Why do we only offer some trees bare root?
5th Nov 2021
We call this the manic season in the business. Everyone is thinking about getting their trees and hedging, ready for the planting season. Bare root stock is just becoming available. We're getting in touch with all those folks who pre-ordered, finding out when they will collect and arranging dozens - nay hundreds - of deliveries!
One of the slightly tricky things in this season is explaining not just the difference between bare root and container grown plants, but also why you can't have everything in the slightly more economical bare root form*. In particular, Chew Valley Trees doesn't tend to supply evergreens bare rooted. However there are also quite a few deciduous species that we only stock in container form.
One of the reasons is that some trees are more difficult to establish than others. That means they are more likely to fail after planting, for one reason or another, but have a better chance once they are out of the nursery and in their new location if they are transplanted complete with their growing medium ("container-grown").
With a potted root system, the tree doesn't have to develop roots super-quickly down into the new, unfamiliar soil, to get water and nutrients, as they've got their snuggly original home with them. They still need to get acclimatised and feel their way into the new ground, of course, but they won't be suffering as much shock as they would have bare-rooted. It's like going into a cold sea wearing a wetsuit as opposed to going in starkers, you could say. Just a bit less of a shock!
Container-grown specimens may also be better at quickly developing roots to drink up water where they are planted, because their relatively compact root systems (compared to top growth) are raring to go. But that's not to say the same doesn't also apply to bare roots, which are sometimes trimmed for transport...
Bare root plants, naked as they are, are also more susceptible to damage during handling. Knocks and bumps that end up with snapped off or damaged roots can affect their performance when planted out. And some plants are more sensitive around the roots than others. To go back to the analogy, some people are tough enough to go for that New Year's Day sea swim; others are sensible enough to stay curled up by the fire.
Plus there's the danger of roots drying out that can make bare root slightly more risky. If you buy bare root, don't leave those roots exposed too long! Keep them bagged up, somewhere cool, or heeled in (temporarily stored in soil or damp compost) before planting. If you can, plant by the end of February for optimum establishment before spring and summer. If you're giving a tree as a gift, we recommend container-grown, in case the receivers aren't ready to plant. We also offer gift vouchers.
Container-grown trees can sometimes contend better with planting stress and handling, but once established, there's really not a lot of difference in the performance of bare root and pot-grown trees, as long as best practice planting and watering advice is followed, together with protection from pests where necessary.
There is one crucial factor that will influence long-term success, though, and that is starting with a good quality plant. Chew Valley Trees take pride in their trees and hedging, and guarantee that bare root trees will come into leaf in spring. We carefully handle all our stock and only use our trusted delivery teams to make sure orders arrive in good condition. In short, whether you go for bare root or container, you've made a good start by choosing Chew Valley Trees!
*For the low-down on the what bare root means, as opposed to container-grown, see our guide: Bare root or container?