Before we get on to the ‘pleachy’ aspect of this post I just had to share this picture of a gorgeous hellebore (as well as my gorgeous thumb). Of course hellebores are shy and retiring and like to keep their faces downcast and demure which, when they’re as lovely as this one, is just so frustrating (hence the thumb). And yet, in the same way that I really don’t like the idea of pink delphiniums, I think perhaps a ‘look you in the eye’ hellebore would lose some of its magic. Surely at this time of year we’re resigned to having to work at finding things worth looking at in the garden – even if it does mean getting down on our hands and knees in the bog that used to be the lawn.
So, back to the title. Today was rather unusual as, in addition to plants, it also involved two men and a digger – not my usual gardening style. The day was spent outside in the bluster (but luckily not the rain) planting trees in a neighbour’s garden. The idea was to plant a row of hornbeams to pleach into a screen. Of course there are some wonderful ready pleached trees, but these will cost you at least £500 each. Instead we were dealing with some trees which cost £30, but clearly there would be more effort involved.
Firstly we had to decide on the approach for the structure to both train and support them. We wanted something sufficiently sturdy, but not so obtrusive it detracted from the trees, we wanted something which could be removed once the trees are established, so no concrete, and we didn’t want to use wire as I’d read it can cut into the branches you’re trying to train.
I think it’s fair to say there were some robust ‘discussions’ going on over the weekend as to the best approach. And nothing had been decided by the time I had to drop my son at a paintballing event on Sunday. Now this may seem irrelevant, but in a serendipitous way, it turned out to provide the solution, as there, at the paintballing site, were some lovely hazel rods for sale. I picked up three bundles for £5, perfect.
So, together with the posts, the rods and the bamboo, we had our kit:
Whilst Nimbus and I were working on the structure to train the trees against, A and Andy the digger man were busy banging in the posts:
Having erected the posts, next we planted the trees. We decided it would be easier to plant them without any other structure in place and then, once the trees were in place we would attach the bamboo and hazel frames to the posts and then train the trees onto the frames. We used the digger to dig a long trench and then positioned the trees and backfilled with some sandier, lighter soil. We didn’t add manure to the planting area as I’d heard that if you make the immediate planting area too rich the tree doesn’t bother to push its roots out to the surrounding soil. We gave them all a good soak, despite the forecast rain, and tomorrow we’ll top dress the whole trench with manure.
So, below you can see the trees in position. Since then we’ve also put one frame in place and tomorrow we should finish the job. I’ve already started pruning away the branches growing either in the ‘wrong’ direction, or below the level we want the screen to start, and tomorrow will start to train the remaining branches onto the four bamboo ‘layers’.
It’s not exactly instant but I’m excited to see the finished effect tomorrow – and even more excited to see the hornbeams greening up in the spring.