|Cornus alba 'Sibirica' in early spring|
|Frosted leaves of Hydrangea quercifolia|
The final occupants of the large plastic sack – a handful of Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' – are to find a home in our own garden where over the years no doubt we will increase their numbers with hardwood cuttings. I remain entirely unapologetic about my love of a bed full of fiery stemmed dogwoods over the winter months; the more I can cram in to the allotted space the more content I feel about the prospect. There are plenty of other views within the humble plot that excel in presenting monochrome vignettes in drabs and browns, and so it’s welcome to have a splash of flame at this end of the year to echo autumn bonfires and the more distant, hot colours of late summer blooms.
Bare-root hedging plants are tough as old boots, and native plants such as yew have formed part of our familiar hedgerows for centuries. With relatively small plants such as these (60cm in height), a perfectly acceptable way to plant them is to make a ‘slit’ in the ground with your spade, rocking the handle to enlarge the opening and then, once the spade has been removed, to insinuate the roots of your plant into the hole to the same depth as the plant had been grown in the field (the mark between the aerial and the subterranean parts of the plant is quite apparent once you get your eye in), finally closing up the hole with your booted foot. For several reasons, I don’t use this method, trie, tested and ‘old country’ as it may be. Firstly, actually I find it a bit of a faff. Secondly, I’m not usually planting in an open field, but often in areas where previous plantings have had to be cleared. And thirdly, while I know there will be a pretty good success rate with plants grown in this way, somehow it doesn’t feel like a particularly auspicious beginning for a garden feature you’ll be looking at for decades to come. Planting a long line of hedgerow as a field boundary would be an ideal time to use this slit planting method but, in a garden, I like to be sure that everything I plant gets off to as good a start as possible. I include a couple of soil conditioning products; a handful of bonemeal as a slow release organic fertiliser, and also a sprinkling of myccorhizal fungi – sold under license by the RHS under the brandname ‘Rootgrow’ – over the roots. This fungi forms a symbiotic relationship with the plants via its roots, exchanging nutrients taken up from the soil through the fungus’s wide network of hyphae with sugars synthesised in the plant. My usual method is to sprinkle a small amount over the roots with the plant in its final position before backfilling the planting hole, although I noticed in this pack that the manufacturer is now including a sachet of a wallpaper paste like substance (actually, I think it might be wallpaper paste, hopefully without the anti fungal additive) which can be mixed with the Rootgrow crystals in a bucket to form a dip for the roots.
And then all of a sudden the mist is gone, and golden sunshine glints and sparkles from a million tiny lenses on dew laden grass and leaves. For a moment, it is breathtaking, and I remind myself; this is my office. What a lucky so and so.