Roses and ornamental shrubs can be 'bought for a fraction of the price' Mark Lane says


BBC Gardener Mark Lane and roses

Gardening: Roses can be ‘bought for a fraction of the price’ currently, Mark Lane says (Image: GETTY/MARK LANE DESIGNS)

Between November and March to April is a period known as the bare-root season. This is much a cheaper way to buy plants to fill your garden. During this time of year, hedging plants, roses, some ornamental shrubs, trees and herbaceous perennials are grown in open fields by the growers, and if the plants are lifted from the ground during this time they don’t go into shock when transplanted to your garden.

Hedges are great additions to the garden, they’re perfect for wildlife, can help keep out pollution, provide shelter from winds and add interest all year round.

Some ornamental trees (Prunus cerasifer, the cherry plum tree), hedging (Fagus sylvatica, or beech) or Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn), shrubs (Ligustrum ovalifolium, or privet) or Buxus sempervirens (Box) and perennials (Agapanthus ‘Midnight Cascade’ or Geranium ‘Patricia’), can be bought for a fraction of the price of potted plants in their bare roots form.

Hedging can be sold as ‘bare root’ or ‘loose root’ plants – normally in bundles.

After being lifted from the fields, the soil is removed from around the roots and then wrapped in plastic bags.

These bare root plants tend to establish better when planted between November and December (if the ground is not frozen or waterlogged) compared to those planted in the spring but planting them in the spring will still give them time to establish their roots before the year ahead of growing.

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A rose

Gardening: Between November and March to April is a period known as the bare-root season (Image: GETTY)

The plastic bags protect the roots from drying out. They may look like dead twigs, but the roots will ensure a healthy plant.

If you’re not planting them in their final position for a few days or the ground is frozen when they arrive then you can store them in your garden.

Remove the bag, soak the roots for about an hour (if needed) and ‘heel in’ the plant in some soft garden soil.

In other words, dig a deep hole or trench, remove the bag, take the plants without untying them, drop them in, not worrying about spacing at this stage, and simply back fill with soil.

Step it in to firm the soil, ensuring that all the roots are covered. In cold weather the roots must be protected from frost, wind and sun. They can be left heeled in for up to 10 weeks. Alternatively, you can store them in a garage or shed with the bag in place, but, only for a couple of days.

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If you’re planting immediately, in their final position, in a lawn, for example, then remove the turf.

If in open ground, or within a lawn, dig a hole the same depth as the roots and loosen the soil in the bottom with a garden fork.

The planting hole should be wide enough to accommodate the roots when spread outwards. Don’t force the roots into a small hole.

I’d also suggest that your planting hole isn’t made round but square, as this allows the roots to get out into the surrounding soil much quicker.

For hedging, dig a trench wide and long enough to accommodate the roots and plants. If you’re double staggering your hedging plants, then ensure a sufficient gap (c. 40cm) is left between rows – this will create a dense shrub.

Gardener Mark Lane filming for his show

Gardening: Some ornamental trees can be bought for a fraction of the price of potted plants (Image: MARK LANE DESIGNS)

Before planting a tree, you’ll need to knock in a wooden stake so that the tree can be tied in loosely to it. The stake should go in upright and just off-centre in the hole. Ensure it’s in firmly.

Place your tree in the hole with the graft union (normally spotted as a bulge in the main upright stem) above ground level.

Sprinkle the roots and the hole with mycorrhizal fungi for better root establishment.

There’s no need to add additional compost. The dug-out soil will be sufficient.

Fill in around the roots, gently wiggling the plant up and down to ensure there are no air gaps. Gently firm in the soil always checking that the graft union is still above soil level.

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A fertiliser such as Growmore or chicken manure pellets can then be sprinkled around the base of the tree.

If growing loose-root herbaceous perennials ensure the roots are spread out and that the soil is firmed in to prevent any air pockets.

A bare-root tree or new hedge planted in the autumn should need little, if any, watering after it has been planted.

Yet, during dry spells the following summer you’ll need to water regularly, by keeping the soil damp but not waterlogged.

The Queen’s Green Canopy campaign

With The Queen’s Green Canopy campaign “plant a tree for the Jubilee”, there is no better time to plant a tree and be part of history.

Add your tree to the QGC map at

I planted a mighty oak sapling at The Eden Project for BBC Morning Live just a couple of weeks ago.

For further information contact Emma Mason on 07762 117433 or [email protected]

For more information on the Eden Project, please contact David Rowe at [email protected]


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