Whether you buy trees and shrubs in a container
or with their roots bare doesn’t matter,
as long as the plant is healthy. The advantage
of containerised plants in that they can be planted
at any time of the year, provided weather conditions
are fair, and the soil is not frozen, covered
with snow or waterlogged.
WHEN TO PLANT?
Refer to our section on seasonal
gardening for an overview of when to plant,
otherwise refer to the plant
PREPARING FOR PLANTING.
Before planting, make sure that the root ball
is moist right through. If not, stand the plant
in water for several hours with the roots completely
Plant bare-rooted plants as soon as possible,
preferably in autumn while the soil is still warm,
or during spring in cold, exposed parts of the
country. However, you can’t go far wrong
if you plant evergreens in early to mid-autumn
or mid to late spring, and deciduous trees and
shrubs between mid-autumn and early spring when
soil and weather conditions are favourable. If
planting is delayed for some time, heel the plants
into a piece of spare ground or place them in
a cold greenhouse. Packaged bare-rooted plants
can be left in their wrappings for 2-3 weeks (provided
they are not dry at their roots) in a cool but
frost-free place. When transporting bare-rooted
plants from a garden centre, protect the roots
with sacking or a strong plastic bag to prevent
them drying out. If the soil is very dry, water
copiously during the first season after planting.
HOW DEEP A HOLE?
The hole for planting must be deep enough and
wide enough to accommodate the roots comfortably.
Check the depth by placing the plant, still in
its container, in the hole. When set in the ground,
it should be at the same depth as it was in its
container. Plant bare-rooted specimens up to the
soil mark left from its nursery container on the
main stem. To get the depth exactly right, place
a piece of wood across the hole and line up the
soil mark against it. Scatter a handful of bone
meal in the bottom of the hole, and lightly fork
another handful into the soil to be replaced.
Spread manure or garden compost under and around
the root area and, if the ground is dry, soak
the planting area thoroughly.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STAKING.
All trees need the support of a stake in the early
years of growth. Drive the stake firmly into the
bottom of the planting hole on the side of the
tree that is exposed to the prevailing wind.
Leave about 2-3ft above ground, so as to anchor
the roots and allow the top to move slightly.
Carefully remove the plant from its container,
loosen a few roots and then lower the plant into
the hole close to the stake. Fill with the soil
you removed, using your fingers to make sure that
no space is left between the root ball and the
sides of the hole. When the hole is full, firm
the plant in with your feet. Secure the plant
to the stake with a tree tie tacked to the stake
to keep it in position. Finally, apply a mulch
such as pulverised bark or well-rotted garden
compost. Deal with bare-rooted trees and shrubs
in much the same way, but cut off any badly damaged
roots cleanly with sharp secateurs and spread
the remaining ones evenly in the hole. When planting
bare-rooted roses, cut back the thickest roots
to encourage fibrous growth. After planting, prune
the top back to a healthy bud.
SPECIAL SOIL REQUIREMENTS.
If you have an alkaline soil you can still grow
acid-loving plants, such as rhododendrons and
azaleas, by making a raised bed and adding peat
to the soil at a ratio two parts peat to one part
However, enthusiasts for the plants excepted,
many gardeners may find it simpler to choose plants
that suit the existing soil.
Prepare the ground well for climbing plants, as
the soil at the bottom of a fence, wall or trellis
may be dry and impoverished. Where possible, give
each plant a hole 2ft square and 2ft deep. Put
in plenty of well-rotted organic matter and grit
of coarse, sharp sand if the soil is heavy. Position
any climbing supports before planting.
Plant clematis 304in deeper than other climbers,
so that if clematis wilt should occur there will
be enough healthy buds below ground to grow after
the plant has been cut down.
If starting from scratch, plan a herbaceous border
on paper well before planting, taking into consideration
heights, colours, leaf textures, habit and time
of flowering. Then mark the positions in the border
with pegs and labels. Generally do your planting
during autumn or spring, although containerised
plants can go in at any time provided the ground
is not frozen or waterlogged. Make sure that the
root balls are thoroughly soaked, especially if
they have been in peat pots or pre-packed. Dig
the planting hole of a shape and size to allow
the roots to spread comfortably, and at a depth
to the level of the crown – the point where
the stems and roots join. Firm the plant in and
water thoroughly if the soil is dry.
WATER GARDEN TECHNIQUES.
Aquatic plants should be set in planting baskets
lined with Hessian and filled with a good quality
heavy loam. Avoid using such organic material
as manure which encourages algae and could kill
the fish. Plant firmly and top off with a layer
of gravel. Containerised deep-water plants can
be planted at any time of the year, but it is
preferable to plant in spring when the water has
begun to warm up.
Group the marginal water plants in twos and threes
around the pool edge for the best effect. Marginals
prefer no more than 2-3in of water over their
roots, so you will need a ledge at the correct
depth or bricks to support the containers. Deep
water plants should be placed at a depth of 2-3ft.
Water pot-grown alpines before planting, and give
them enough space to spread. Don’t plant
them too deep as the lower leaves or the crown
mat rot. Spread a layer of gravel around them
to allow air to circulate beneath the foliage.
ANNUALS AND BIENNIALS
Annuals can be planted mid-spring to early summer,
depending on the location and the type of plant.
Begin with the hardier ones, such as antirrhinums
and pansies, and finish with the more tender types
such as salvias, asters and ageratums. Before
planting, water the containers and allow the plants
to absorb the moisture before moving them. During
dry periods, puddle them in – fill the planting
hole with water and allow it to soak in. then
set the plant in place and fill the hole with
Create a more natural effect by planting in irregular
patches. Space the plants close enough to leave
no gaps when they reach maturity. This will help
them support themselves and keep weeds to the
Biennials that have been in a nursery bed during
summer go into their final position in early autumn.
Before lifting them prepare the plant hole and
water well. If you intend to integrate the plants
with bulbs, plant
the biennials first and the bulbs afterwards.