06 Oct 2022

Gardening with Jo: How lockdown has changed what will grow in your garden

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening with Jo: How lockdown has changed what will grow in your garden

Mimosa trees

We have just arrived back from our first buying trip in the last eighteen months. It was with some cautious optimism that we headed to Italy to our partner nursery there last week to see what stock was new and different looking, as well as reserving all the stock we need for the coming season.

The last time we went to Italy was the end of January 2020 and we travelled with the carefree attitude of those who didn’t know what was around the corner. The Italians were slightly more aware of what was in store and we were greeted at Bologna airport at that time by health controls of temperature gauges and masked officials. Little did we know what was to come, but this time we were much more prepared and fully vaccinated so we were as I say cautious but optimistic - and delighted to see the array of plants on offer in our Tuscan partner nursery. A little sun on our backs and a glass of wine in the evening made it even more enjoyable.

So what did we see and reserve? The last two years have been exceptionally busy with lots of you spending so much more time in the garden that some stock items have been depleted to lower levels than we have seen before.

These specimens can’t be increased quickly in the short term. Unlike a production line that can just step up production, plants need the time and conditions to grow and can’t be rushed (not without detrimental damage to the trees anyway). So we need to look at some things differently for some items and book ahead lots of items that we know will be in demand.

Some of the large hedging and screening plants will always be in demand so we reserved lots of those, including some rather special and exceptionally large Photinia Red Robin, probably 4.5 - 5metres tall and well over two metres wide. These solid, bushy plants will screen out most things and came in at great value for the size of them.

We reserved standard trees in Bay, Photinia some amazing Prunus Caroliana. We found Olives that had been shaped into multiballs and spirals.

We ordered a large amount of fruit trees, pleached, fan trained and candelabraed in mainly apple and pear but also added some cherry, plum and peach too. I also picked up some amazingly-shaped fig trees. We added to our shaped vine collections that we grow for the beautiful stems and foliage - although on a good year we do see grapes too.

In preparation for the autumn season I brought in lots of autumn colour, including an amazing amount of Japanese Maple trees, some Liquid amber trees and Rhus Typhina.

I was delighted with the shaped bonsai trees. Lockdown has meant that a little extra time has been spent on shaping the trees with lots and lots of varieties of beautiful styles.

Mimosa trees are coming back into stock and always sell out as quickly as we get them in, Italian Cypress too, as well as pine and palm.

We have so many lovely trees ordered for the nursery, and two full lorry loads are arriving in this week to be offloaded and displayed and I can’t wait to show you more of them – although the few, less than perfect images that I have here for you are made all the better by the Tuscan light and that lovely bit of sunshine.

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