Where to Buy Fruit Trees, Fruit Bushes and Fruit Plants
Sources of Plants
We now come to what is perhaps the most important part of setting up a fruit garden; where to buy the plants from.
Until the arrival of garden centres during the I 960s, the usual way of buyingand bushes was direct from the nursery who actually raised them. Sometimes one might be lucky and be able to buy them from a good local garden shop, along with cane fruits and plants.
Then everything changed. Gardening became more popular and garden centres sprang up all over the place like. A direct result of this was the practice of plants of all sorts being grown and sold in containers. More or less overnight, plants which had hitherto only been available during the winter period as bare-rooted specimens could be bought and planted all the year round. Today, this is how the vast majority of plants are bought and sold.
The obvious benefit to gardeners is that you can now go straight out and buy whatever takes your fancy when you want to. It is a seven-days-a-week business for about 364 days a year. Besides the convenience, plants can now be inspected and chosen from possibly a whole batch and the gardener can see what a particular plant looks like, rather than having to rely on a written or verbal description. In the case of fruit trees and bushes, it is unlikely that you will be able to see the actual fruits; but they are nearly always pictured.
When choosing fruit trees and bushes, there are several things to look out for. For a start, they should be in good health. Any showing obvious signs of invasion by pest or disease, such as greenfly and , should immediately be rejected. There are enough problems without buying any.
If you are buying during the dormant season when the plants are leafless, make sure that the previous season’s growth is strong.Weedy little shoots are a clear indication that the plant is suffering and could well be pot-bound, and probably starved as well.
When buying something in a container from a garden centre during the growing season, be sure that the new shoots are strong and healthy and that the leaves are large and of a good colour. Small and pale leaves indicate starvation. This is certainly not impossible to correct but it does mean that other less obvious faults may exist as well.
Trees, in particular, must be of a good shape and, if old enough, should have been regularly pruned. This may sound difficult to see, but anyone can easily spot something that has been neglected.
A good indication of a plant’s condition and age is the amount of green lichen and algae that has built up on it. If it is really quite green and on the small side, reject it; it has probably been there for a few years already.
Never be tempted, without some experience, to buy the trees that are carrying the most blossom. They may look attractive and fruitful, but there may be some sinister reason for all the flowers — such as the tree being on the point of dying. In a nutshell, if aor soft looks right, then it very probably is.
With the exception of, all cane fruits and are best when raised and bought in pots or small blocks. They cost a little more than bare-rooted plants but, for the sort of quantities that we plant in gardens, it is well worth the extra. are normally sold as bare-rooted canes and this is perfectly satisfactory; there is very little to be gained, except time, by buying potted specimens.
The other large source of fruit plants is still the general or specialist nursery. Many have their own garden centre attached to the nursery where some plants are offered for sale in containers all the year round, but their main way of selling is usually by mail and during the dormant period.
and cane fruits (except for raspberries) are sold in pots, or something similar, but trees and bushes are normally dug up out of their nursery rows and are only available as bare-rooted plants and during the dormant period (November to March).
The actual plants are often cheaper than they are in a garden centre, but you may have to add on the cost of delivery.
It has to be said that the quality of the plants from these nurseries is usually higher than those from garden centres simply because they have had less handling and the roots are in no way restricted. Nurseries are certainly the places to contact if you want either a type of fruit or a variety that is out of the ordinary. After all, very few garden centres profess to be specialists.
One of the most unlikely places to find fruit trees and bushes for sale must be in the High Street multiple stores. Some of them have been selling garden sundries for many years and one in particular has been strong in the horticultural and agricultural markets for longer than most people care to remember. However, plants are something of a departure for them. Their normal way of selling these is with bare roots wrapped in moss or peat, with the whole plant then packed in polythene. The system is called ‘root-wrapped’. This hasn’t been carried out by the store itself but by the nursery who raised the plants in the first place.
It is a very seasonal trade, being restricted to the dormant period, and when the plants reach the shops, they are doubtless in excellent condition. Unfortunately, however, it only takes a week or so in the high indoor temperatures that are maintained in the selling areas for them to start into growth. Provided that the plants are bought soon after they reach the shops and, once home, are immediately removed to a much cooler environment, little harm should come to them. They should never, though, be bought in winter once the buds have started to grow out.
Possibly the most risky way of buying plants is through a mail order advertisement in the newspapers as the general quality of the produce still tends to be lower than other outlets; but it is also the cheapest. I would say that from experience, ordering from the internet is fairly reliable.
Without wishing to overplay the risks of ‘buying blind’, it must always be borne in mind that there is seldom such a thing as a bargain. If plants are cheap, there is usually a very good reason for it and that reason may make them equally unsuitable for. Size is usually the problem. The cheaper they are, the smaller they often are.
We cannot really leave the subject of acquiring plants without mentioning friends, neighbours and other amateur sources. These can provide a valuable supply of free material and are useful when you want a particular variety which you know someone else has.
There are drawbacks, though, and the main one is certainly the possibility that the material is diseased. The classic example of this is virus-infected raspberry canes. For this reason, one should be very careful when begging, borrowing or stealing fruit plants; or any other plant for that matter.
Apart from raspberry canes, other likely acquisitions are currant andbushes and strawberries. All are easily propagated at home and are frequently offered by well-meaning gardeners.
Black currants are often infected with Reversion virus, making them useless, whileand frequently have mildew. Don’t let this put you off buying from amateur sources, but it is as well to know what the snags are and what you should look out for.
Unless there is a very good reason for accepting them, and you know their history, it is much safer to buy new plants from a reputable source. After all, they are going to remain with you for many years so it’s worth making sure that you start off on the right foot.