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How NOT to buy a tree!


Today was the day! I’d had enough of looking at this – my very poorly Hebe.

I’d cut it back in the spring when I saw what damage the winter had caused. What’s left is about half of the original huge shrub.

There are still some live branches, and they have flowers on them, too – but there’s too much dead wood, and no new growth at the base.

No hope – so it has to go. I left it in until after my open days, because the Hebe had provided shade for some lovely plants – including several Geraniums, such as ‘Amy Doncaster’ and ‘Mayflower’ – the new nodosum ‘Blueberry Ice’ is there too.

G. sylvaticum ‘Amy Doncaster’

G. nodosum ‘Blueberry Ice’

So are two Brunneras – this one is ‘Jack Frost’, and there are Pulmonarias and Omphalodes in there as well.

So you can see it will be a real project to dig up the plants, pot them up and keep them happy, remove the Hebe and its roots, and plant something new to provide the shade, then replant everything.

I’d thought about a replacement since I realised that it couldn’t be saved – and decided on an Amelanchier.
There’s a specialist tree Nursery about an hour’s drive up the M5, and they had several varieties there. I wanted to choose one the right shape, so OH said he’d take me there, as we were assured that one of their smaller Amelanchiers would fit in his estate car.

We left home at 2.15, and got to the ‘A’ road in time to see a stationary queue of traffic. OH did a smart U-turn, and we made for the M5. Once we were on the slip road, there was no turning back. You’ve guessed it – it was three lanes at a standstill.

Well – an hour’s journey took well over twice that, but finally, I was able to choose my tree – an Amelanchier lamarckii. Imagine my surprise when the lady said she’d wrap it! We thought it was a joke!

It wasn’t. It did make it easier to get it into the car, though. The top of the tree was under my chin as we set off home…on the M5.

Oh dear. Two miles from our junction, the clutch went on the car, leaving us on the hard shoulder waiting for the AA. We were advised to get over the barrier for safety, so there we stood, with traffic roaring past, for over an hour. Did it rain? Oh yes, of course it did – and it was soooooo cold!

Our AA man was great – he towed us off the motorway, to a trading estate where there’s a cafe for a much needed comfort stop, while he looked at the clutch. In the end, he had to tow us the last 12 miles home – he dropped me and my ‘parcel’ off, and took OH and the car up to the garage.

It had taken almost seven hours to buy my tree – but here it is!

Next time, I’m ordering a tree by mail order!

More blog posts by spritzhenry

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What species of Amelanchier is it? Hull City Council (my employers) have just stopped a very successful scheme after a number of years, whereby all babies born at the maternity hospital in Hull could get a free tree and a certificate! The tree choices were: Silver birch, Juneberry (Amelanchier), Rowan and Purple Hazel. I do like the Amelanchiers: I have planted loads of them around the farmyard area where I work. The leaves are gorgeous and the flowers attract all manner of insects, so you have got a fab tree that will give you loads of enjoyment and will look superb!

8 Jul, 2011


Oh dear Barbara what a real tale of woe but ALL worth it to have bought such a lovely tree. Hand picked personally and wrapped as well, not just the first one to hand sent off mail order. We've all swapped stories of our disappointing mail order purchases on here haven't we! Sorry you had such a horrendous journey both ways, I bet you were really desperate for that 'comfort' stop! I hope the car isn't too expensive to repair.

8 Jul, 2011


Oh dear spritz, that was not such a good trip, I heard there was a queue on the M5 on the radio, it's soooooo frustrating getting stuck on the motorway. Glad you got the tree tho!

Where is the garden centre?

8 Jul, 2011


Oh goodness!!!! that was a journey you definitely don`t want a repeat of Spritz but you have your tree and a lovely choice as well, now you have the pleasure of all the planting to sort out, I do like those blue Geraniums such lovely blue shades...

8 Jul, 2011


OH said that the (local)garage man, who looks after us really well, came out when he saw the AA man arrive, and knows the story and what's wrong, too. We don't know what it'll cost, of course, but at least we are safe. I really needed that comfort stop - a cup of hot tea...and... ;-)

We were lucky in some ways, Lily - we were in the inside lane, so OH got the car onto the hard shoulder easily. It was a real shocker of an afternoon's trip out!!!

Choosing the tree myself was good - definitely the best way.

It's an Amelanchier lamarckii, G'sdad. I know it'll be wonderful - spring colour, flowers, then berries, then lovely autumn foliage.

8 Jul, 2011


Hi Sticki and Lincslass - so it was on the news, was it? That's not really surprising.

It's a Nursery, and it's at Chew Magna, Avon. They only sell trees - some HUGE ones that would need a fork-lift, and others like mine which are manageable.

I shall enjoy re-designing the bed once we've removed the poor Hebe! Maybe I can even plant more lovely Geraniums! ;-))

8 Jul, 2011


Just useful to know thank you.

8 Jul, 2011


Oh what a nightmare. But a lovely tree, one I had years ago. Beautiful blossom. If I had a choice again I would opt for that and a Liquidamber instead of the Rowan and the Prunus padus. But too much hassle to change now.

8 Jul, 2011


What a nightmare of a journey, so pleased you got your tree safely home, we have one (mail order lol) very pleased with it, yours looks very healthy, so onwards and upwards this weekend, new border here we come, dont forget the pics please.

8 Jul, 2011


Every tree has a story to tell! lovely blog Spritz.

9 Jul, 2011


Glad you got home safely with your precious cargo. I love the Amelanchier and have planted several in various gardens. It never lets you down and has something for every season. Those berries are edible if you can get them before the birds do. It was the first tree I ever planted and I keep on recommending it. Hope you are mobile again now.
If there is anyone of influence on this site can we have some sense on the motorways - instead of everyone chugging along at under 10 miles per hour - why can the powers that be not make it a rule that if the traffic is very slow moving, as on this occasion, motorists have to turn off engines and sit and wait for up to 20 mins while a queue gets cleared. We rarely sit in queues, we have been lucky, but frequently see traffic on the opposite N or S bound carriageway standing there for miles at a stretch. The pollution is appalling never mind the burnt out clutches and overheated engines seen at the side of the road waiting to be rescued.

9 Jul, 2011


I have no idea what happened on the M5, but it must have been bad, as the AA man was full of apologies for our long wait - he'd got stuck in it at 6 o'clock - so it had been almost at a standstill for all the afternoon.

We were very pleased to get home - and Henry was delighted to see us, too!

I will remember to take photos of the 'work in progress' and I have several ideas to improve the area. ;-)

I reckon I've made the right choice of a replacement. I can't wait to get it in!

9 Jul, 2011


Definitely a great choice for your replacement tree, Spritz! Like Scotsgran, I'm always recommending it to others. I love ours, but should have given it masses more water when it was new (I'm told) as it is not very bushy. And it's a "standalone" in the lawn - I wonder if that would make a difference?

So sorry you had such a dreadful journey - what a nightmare - thank goodness all was well in the end and you got your tree home unscathed. You've certainly got some work ahead digging out and potting up all those precious plants . . . glad to hear you'll enjoy it! x

9 Jul, 2011


what a journey Spritz, it was worthwhile but at the time its just'why did we bother'.....

at least your garage man was nice, we were towed off the A1 to a Peugeot showroom and repair garage can you imagine 3 'salesmen ' in shirt sleeves saying you can only use the facilities if you buy a car.... and meaning it!!... I gave them a few choice words ( devastatingly polite) and walked passed them ( we'd been sitting halfway up an embankment for 2 hours I couldn't climb further it was so steep!.....)

9 Jul, 2011


Oh groan! what a glad that you got the 'comfort' break in time! lovely tree though and you'll never forget the day you got it will you! Bit like my Cirsium Rivulare 'Mad Axe Man'! ;)) Nice!

9 Jul, 2011


That's true, Karen - a day to remember - just like a nightmare as Sheila said. I'm glad it's over.

I realise now why 'they' advise you to climb over the side barriers on the motorways - we wouldn't have stood a chance if we'd stayed in the car and one of those huge lorries had hit us. I nearly went deaf, though - the noise is incessant.

Note to self -I must water it a lot, as Sheila advises.

We can't get on with removing the Hebe yet, because I'm running out of compost, and OH gets three bales into the (dead) estate car! I'll need a lot to pot everything up.

9 Jul, 2011


Oh gosh yes, I have gone through LOADS of compost this year too. I just get three bags and a week or two later, I need three more! I have just removed my Parrotia Persica B. It was casting a lot of shade and growing 'out' too much and not 'up' enough. I didn't even need to put a fork in the ground to get it out, I just pushed it over, the roots broke and the whole tree came out with a root ball no bigger than a large man's fist on the bottom. Since then I've managed to dig out a couple of the roots, but they were very very close to the surface. I can't get the job finished as we have almost constant rain here, and being OH's hols, when it's not raining we are trying to get out and about. The weeds are growing apace! Oh well, that's gardening! :)) Hope you get the Hebe out and the lovely Amelanchier in soon...something to look forward to next spring! :)) x

9 Jul, 2011


oh dear what a journey. main thing is you are both safe. lovely tree too.
I must say I like that geranium 'blue berry ice'. talking of geraniums I posted yesterday/wednesday a question about one i had always thought was johnsons blue. Have you any idea what it could be.

9 Jul, 2011've had yourself a very l-o-n-g excursion to get your tree. I know the welcome feeling when the AA man arrives, such a relief.

I hope the hebe comes out of the ground fairly easily for you and you can soon purchase your compost so the other plants can be removed. It will be nice to put your plans into action and get your new tree planted in.

9 Jul, 2011


It certainly will, Wh'lass. I'm hoping to move a couple of shrubs over there, behind the tree, to get the levels and heights sorted out - it's too 'flat' at the moment.

OH has his trusty pickaxe to hand! He's good at root-ball removal. LOL. As for compost - that's a problem. My car will only take one bale, and we buy them three at a time to help with the cost. I thought I might mix home-made compost with the potting stuff - that should be OK, I think.

P.S. Thank goodness for tow-trucks and men in hi-vis jackets! :-))))

9 Jul, 2011


Crikey that sounds like a long day but the tree looks great an none the worse the wear for the epic car journey:)

9 Jul, 2011


Thanks, Nana d. It did turn into a long trip! I was getting a bit worried about the dog, too - he was delighted to see me back. :-))

10 Jul, 2011


What a disaster day! Will the tree get any nice flowers on it or anything once it is established?

31 Jul, 2011


Yes, it has white flowers in the spring, and the young leaves are a bronze-y colour before they go green. In the autumn, there's good colour, too. It should also have berries for the birds!

31 Jul, 2011


Sorry u had such day to get your new tree. Like so many I too am glad you both were not injured.

I duno if u have taken out your Hebe yet but by the looks of it I'd say it just needed a good pruning back and a wait see for a season. Not sure if u tried that already.
Anyway best of luck with all.

3 Aug, 2011


Angie - if it had good growth coming from the base, I'd have done that, but there's only one pathetic little shoot, so it's not going to recover, sadly. :-((

3 Aug, 2011


Ah but if you prune hard it encourage new growth. I'd have done that first, then give it a wait and see, then if it wasn't going to do anything I'd take it out then. It looks like it hadn't been pruned in a long while. Plants like to e pruned.
Best of luck anyway.

6 Aug, 2011


Thanks. As we inherited TWELVE Hebes, (!) I've had pruning sessions with several that were too large - with varying degrees of success, I'm afraid. Hebes don't on the whole enjoy hard pruning. As you noticed, I didn't prune this one, as it was obviously old and not long for this life. It could well be 25 years old! I needed the shade under it, too - there are so many shade loving plants in there.

I think my new tree will be a good replacement. :-)

6 Aug, 2011

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