Seize the opportunity to add new specimens

Nows the time to move a variegated elaeagnus, but make sure to leave the root-ball intact. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Nows the time to move a variegated elaeagnus, but make sure to leave the root-ball intact. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Nature’s planting time is here – a golden opportunity to introduce new specimens to the garden or dig up and move existing plants to another spot.

It comes at the beginning of a general rest-in-growth period that continues until spring arrives.

For many deciduous plants and hardy border perennials it amounts to a closing down of all above soil activities.

This is their way of coping with the low light levels and reduced temperatures that winter brings.

However, the soil often retains enough warmth to encourage root development deep into November, allowing new plantings to settle in.

Over the coming weeks, weather permitting, we’ll be taking an objective look at existing fruit and ornamental plants.

We’ll be deciding which need relocating because they’ve outgrown their allotted space or are struggling to exist in a certain spot.

Adding to the existing collection is also a possibility.

Even though we’re entering the dormant season it still pays, when moving plants from A to B, to do so with the least disturbance.

A floral artist friend asked one month ago when she could move a variegated elaeagnus shrub that had outgrown its present position in the garden.

The response was wait until the beginning of October and lift it with the biggest root-ball you can manage.

Start digging 30cm away from the plant’s centre, keep the spade upright and work in circular fashion.

Once the main side and tap roots have been severed, lift the plant onto a sheet of strong plastic and drag it to the new site, which should be well prepared and ready to accept it.

Whenever buying a containerised plant you should be checking the state of its roots.

Is it pot-bound or has it just been potted-up?

If the former applies, those tightly-packed circular roots need to be teased apart before planting to stimulate new growth.

This can be done with gloved hands, a hand fork, or in extreme cases, a spade, without causing lasting damage.

Bare-rooted plants are less expensive than the container-grown type, but still need inspection before planting.

Roses, fruit trees, raspberries and hedging plants are often purchased in this form.

Check the roots for dryness before planting, especially if they arrive via mail order, by plunging them into a water-filled container for several hours.

Any damaged roots should be removed with sharp secateurs.