aureum with its golden yellow colouring. I love the Holly options for their evergreen cover and beautiful red berries, the options are endless.

Low screens may be an option that might suit your garden better. These are very similar to the trees mentioned above, but have no clear stem. Instead they have a screen of foliage from ground level and can be anything from 120 -150cm tall (5-6ft) up to 350cm (11.5ft) tall. There are a few extra options available grown in this way, including some flowering like the evergreen Jasmine with its scented white flowers and the Wisteria with its stunning lilac blue flowers.

Ten of the most popular trees used for screening and privacy are listed below:

Photinia Red Robin - Fast growing, relatively cheap and provides additional colour.

Prunus Lusitanica (Portuguese Laurel) - Develops small white fragrant, flowers in spring and little red berries develop later in the year.

Pinus Sylvestris (Scots Pine) - Excellent tree for poor soils, especially dry soils.

Thuja Plicatta (Western Red Cedar) - Similar looking to Leylandii but not quite as fast growing so easier to maintain, Thuja have thick, olive green foliage that creates a dense privacy screen.

Osmanthus (Sweet Olive) - Dark, glossy green foliage and small, white, intensely fragrant flowers which are traditionally used in China to flavour tea and a variety of culinary products.

Olea Europea (Olive) - Slow growing and reasonably compact so are ideal for a small garden or on a terrace and their evergreen green-grey foliage is a great lift to a garden.

Phyllostachys Aurea / Nigra / Spectabilis (Bamboo) - Versatility, pest resistance and easy to grow.

Evergreen Jasmine - espaliers can create a complete screen like effect with the added bonus of beautiful scented white flowers.

Fagus Sylvatica (Beech) - A tree with the added benefit of giving some coverage in the winter months without the price tag of the evergreen options.

Ilex Nellie Stevens (Holly) - A lovely holly with deep dark leaves, which is self-pollinating so guarantees an abundance of berries in the Autumn/Winter.

I will be sharing more of the ways you can screen your garden with you right here next week but until then, from our family on the nursery to yours, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and lots of positive vibes for 2021.

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