Chew Valley Trees are growers of trees, hedging and shrubs. We use our expertise to nurture young plants through their early years and produce quality specimens at appropriate sizes for planting out in gardens and other sites.
A tree from Chew Valley Trees may have started its life as a seedling, a cutting or a graft (read more about propagation). We carry out some propagation, but really concentrate on 'growing on' - getting trees and shrubs to a garden-worthy size. Yes, we just sit back and wait... If only that's the way it worked! In brief, here's what we do.
The easiest way to grow a tree to a good size is to let mother nature do her thing*. We are currently growing about 7,000 trees and shrubs in the ground.
While they're there, we regularly check on each and every one, carrying out necessary maintenance and pruning. When they're ready, we carefully dig up these field-grown trees and put them into appropriate containers. If you've ever tried to dig up a tree or shrub, you'll know that it can be heavy work, and nerve-wracking if you're wanting to keep it alive while wrenching the roots from the soil. And we're doing this to thousands of plants (by hand and with machinery), so that's a lot of sweat.
We also break into a sweat when there's a drought, gale, heavy snowfall, flood or other Act of God which can spell disaster. The weather in recent years has caused a number of headaches, to say the least! Never mind the hungry mice, rabbits and deer that can turn up and decimate a lush forest of fine young trees without warning...
A mixture of experience and therapy allows us to see the process through, and we select the best of these trees to transfer into pots (see Container Growing for more sources of stress).
*'Easy' except for all the hard graft it involves planning what to grow and how, preparing the site, digging all those holes, carefully planting everything, watering, protecting it from pests and diseases...
Along with our own field grown trees and shrubs, bare rooted saplings (known as 'transplants' in the trade) and grafted trees brought in to the nursery from other British growers are potted up by our staff for container growing. We pot up about 10,000 plants a year, getting the compost level just right on the stem and making sure the roots are well embedded in the specially formulated compost. (Spare a thought for the hardworking potter-uppers!)
As you can imagine, potting this many trees requires quite a bit of space and organisation, as well as manpower. At this point in time we don't know of any machine that can save us the effort, so each tree receives individual attention, with stems tied in to canes and unwanted branches pruned off to ensure a nice clean and straight stem.
After another quality check, potted trees are loaded onto a trailer and sent off to the growing lines. Growing in containers is a little trickier than in the ground, as the trees need irrigation, feeding, and to be keep upright (we use a system of rails and posts), as well as regular maintenance. Weather and pests are still a source of consternation in this system, though we generally defeat them by being constantly on guard. Once a tree has rooted through (formed a good root system) and passed our quality checks, it can go on sale in the public nursery area.
Some of our container grown trees, plus some smaller shrubs bought from other specialist growers, have the potential to make quality larger specimens. We therefore 'pot them on' into larger pots, to allow them to grow to greater things. This is done before they outgrow the container they're in, but not before they've created a sturdy root system in that pot.
Everything we grow (i.e. upto 25,000 trees and shrubs at any one time) needs some form of training. Canes to help stems grow straight; pruning to create a clean trunk or balanced crown; or tying in to a framework to make a tidy panel of foliage, for example. We have some highly skilled - and very busy - horticulturalists on our staff who know just what to do to achieve a beautiful specimen.
Even after all the work that's gone in to growing, some trees just don't make the grade. The final stage before trees (or shrubs) are made available for sale is selection. Only quality specimens end up on the aisles in our sale area. You may notice we don't have one of those sad 'reduced price' sections in our nursery. This is because there is no point in us selling you a tree that isn't on track to thrive. We hope that the trees you plant from our nursery will be standing tall in decades (if not centuries) to come, which means weeding out any that probably won't make it that far (due to natural or manmade causes).