With March breezing in and the last of the frosts (hopefully) behind us, we can finally look forward to Spring. We can already see the signs of change here at the nursery, as our broadleaves begin to wake from their winter hiatus. Our rowan saplings are breaking bud whilst some mature trees in woodland areas nearby are starting to bloom.
There are several species that are famous for their early bloom; wild cherry, hawthorn and rowan being among the first. These early bloomers are often steeped in folklore, with hawthorn famously known as the protector of fairies. The wild cherry is said to possess mysterious qualities and symbolising good fortune and luck in highland lore.
Whilst we aren’t lucky enough to see our saplings marvel in beautiful blooms while they are with us on the nursery we love to see how our trees and shrubs grow and bloom when they are planted out. Dylan, a teacher from East Lothian recently sent us a picture of his cherry plum blossom he purchased some years ago from us. Their creamy white clusters are a favourite with pollinators such as butterflies and bees.
Why not treat your Mum to something different this year?
Bouquets of flowers are lovely, but only last a week. Our native trees are a lasting gift for you and your Mum to treasure for years to come. We have carefully selected a range of garden trees which represent strength, love, wisdom and protection and which can all be gifted in beautiful packages as perfect Mother’s Day gifts.
For thousands of years the oak tree has been a symbol of strength. A slow growing deciduous broadleaf, this tree is best suited in a larger garden. With an average height of 20 metres and a lifespan of 150—250 years this tree is a perfect symbol to be passed down to generations.
2. Jams, Jellies & Preserves Mix
This selection of trees and shrubs is a great starting kit for jam and preserve making. With hawthorn and elder to make sweet dark jams and rowan and crab apple to make delicious jellies and preserves. A few short seasons of nurturing and fruit will start to produce. These trees and shrubs can be kept relatively small if pruned & trained, making them a manageable task for even the lowest maintenance gardeners.
3. The Botanicals Mix
We all deserve a little tipple now and then, right!? If your mum is a gin lover then this pack is the perfect gift! Inside you will get 2 juniper plants, a blackthorn, for making sloe gin and an elder shrub – to make elderberry gin. This winning combination will have your mum making her very own moonshine in no time!
4. The Tree of Protection
Tall and slender – known as The Lady of the Woods the Silver Birch is a graceful, elegant tree. With white papery bark and droopy shimmery leaves this sacred tree is known for its protective powers and the ability to ward of evil spirits.
5. The Tree of Love
With puffs of delicate pink, white blossoms, and apples for making warming pies in the autumn it’s no wonder why the crab apple tree is the Tree of Love. A perfect tree for a small garden, compact in height and spread. A great pollinator and often showing bloom as young as 2 or 3 year-old, this tree is great if you want to see the fruits of your label quick!
6. Save the Bees Mix
Is your mum crazy about bees because we sure are. This specially designed mix of super pollinators will have all the bees a buzzing. Each tree produces beautiful flowers in Spring, which attract the bees and in turn pollinate and help produce fruit for birds and other small mammals in the autumn and winter months.
7. The Tree of Wisdom
How does the saying go… ‘Mothers know best!’
The hazel is a small tree, perfect for a modest garden and a firm favourite with wildlife. Steeped in mythology and lore, nuts of a hazel tree are said to invoke wisdom. With a height of 12m when mature and a lifespan on 50-80 years this carbon catcher is a wonderful addition to any garden.
Nestled in the Carrifran Valley stood a symbol of hope. At the turn of the milenia, Borders Forests Trust embarked on one of their first natural regeneration projects achieved in the Carrifran Valley. Their campaign, based on the slogan “Where one tree survives, a million trees will grow,” a lone rowan stood clinging to a stream bank in the valley.
Today the survivor tree is surrounded by a little forest of its children, no longer lonely. A symbol of the 20-year journey to revive the wild heart of Southern Scotland.
In addition to its children, the survivor now has over half a million other native Scottish trees for company, some of which Alba proudly supplied.
You can find out more about The Carrifan Wildwood buy purchasing the book here.
If the recent lockdown has taught us anything it’s that we don’t need nearly as much as we are used to having. Although going out for dinner and drinks at the weekend are still a welcomed treat, more and more of us connected with nature over the lockdown months and if you are anything like us, enjoyed the local woodland walks full of fruit and nut trees. Foraging for food is also a great way to save on money, before you do however we’ve pulled together a code of conduct for foraging within public woodlands:
Crab apples, blackthorn berries (sloe), rowan, hawthorn, elderberrys and hazel are all great species to forage. These native trees and shrubs grow well in both urban and countryside areas.
Rowan and crab apples are small deciduous trees that grow well in urban green spaces and are perfect for a small- medium sized back garden. Cooking with crab apple will get you some delicious apple crumble/ pie and rowan berries can be turned into jelly (that goes great meat like lamb and venison).
Blackthorn and hawthorn are often used as hedging plants and can be seen along the edges of fields and public walkways, a perfect excuse to grab a bucket and take the kids on a walk. Hawthorn berries can be made into a jelly too, making it a great accompaniment to cheese (and wine – if you are over 18!). Blackthorn & elder berries make wonderful liquors, both go very well with gin.
The hazel tree you will find in local woodlands but you may be lucky to get a handful as they are the squirrels favourite. If you are lucky enough to get some you can make a whole host of tasty treats, our favourite is a chocolate hazelnut spread.
At the heart of it, gin is basically neutral spirit flavoured with juniper berries so it’s no wonder its so popular with distillers. The term ‘bathtub gin’ is often used when describing gins that originated during the Prohibition era. In the 1920’s, when the sale of alcohol was illegal, people would to go great lengths to mask the flavour over their cheap over-proof spirit by mixing up herbs and spices in their bathtubs to sell at speakeasy’s and holes in the wall. Lucky for us gin is far easier to get your hands on nowadays and with it recently overtaking whisky in terms of the amount of distilleries there are in Scotland it’s obvious that we love it. We’ve created a simple recipe for you to follow, most of these ingredients can be either bought, foraged or grown in your very own back garden!
750ml (1 bottle) good quality vodka
2tbsp juniper berries (minimum)
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamon pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
lemon & orange peel (no pith)
Sterilise a bottle & add vodka and all ingredients except from the lemon and orange peel.
Close and store in a cool, dark place for 24 hours.
Taste (determine if it needs anything else – makers discretion).
Add the citrus peels and store for another 24 hours.
Take it out and taste again, you don’t want to over brew it (think tea!).
Using a sieve filter out all the botanical’s, if you want a crystal clear gin, re-bottle & leave for a further 24 hours then filter with a muslin.
Bottle and enjoy!
In recent years there has been a lot of emphasis of the importance of bees. To celebrate World Bee Day we wanted to tell you why bee’s are so important to our ecosystem.
The main reason bee’s are so important to us is because they pollinate the vast majority of the food we harvest. Approximately 80% of all flowering plants are pollinated by animals, mostly insects (which includes bees). Pollination is crucial because many vegetables, fruits and the crops that feed livestock rely on it to be fertilised. Veggies like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower reply solely on honey bees and solitary bees for pollination so without them, we could have serious crop problems. While there are other methods of pollination, like the wind, birds, bats and other insects, wild bees are among the most important pollinators because they are capable of pollinating on a much bigger scale.
As pollinators, bees play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers, and other plants, which serve as food and shelter for a number of creatures both big and small.
Our bee mix is a great addition to any garden, this mix will provide interest and activity all year round and help our fuzzy friends continue to strive.
Pick up our ‘save the bees’ pack here!
You don’t need to be a landscaping professional to plant a hedge, we’ve pulled together some handy tips and tricks of the trade to show you how easy planting a hedge can be.
To decide how many trees you need for the space think about the following:
1. Decide how dense you want your hedge. Do you want a slim-line, single-row hedge or a thick, double-row. If you have space, we would definitely recommend going for a double row so you get a really luscious, dense look.
2. Measure the area you want your hedge to cover. Pace the distance out in metres and remember, it pays to be a bit generous.
3. Do some simple maths!
(Number of Plants/Metre) x (Number of Metres) = Number of Plants you need!
If you prefer feet, then 1 metre = 3.3 feet (very roughly!)
When thinking about planting densities, hedge species can be split into a couple of categories:
Use 3 plants per metre (1 per foot) in a single row, or 5 (1.5 per foot) in a double row.
Hedge Trees include: Field Maple, Hazel, Hawthorn, Holly, Blackthorn. Planting Dog Roses in addition to some of your other trees lets them ramble through the hedge, allowing pink flowers to pop up randomly along the length of the hedge.
These trees can create a wonderful hedge, but need to be planted a little closer together and should be pruned in a slightly different way.
Use 4 plants per metre (1.2 per foot) in a single row, or 7 per metre (2 per foot) in a double row.
You can grow a hedge from almost any type of tree, so if you are using a non-traditional species as a hedge, then plant slightly denser than this.
The short answer is: prune back 1/3 of height growth every spring until the hedge gets to your desired size and then as often as it needs it during the summer. This will work well enough for all hedges and you will get a height gain of upto 1ft per year (after pruning) for most types of hedge. Just prune the sides of the hedge once it gets to your desired thickness making sure it is narrower at the top than bottom.
Hedging species can be split into groups for the very best care:
These trees make great hedges, but need care in the first years to promote bushiness at the bottom. Start by pruning the plants back to 30cm when planting then during the first summer, trim off a couple of centimetres from the sides to promote side-growth: you are really just trying to nip off the buds. Make sure the hedge is thinner at the top than the bottom so that light gets to the bottom of the hedge as side branches will die if they get no light.
In the second year in February/March, give it a really good prune, down to half its height. This will really get the bottom nice and bushy and once those side shoots have grown in then you have achieved your aim of avoiding gaps. Keep lightly pruning the sides to a taper so that lights gets to the bottom, but you can let the hedge grow in height throughout the second summer and then prune the tops in the Autumn. From then on, you need only to prune the hedge to your desired shape and it will gradually fill in and become bushier.
These trees are naturally far bushier at the base than the hawthorn group so there is less chance of getting it wrong. Cut them back to about 20cm when planting (or just nip the top bud out if they are already small) to get a bit more bushiness at the base and then again during the following winter. After that, just let it grow and trim the hedge to your desired shape in July, keeping that taper shape so light gets to the bottom branches.
If you want flowers and berries on your hedge, then still follow the guidelines above but just prune after the blossom or berries have finished. Lots of people like to put native roses through their hedge (Rosa canina), which can looks great but they flower on last year’s growth, so only prune once a year after flowering.
There isn’t anything much more satisfying than harvesting your own fruit. The feeling of knowing you’ve grown something and being able to share it with your loved ones is what makes most foraging farmers like us tick!
When buying our cell grown saplings, whether it’s a gift for someone special or indeed for your own garden, planting them young makes for a greater established plant. Once established, you only have to wait a couple of years before they will start to produce flowers, and in turn, fruit!
Below we have offered up two of our favourite recipes. One for a delicious rowan and apple jelly and the other is a scrumptious elderberry jam.
1.5kg rowan berries
1.5kg crab apples
White sugar – 450g for every 600ml of strained liquid
Juice of 1 lemon
Chop the apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a large, heavy saucepan with the rowan berries.
Cover the fruits with water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the fruits are soft and broken down, this takes about 20 minutes.
Using a muslin cloth or any clean, cotton cloth, lay over a large bowl.
(now for the tricky part) Tip the pulpy fruits and liquid into the cloth and gather the edges of the cloth up together.
Tie the cloths above the bowl, you can suspend from a chair on a table or a beam.
Allow the liquid to drip into the bowl for at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight. Remember not to squeeze the cloth or the jelly with be cloudy.
Measure the juice in a jug, the pour into a pan. For every 600ml of liquid, add 450g sugar. Add in the juice of the lemon and bring it to a boil.
Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes and then test. Spoon a little jelly onto a fridge-cold plate, let it sit for a minute, then push the blob with your finger. If the surface of the jelly wrinkles then it has set. If not, boil for a few more minutes then test again.
Once it’s reached it’s setting point take it off the heat and pour into clean, sterilised jars and seal.
400g Jam Sugar
1 tbsp of Lemon Juice
Having survived January, February is always welcomed with open arms. Dry January is over, people are no longer holding their resolutions and the balance of the universe seems to be truly restored. The days are getting brighter and although February tends to be a wet and often dreich month there are signs of life appearing everywhere you look. In February we, on average, gain an extra 2 and a half minutes of sunlight each day, meaning by the end of the month we’ll have gained a whole hour and 10 minutes! Which is great news for us but also wonderful news for our plants 😊
With more daylight hours the promise of Spring creeps in, you can see daffodils start to open and the Easter Eggs are firmly in the seasonal isles but with the mild winter weather is this a good time to plant? The answer, quite simply is, of course! Our cell grown plants can be planted all year round if the soil is properly cultivated so have a look at our favourite February shrubs & get planting!
Blooming from January to June, common gorse can grow in all kinds of habitats including coastal grasslands, towns & gardens. Common gorse is a large, evergreen shrub, covered in needle-like leaves and has a very distinctive coconut-perfume. Its deep yellow flowers are a great source of nectar for birds as it’s in flower for long periods of time, making it easily recognisable and are a great food source, even in the Winter months.
Another February favourite is Cherry laurel (pictured left), this evergreen scrub has handsome glossy dark green leaves that can grow up to 15cm in length. This shrub is great for heading as it tolerates cutting and regenerates well. It can last in extreme coldness and tolerate temperatures as low as -20C. The Cherry laurels flower is a beautiful white upright raceme that blooms from May – June & fruits cherries that turn to black. Careful though, the shrub leaves and fruit are toxic to humans if digested.
As today is officially the gloomiest day of the year we thought we would lighten your load with some interesting facts about one of our coniferous trees, The Blue Spruce.
Pincea pungens glauca is an evergreen tree native to the Rocky Mountain regions of North America. The tree has a mature height of around 75ft when grown in the wild & while it grows relatively slowly. It is long-lived and may reach ages of 600 – 800 year.
The tree was first discovered in Colorado on top of the Pikes Peak in 1862 and got its name due to the unique silver-blue colour, attributed to the white powder that forms on new, young needles.
Its needles are 4 sided with a very sharp point, which gives the species its name ‘pungens’ meaning sharp in Latin. The tree itself grows in a columnar form which means it grows up like a pillar with dense, horizontal growing branches.
The blue spruce was adopted as the official state tree of Colorado by the State’s school children in 1852. Today the blue spruce is often used as ornamental evergreen trees and makes a beautiful addition to any decent sized garden, its also a favourite with Christmas tree growers in the UK.