Bare root or container?

There are two ways we mostly supply trees to you: as a bare root or grown in a container. In short, a bare root tree comes without anything on the roots except a bag; a container grown tree comes rooted into a pot with compost. The bare root tree was growing in a field till shortly before you decided to buy it; the container grown one is growing in its pot.

Beech bare root trench heeling in

The main differences you need to be aware of are that:

  • some plants (including evergreens) are only available in containers
    bare root trees are only available between November and March, but container grown ones are available all year round

  • bare root trees can sometimes be cheaper, especially if you are buying several of the same type

  • you can come to the nursery and choose your own container grown tree, but if you order a bare root, we'll choose the specimens for yo

It's also worth bearing in mind that we need a bit of notice before you can come and pick up bare roots as they need to be dug up. If your container tree is in stock, you can just come down and take it away with no need to pre-order.

Which is best?

There's no quality difference between bare root and container trees, per se. So which is best for you depends on:

  • What time of year you want to plant

If you want to plant between March and November, container grown is the only option. Between November and March, you can choose either bare root or container grown.

  • Whether you want to choose your own tree

We regret that because of the way bare root trees are stored, our staff pick trees for bare root orders. These are always checked for quality and we will do our best to fulfil special requests for characteristics. If you prefer to choose your own specimens, container trees are on show at the nursery.

  • Whether you have to carry your tree far

Trees in pots are heavier and more difficult to move around, so bare root trees can be advantageous if you need to take your tree across a field, for example, with no mechanical help.

  • If you're looking for a really large, mature tree

The largest bare root trees we generally stock are 8-10cm girth (maximum 3-4m tall). Larger trees are available from our container grown stock.

Nursery autumn 1030

Why don't you sell bare rooted evergreens?

A bare root tree is dug up from the ground while it's dormant (after it loses its leaves and before they come back in the spring). At this time, it can be transplanted without the soil its roots were growing in. You can't remove the soil from the roots in the growing months, as the roots would dry out quickly and the tree could die. Even in winter, you should plant a bare root tree as soon as possible after receipt.

When can I order a bare root tree?

We usually take orders from September until March. Some trees are ready to send out or pick up in November, but fruit trees aren't ready until December as they enter dormancy later.

What does 6-8cm / 8-10cm / 10-12cm mean?

Bare root trees are sold by their 'girth size', i.e. 6-8cm, 8-10cm or 10-12cm. This is a measurement taken around the tree stem, at one metre above the ground. You may ask, why use this instead of height? The girth size often corresponds quite well to a certain height, but in general it's a better indicator of the maturity of a tree than the height.

Hedging bare root bundles

Bare root hedging

From November to March, we also supply bare root hedging as 'whips' (young, whippy plants). The same general principles apply, except that they are graded by height instead of girth: 40-60cm, 60-80cm, 80-100cm and 100-125cm.

Bare root hedging is priced per plant, unless you opt for our native hedging mix, which is priced per metre (4 plants). Read more about buying bare root hedging and planting bare root hedging.

When can I plant a container grown tree?

Container trees are available all year round, and can be planted at any time of year. It is best to avoid planting in extreme weather conditions, though, e.g. when the ground is frozen solid or completely sodden, or in very dry weather. Read about the right time to plant trees.

Is a container tree just one that has been dug up and put into a pot?

A container grown tree may have been transplanted from the ground into a pot, or it may have always been grown in a succession of larger and larger pots. It will never be recently transplanted from the ground to pot, though. Before it is sold to you, we make sure that it is 'well rooted' in the pot, meaning it has formed a sturdy root system in the compost. If a tree or plant is not well rooted, it will suffer when transplanted.

What does 15L/30L/70L mean?

We sell container trees by the pot size - from 3 litre to 350L. Again, this is a stable measurement, unlike height. Our 15L (easily transportable) and 30L sizes are the most popular.

Are all trees available as container grown and bare root?

No. Our range of container trees is greater than our bare root range. Some trees fare much better transplanted from containers, so we prefer to only offer them in this form.

We hope that answers many of the questions you may have about the difference between bare root and container trees, but please get in touch if you have any other queries.

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