Barlow Nurseries

Growers of trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennial garden plants near Newport, Shropshire

How do I plant this?

To tease, or not to tease, that is the question…

Customers often ask “How do I plant this?” and while there are as many answers to this as there are horticulturalists willing to answer it, this is the version according to our highly-trained experts:

Planting up our Lychgate border, October 2008

Planting up our Lychgate border, October 2008

1. Read the plant label, but don’t take it too seriously. Take note of the recommendations with regard to moisture, sun, and shade, and do your best to give the plant what it needs, but if you’re determined to have a particular plant, and can’t give it it’s ideal location, try it anyway; in our experience plants often survive in less than perfect surroundings. The only exception to this rule is when the plant requires acid conditions – putting an acid lover in alkaline soil won’t work!

2. Gertrude Jekyll’s advice to “dig a half crown hole for a sixpenny plant” is as sound now as it was then; dig a hole at least twice the size of the root ball, and make sure the soil at the bottom of the hole is well broken up. The plant will then enjoy good drainage, and will not have to work too hard to get its roots deep into the ground.

....and how it looked in summer 2009

….and how it looked in summer 2009

3. Enrich the soil – we grow our plants in a special mixture of peat, bark, and grit, and your garden soil, no matter how good it is, will be a bit of a shock for the plants roots. Try to ease the trauma by mixing organic matter into the soil in and around your hole. Any organic matter will do – garden compost, well rotted manure, the contents of last years growbags, even straight peat, will encourage the roots to venture out of their root ball, and into the border.

4. Give it some food. The choice is yours – a sprinkling of blood fish and bone or pelleted chicken manure if you’re an organic gardener, a sprinkling of Vitax Q4, or Growmore if you’re not.

5. Untangle those roots! Once plant roots get into the habit of going round and round in circles inside a pot, they tend to get addicted to it – persuade them off the habit by gently untangling the outer roots so that they will grow out into the soil. Be gentle, but don’t worry if a few roots get damaged or break off!

6. Water it! Once it’s planted, give it a thorough soaking – “puddle it in!” – and then leave it, only watering it again if it looks really thirsty. You want the roots to grow deeply into the soil, and they will only do this if they need to seek out moisture. Over watering will encourage lazy surface rooting, and this will make for a weaker plant, which will be less able to survive either the droughts of summer, or the deep freeze of winter.

7. Plant it with a friend! The conventional wisdom is to plant in groups of 3’s, 5’s, or 7’s – depending on your ambitions, or your wallet! Several groups of a few varieties will always look more impressive than lots of different individuals.

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