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At Plymouth Garden Centre we visit our Christmas tree growers every summer after the last flush of growth, to select and mark individual trees, to ensure superb shape and quality. It is a real treat to visit some of the most picturesque parts of the UK especially Scotland where many of our trees are grown. Here the growers are passionate about their trees especially their shape and the freshness of the trees when they arrive at the Garden Centre. Most growers now specialise in a particular variety which suits their soil, aspect and climate. We select from a variety of growers to get a good choice of varieties. This in turn suits our many customers who have a variety of needs.
Newton Stuart in the South West of Scotland is an excellent area for Nordman fir. This is now the most popular needlefast tree. In this area they prune the trees each year to create a slim tree suitable for even the smallest living room. It has lovely soft green needles.
The Black Isle near Inverness is another great area for the Nordman Fir. The classy Noble Fir with its wonderful bluish foliage is also grown here.
The up and coming tree is the Fraser Fir. Yearly pruning of this tree creates a perfectly shaped slim tree with tight branches of Grey green foliage and it has a wonderful scent .It holds its needles really well. These are grown mostly on select plantations near Dundee.
The Dundee plantations have also some of the best Norway Spruce. The Norway Spruce is in the UK the traditional Christmas tree. It needs to be fresh when purchased and watered well in the house to avoid needle drop. A water proof stand needs to used and given up to 1 pint of water a day.
In the U.S.A. the most popular tree is the Pine. It retains its needles and has a distinct shape. There is now quite a following in the UK. The Scotts pine has grey green needles but the most popular is The Lodgepole. This is very fragrant. It can be a bit of a challenge when trying to decorate it.
20 years ago it was a simple choice just some remote plantation somewhere but now the growers are aiming for perfection in a variety of trees that will suit every household.
Have fun choosing.
I have a garden with no exposed soil just paving slabs. Can I grow any fruit in pots?
Yes. Any fruit can be grown in pots. Use a John Innes compost and you can grow patio fruit. This covers strawberries, rhubarb, gooseberries, black, red and white currants. I have a thornless blackberry in a pot against a wall. Also peaches and nectarines and apricots. This year we ate 20 peaches from one tree in a pot and it was so nice on a hot sunny day to just munch into peach that was warmed by the sun straight off the tree. There are grapes and patio apples and pears too. Anything is possible with the correct expert advice. You all know where to get that.
Things to do in November
Well winter is here more or less. With winter comes rain and with rain comes Algae on the paths and steps. Use a patio cleaner to rid yourself of this trip hazard.
Don’t forget to buy yourself some paraffin to get the heater going in the greenhouse. Last year I spent about £20.00 on heating my greenhouse but to replace my plants would have cost hundreds if I had one big freeze up.
Ensure that all wet leaves are cleared as they can get slippery.
Despite the information on the packets, Camellias still need feeding to help to swell the buds. Use an eriacaceous feed.
Ornamental grasses that have finished flowering need to be cut back.
Grape vines can now be severely pruned and the sticks can be used to make Christmas garlands.
Holes in borders can be filled with dogwoods (Cornus) that have coloured stems. The winter sun will shine on these and give interest.
Plant of the month
The moth orchid
If you are the type of person who regularly has problems with houseplants, the moth orchid is for you. Phalaenopsis is an epiphytic orchid it lives in trees. It hates care and attention. They dislike regular sprays of water as many care leaflets suggest. They are often grown in transparent pots where you can see the fleshy roots. A bark compost is used to ensure free drainage.
I bought one on Mothers' Day for my wife 2 years ago and it has only been without flowers for about 3 weeks since then.
Here is how to care for them:
Water sparingly when the leaves lose their shine.
Allow the water to drain away and avoid getting any in the middle of the plant.
Use an orchid drip fertiliser or a liquid feed one once a month.
Avoid a sunny windowsill.
If all of the flowers die off, leave the flower stem alone and it will continue to bud or it will branch. If it goes straw coloured then cut it off and another will appear. The less attention it gets the better it thrives.
Minimum temperature is about 50 degrees f.