Market report - Tree lifting, moving & planting

There are plenty of reasons why we should plant trees and increasingly we want to plant big trees. There are also plenty of sound reasons why, later in a tree's life, we should go to great lengths to dig them up and replant them elsewhere.

Trees: larger stock is becoming increasingly popular for a greater impact on new sites - image: Glendale Civic Trees
Trees: larger stock is becoming increasingly popular for a greater impact on new sites - image: Glendale Civic Trees

Furthermore, due to increased long-term success and professionalism in practice, transplanting big trees is becoming more and more popular.

Transplanting trees may just be a matter of nursery-to-site movement, with the tree being prepared in the nursery beforehand. Increasingly, large trees are chosen for impact on new sites, as Civic Trees sales director Deric Newman confirms.

"Large tree planting on estates, especially for people who want an instant impact, is popular and the use of large trees by landscape designers is becoming increasingly common," he says.

"Now clients are often handing over the picking of trees to us and using us for consultancy and subsequently for planting."

Domestic and commercial

Civic Trees is a division of Glendale, which celebrates 25 years of service in 2015. "At Glendale Civic Trees we are experiencing the usual mix of domestic and commercial work," Newman adds. "Local authority planting is buoyant, particularly in London thanks to the mayor’s street tree initiative. There has been an increased focus on the benefits of green space, resulting in local authorities having better access to cash for planting and improvements."

The use of big trees in the landscape is largely dependent on the economy. Capability Brown operations manager and consultant Alan Jones explains: "Confidence in the economy has had a positive impact on our sales. This year we have been busy with semi-mature and instant hedge enquiries and the summer of 2014 has been our busiest to date," he says.

"With the new season about to start we are confident of improving sales for a second consecutive year. Interestingly, we have noticed an increase in enquiries and sales of larger-sized trees."

In domestic situations, tree-moving companies are often called in to move trees short distances within a site when they are in the way of house extensions or to make way for new features such as swimming pools. In some cases trees might have a sentimental value, perhaps given as a gift or commemorating an event, and the tree may be moved when the owners move.

Golf courses provide a great deal of work for the tree-moving firms. On young courses, the trees may have been planted closely together and require spacing. It is a neat way to redistribute the stock or fill in gaps without going to the expense of buying new trees. On older courses, changes to the way a hole is played may require trees to be resited.

But one of the main reasons for moving big trees is to rescue them from the concrete and enable development to take place. Moving such trees, often part of the planning consent, is also related to growth in the economy and as political parties gear up towards next year’s election with the promise of thousands of new homes to be built, those companies involved in tree moving and tree planting may see a further upturn in business over the next few years.

Key to success

Successful tree moving, whether from the nursery to a new site, inter-site transplanting or transporting trees from one location to another, depends on many different factors. But the crucial aspects to consider are preparation, the weather and aftercare.

Jones’s advice is to take time, if possible, when moving big trees. "Don’t rush into it," he cautions. "Planning is the key to long-term success. People should first seek expert advice from experienced companies who are capable of making their requirements fulfil their maximum potential. If it’s tree moving, choosing the right machine for the job is important. If it’s tree planting, choosing a reputable supplier is important."

Late-winter and early-spring weather had an impact on many planting and moving projects, especially where large trees were involved, because of the weight of the equipment required.

"The wet weather had an impact on our tree-lifting machines and production in this department was down," says Jones. "Tree and hedge planting did continue but was slow at times and we had to juggle our work — pulling off some very wet sites until the ground drained. Fortunately our clients understood and allowed us to do what was necessary."

Newman points out that maintenance continues to be the main element ensuring successful tree planting or moving. "Trees that haven’t been well maintained will look distressed," he states.

He has also been keeping an eye on the urban tree pit trials, which are determining the best type of pit to put a tree into (University Urban Tree Pit Comparative Study run by the University of Greenwich with space and assistance provided by Hadlow College). Newman believes that, in tree planting, people should seek as large a pit as possible by volume. But then there is the question of surface.

"The industry hasn’t yet established a suitable solution because the best surfaces for withstanding pedestrian and vehicle traffic are not necessarily the best surfaces for a tree," he adds. "A solution would go a long way towards ensuring successful tree planning."

Night service

Continuing to improve its service delivery, Glendale Civic Trees has introduced a night service running from 8pm until 6am. "We’ve found that we can water twice as many trees at night because there is no traffic congestion," says Newman.

In addition, the company has begun using gator bags on new trees. These watering bags are bladders holding 75 litres of water that can be zipped around the tree. "When planting a tree, there is a risk of damage from the effects of transplant and drought shock, but this can be reduced by deep watering," says Newman.

"Watering with a hose or similar results in a lot of surface runoff and evaporation, but gator bags penetrate the roots deep into the soil. They are much more efficient and water the tree in a controlled manner, distributing water slowly and evenly, which is better for the tree."

This year Glendale Civic Trees completed planting more than 350 trees for the RE:LEAF community grant scheme led by London mayor Boris Johnson. Newman explains: "We used the latest handling, planting and maintenance techniques to install the trees in streets, parks and residential areas of the London Borough of Southwark."

He continues: "The initiative aims to encourage the planting of more trees across London, while also protecting the city’s woodlands and wildlife, and Boris has promised a further 10,000 trees will be planted during the course of his second term in office.

"The scheme is fantastic because it not only improves the visual aesthetics of the city but offers residents the chance to learn about and understand the growing process while recognising the importance of trees in modern-day society."

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