These trees are costly and the technology needed to ensure success takes longer to finesse than the lightning-fast time scales of today’s planting jobs.
That technology — from tree anchors to mulching — has to be inch-perfect, as the need for top quality has never been greater.
Hot summers, environmental demands and ever-tightening budgets are having a big impact on tree-planting technology and how it shapes our urban landscapes.
Growing demand for immediate impact in landscape is affecting the bottom line at Platipus Anchors in Redhill, Surrey. The firm’s RF4 anchors for 12m-high trees are being snapped up for numerous projects because they are designed to withstand the kind of winds that can topple large new trees. Tree system manager Ian Rotherham says: “Some of the trees cost over £1,000 and we can’t afford to get it wrong, so we test the anchor on site.”
The firm offers a range from RF1 for girths of up to 22cm to RF4 for 75cm girths and above.
Platipus likes to work from scratch with landscape architects and contractors. This ensures that after the tree hole has been dug, the tree craned into place and the anchors driven into the ground, the firm can “guarantee with certainty the tree won’t move”, says Rotherham.
Northumberland-based TreesPlease has put down its marker in eastern Europe for a range of tree-planting stakes that it claims offer strength and environmental friendliness.
“We had to source the Acacia timber from eastern Europe because it has to be grown in the correct climate to provide adequate strength,” says operations manager Ed Holmes.
“New laws on disposal of waste products mean you have to pay to get rid of chemically treated softwood stakes. But hardwood stakes do not undergo chemical treatment.”
Cost comparisons with softwood stakes are “very good”, he adds. And,
unlike bamboo stakes used for smaller trees that last for one or two seasons, the TreesPlease alternative is said to last for up to 60 years.
Holmes adds: “They cost about the same as softwood — and contractors say they do not get as many breakages with the hardwood stakes.”
As legal claims increase, more root barriers go down, according to Green-Tech, which is supplying its coated version with a 25-year guarantee.
Sales director Mark Whiting claims the barrier, which features Dupont Xavan coating, is so strong that it can keep in check virulent root systems from plants such as bamboo, and can also stop Japanese knotweed.
He says: “More landscape architects and councils are realising the price of 100sq m of root barrier is low compared with the cost of bulging flag stones and paving, which can trip people up and lead to litigation.”
The system, which costs from £130 for a 5mx0.65mm strip, also prevents acids and other pollutants outside the barrier from leaching into the root system, Whiting claims.
Every little helps when summers are long and trees need water, which is why Broadleaf P4 and Broadleaf Root Dip are useful tree-planting allies, according to supplier Agricultural Polymers.
P4, a granular, absorbent product, increases the water-holding capacity of the soil when mixed into the growing medium. The roots colonise the “charged fragments of hydrated polymer” to extract moisture.
Director Brian Longhurst adds: “The products enable bare-root planting and offer rigorous root and top growth but a big reduction in maintenance and watering.
“P4 provides far more plant-available water in the root-zone than container compost. Root Dip protects bare roots from drying out to keep the stock in prime condition during the out-of-soil period.”
Longhurst claims that these products could allow the transplanting seasons to be extended, even until after the leaves are out, with better survival and establishment rates.
P4 costs 12p per plant and Root Dip 1p per plant. Both products offer savings when bare-root transplants are pitched against typical container-grown stock.
Weed control will be a big issue as average temperatures rise. The need for control without preventing water percolating to roots has contributed to the development of Isomats.
The mulching mat from Suffolk’s PG Horticulture is a biodegradable jute and wood-fibre product. This herbicide-free method of controlling weeds prevents water from evaporating, says director Paul Greenhalgh. Isomats retain soil humidity and protect soil from erosion.
“Biodegradable materials are becoming more popular even though there are cheaper products,” he says. “Black plastic and polypropylene often get torn and flap around fencing or telegraph poles.”
Isomat is a non-woven cover that is “effective” for two to three years. It is sold in rolls or pre-cut into individual mats from 61p for a 60cmx6cm square.
As an alternative to traditional mulch mats, BioGrow tree-planting squares are made of pure wool to ensure trees wrap up warm, says supplier Growing Technologies of Shardlow, Derbyshire.
The mats are made from “reconstituted” wool, which is unused by wool spinners. The alternative, “shoddy” wool, is recycled from garments and could be contaminated.
BioGrow mats will ensure chemicals will not leach into the soil, says marketing manager Sue Spencer. The mat, which comes in 0.5sq m and 1sq m sizes, is needle-punched to ensure moisture and nutrients pass into the root system.
“It also works like a thick wool blanket, helping to maintain temperatures in the root system,” says Spencer. “And the mats also have aesthetic benefits.”
She adds that BioGrow mats, which offer about 18 months of weed-free growth, are popular with landscape architects and contractors, who often plump for wool mats for town-centre schemes.
Change is in the air at J Toms, based in Ashford, Kent, which is including the Vineguard tree shelter in its catalogue for the first time this year.
Director Robert Harrison says hotter summers are seeing a boom in vineyards, so demand for the Vineguard is growing.
The lightweight, corrugated-plastic shelter, which packs away flat for easy storage, is also good for trees along streets and in other urban landscapes.
Harrison says: “We recently took two 20,000-shelter orders for vineyards in Kent. But they can be used for virtually any trees and offer protection from animals, enhanced growth and moisture retention.”
The Vineguard, which sells for about 40p per unit, is said to ensure two seasons’ protection before allowing the tree to break out.
The word on Big Cushion tree ties is spreading, according to supplier Richard Harries, owner of Big Cushion Tree Ties in Denbigh, North Wales. He has recently shipped orders to Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates for urban tree-planting schemes and reforestation.
“Nobody else who makes tree ties uses a foam spacer,” he says. “It eliminates damage to trees from the stake and the hard rubber-spacers common to many ties.”
Landscape contractors and councils logging on to Big Cushion’s internet site pay from 26p per tie, which includes a polypropylene strap and special stitching to avoid “strangling” the tree, he says.
Trees need water from the start, yet it is often an afterthought that proves an extra cost to projects, says Unik Irrigation Services, which is pinning its hopes this season on the Nan Tif Drip Line.
The ring of tube, either 16mm or 20mm in diameter, wraps around the tree below the ground or mulching level with drips spaced at 30cm. Each one disperses two litres of water per hour.
“This type of system is popular with landscapers and councils on urban schemes because pop-up systems can be prone to vandalism,” says senior sales representative Kevin Parsons.
The firm, based in Littlehampton, West Sussex, sells the Nan Tif Drip Line as a regular system with timer, or a pressure-compensated version for slopes.
The product comes in rolls of 400m, costing 35p per metre.
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