It is sowing season in France: why plant bare root?


Once again, we are in the season of planting trees and shrubs. Why plant bare roots? If you have a large garden (and many of us in France), you’ll want to plant a lot, and this is the cheapest method.For example, if you try Amelanchier lamarckii (which I recommend below), you can acquire small bare rooted plants for under $ 6 from a good online nursery like Jardin des Gazelles.

In my opinion, size is not everything. A small plant with bare roots will often grow and establish faster than a taller plant in a pot, easily overtaking it in a few years. However, some plants will not be available as bare root specimens, as they will not tolerate the root disturbance involved by the grower lifting the plant from the field, washing the soil from the root system, and sending it to you. Magnolias are a good example.

How to make a success of your bare root crops?

When I was a young gardener we used to modify the excavated soil with some kind of soil improver. It is now believed that this is not a good practice, as it is best to allow your shrub or tree to acclimate to your own soil type as quickly as possible.

What I would add is bone meal as it stimulates and nourishes the kind of new root growth you want. In France we call it bone powder, or farine d’os. There are also products available claiming to stimulate root growth (like “Viviroot”), but I guess they are largely made from bone meal.

If I hadn’t planted them already, I would choose to do bare root plantings Amelanchier lamarckii. My four entered the ground in 2015 and 2020 saw the first bumper crop of fruit. It’s a strange truth that the genre Serviceberry seem to be better known in French gardens than in English – when I opened my garden in 2018 they were probably the most commented plants I own. I guess this interest stems from the French love affair with eating and finding a table for whatever is possible!

And these berries are really delicious. In size and flavor, they look a bit like blueberries, but sweeter and more like an apple, with which they share the same family of plants (Rosaceae). The fruits are a good red color in June (a common name is Juneberry), gradually turning dark purple. And they can disappear overnight because birds love them as much as we do.

I caught them at the right time this year. I didn’t have enough of my four little trees to create the jams and jellies they’re famous for, but I made a succulent Tuscan cake the recipe for which came from Jamie Oliver’s book, Jamie’s Italy.

In Italy the cake is normally made with grapes, but Jamie uses blueberries and my Juneberries were the perfect substitute. Apparently, they dry pretty well too; from the various Serviceberry the species come from North America, I imagine it was the Native Americans who discovered this adaptability, as they searched for food to support them during the long cold winter.

Serviceberry are little trees with three seasons of joy

Serviceberry are small trees (no more than about 10 m – so easy to harvest the fruit) with three seasons of joy. First, in March and April, the thin, dark branches are covered with clouds of star-shaped white flowers, then comes the berry harvest, and finally an explosion of autumn color in bright orange and red. .

The flowers and fall display look gorgeous floating against the backdrop of the oak forest behind my house. They do well on almost any type of soil from sand to heavy clay and while I have read that they prefer moist soil they do very well in the hot, dry position I have them. given.

There are several species and hybrids (A. canadensis, A. laevis and A. alnifolia are the best known, after A. lamarckii), all very popular in North American gardens where they are variously referred to as snowy mespilus, shadbush, and serviceberry, as well as Juneberry. In general, they are very tolerant of exposed and difficult positions. Many of the best cultivars are less easy (but not impossible) to find here; I have read that ‘Robin Hill’ (with pink flowers only gradually fading to white), ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Rainbow Pillar’ (more columnar in shape, reaching only 2.5m wide in 20 years) deserve to be wanted.

These tend to be used as single specimen plants, with a more arboreal rather than bushy habit. Amelanchier lamarckii, which fits more easily into an informal hedge plantation.


Do you have a favorite fruit that’s less common than your strawberry or apple, and how do you like to use it? Email: [email protected]

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