Golden Christmas

It has been wet and unseasonably cold these last few weeks but at least there has been a ray of sunshine in the garden.  At this time of year the stand-out tree at Winter Hill is the Ulmus Glabra Lutescens (Golden Elm) with its magnificent yellow gold Summer colour.  

I actually refer to this as the ‘potato chip tree’ because the serrated leaves remind me of those old fashioned crinkle cut potato chips! Over Summer they have a really unique green gold colour that is a highlight in any garden and really catches your eye.


If you’re designing your own garden remember to consider trees that will provide a focal point at different times of the year. That’s not hard to achieve in Autumn and Spring with a huge range of deciduous trees providing colour and depth but it can be harder in Summer and Winter.

I love the Golden Elm in Summer.  The golden green is a highlight amongst the otherwise lush palette of cool shady green.

For Winter splendour I don’t think  you can go past the Weeping Apricot with its burst of flowing pink blossom contrasting the bare branches of other deciduous trees.  



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Love the Leighton

It’s undeniable that the Leighton Green is a tree that can, quite literally, divide a neighbourhood.  It’s dense foliage and vigorous growth rate of over 1 metre per year mean it is a great option as a hedging or screening plant.  Leightons can quickly create a more private backyard, screen the ugly shed at the bottom of the garden or block the outside traffic noise.

However be mindful that same vigorous growth and the Leighton’s maximum height of 30+ metres can cause problems if the trees are not maintained appropriately, not the least of which might be upsetting any close neighbours.

But don’t be discouraged.  Leightons can easily be maintained and shaped into a hedge of any height to provide privacy without blocking out the sun or the view for you or your neighbours.  For example in this picture the Leightons represent the driveway boundary between two properties but they are kept clipped to a height of less than 2 metres.

Another great example is shown in this shot of our wonderful local Exeter General Store where the clipped trees provide a buffer between the courtyard and the road, protect the space from wind and are a much softer, prettier option than a fence.

The foliage of the Leighton Green is dense but it’s soft rather than prickly or spiky like some conifers and it doesn’t generate cones or pollen so there is no problem for allergy suffers.

Of course for those with the space the Leighton is also a great option.  It is a very hardy tree so there are no height restrictions you can basically plant and leave them alone.  They need little care or maintenance and even without pruning a row of full grown Leightons can create an attractive formal statement along a property fenceline or perimeter.

And no, I’m not going to enter the debate about ‘who owns the view’ – the ongoing argument that Leightons on private property block vistas that should be left for everyone to enjoy.  That is for others to determine but in the meantime I will stand by my opinion that Leightons are a useful and adaptable tree that can add real value to a property if they are maintained appropriately.


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Tree Dedication

President Obama took time out of his whirlwind trip to Australia to dedicate a tree planted at the US Embassy.

As it turned out the tree was not the Winter Hill Tulip tree we supplied last week and I would be lying to say I wasn’t disappointed, but let’s focus on the bigger picture here!  Planting and dedicating a tree is a wonderful way to commemorate  a special person or special event.

The White Oak dedicated by the President, represents the US state of Illinois and it will grow strong and tall along with trees planted by earlier US Presidential visitors.

And remember the mature trees which lined the aisle of Westminster Abbey for the wedding of Wills and Kate?  The English field maples were chosen because they symbolised humility and reserve, together with the Hornbeam (Carpinus) which signifies resilience.  After the wedding those trees were planted at Prince of Wales’s Highgrove estate as a living reminder of their wedding day.

Closer to home and much more personal was the Winter Hill tree selected by a couple who wanted something delicate and pretty that would blossom each year in memory of their child.

Or the Tulip selected and planted in honour of a mother and grandmother because ‘it was her favourite tree’ and the new parents who chose a Magnolia Little Gem to plant in honour of their newborn daughter.

For some the dedication coincides with sadness, for others joy but I think the significance of planting a tree acknowledges hope and will in time bring happiness.

I’d love to hear any stories of trees you know of trees being dedicated. In the meantime I’m going to learn more about the symbolism of trees and will add the info I find to the tree pages on our website.

(I’m also going to see if I can find out where exactly the Winter Hill Tulip tree supplied for the Presidential visit has been planted!!)

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Tree fit for a President

We knew we grew great trees but this week we found out Winter Hill Trees are fit for a President!

That’s right, we have supplied a Winter Hill grown 200 Litre Liriodendren Tulipfera Fastigiata or Upright Tulip Tree to be planted by US President Barack Obama during his visit to Australia next week.  The tree is over 5 metres tall which is a very large 200 litre specimen.

How cool is that!!

We understand the tree will be planted by President Obama outside the US embassy in Canberra so now we have very personal reasons to hope his visit to Australia goes ahead!!

Why a Tulip Tree?  Well it’s native to the eastern US.  It can grow to 20 metres in height but the upright or fastigiate variety is not as vigorous nor as wide so it is suitable for smaller spaces.

As the name would suggest the spring flowers are tulip-shaped. I think they are quite a distinct and very pretty colour and shape to find on a tree. As you can see from the photo they are a soft yellow in colour with prominent gold stamens and the leaves are a fresh green in summer changing to butter yellow in Autumn.

 Needless to say we are all very excited to see if our President Tree features in the news coverage of the visit by the President.  Our boys insisted they get a photo beside the tree which featured in a story on the tree in the local newspaper…and of course both have had BIG stories to share with their school classmates!

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Box Hedge

We recently had a photo shoot for a story that will hopefully appear soon on ‘instant hedging’.

The courtyard in the Winter Hill garden was transformed by planting the metre-long lengths of mature Buxus Sempervirens which helped frame the space.

Winter Hill stocks Buxus or Box Hedge so I thought in this post I’d give some detail on the differences between the English and Japanese Buxus.

Probably the most common box hedge is the Buxus Sempervirens or English Box.  It’s the one you’ll traditionally see used for very formal, structured hedges.  It has small, oval shaped leaves that grow quite tightly compacted which is why it holds its structure well as a formal hedge.  The leaves are bottle green in colour although the new growth is a soft lighter green.

One of the key things to remember about English Box is that it is very very slow growing.  I often see homes and developments where individual English Box tube stock has been used as the border plant along paths or verandahs.  There’s nothing at all wrong with that look but if the aim is to create a full hedge then it is going to be a LOOONG wait.

The other thing to note about the English Box is many people consider the foliage to smell slightly rancid…I’ve read people say it can smell like cat wee (charming!), especially after rain or warm weather.  I disagree.  I don’t believe that English Box grown by Winter Hill has any sort of odour…but perhaps it depends on the nose!  The shot here shows hedging leading from the front steps of our house and I certainly don’t find myself holding my nose whenever I leave the house.

The Buxus mircrophylla japonica or Japanese Box is a faster growing alternative suitable for hedging.  To be a bit more specific if English Box grows 25cm in 3 years Japanese Box will grow 45cm in the same time.

Japanese Box has a rounder, more glossy light green leaf that will turn bronze/yellow in Winter.  The leaves don’t have the same densely compact growth as the English Box so a hedge will appear slightly softer and not as tight.

Both varieties will require pruning and both can be shaped to achieve either curved or sharp lines on your hedge.

I’ve added a couple of pictures here to show the difference in the leaf shape of each….and remember, Winter Hill specialises in supplying mature hedging in metre-lengths ready to plant and deliver an instant hedge!

Japanese Box leaf

English Box Leaf

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We recently dug some of the very large inground trees here on the farm at Winter Hill.

In this picture our boys and some of their good mates are checking out the size of the hole left when a single tree is removed.  It shows the size of the root ball we take when digging BIG inground trees.

We ensure our inground trees retain a fibrous root system by ripping around them each year.  Breaking the roots on a regular basis encourages new roots to grow so when we do come to dig them out of the ground the tree has a dense, fibrous root system that will allow it to adapt quickly to its new home.

The trees we dig out are given another root prune and then placed into bags half-filled with a potting mix prepared for specifically for Winter Hill (a bit like the Colonel’s secret herbs and spices!).

The size of the bag chosen depends on the size of the tree caliper and the root ball.  For these Pin Oaks we used 1000 litre bags and some 750 litre bags.

Each tree is positioned in the bag, filled with potting mix and then mulched, fertilised, connected to irrigation and trellis.  It’s heavy work given most of these trees are over 7 metres tall.

They look amazing when they’re all done and lined up…ready for sale within a few ‘good growing’ months.

These trees will be ready for sale again within a few months

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Capital Pears

We have just finished potting up all our 75 litre Capital Pear trees.

Recently potted 75 litre Capital Pears

At each stage of potting we choose only the very best specimans to go to the next size. Each tree is underpruned, staked, connected to irrigation and then set out to ensure they have enough space to grow to form.

Each tree is staked, tied and connected to irrigation

Capital Pears only spread to around 3m so we can pack them in quite closely at this stage. These 75 litre trees are around 2.5m tall.

A perfect choice for a street tree or driveway Capital Pears are an  increasingly popular choice. They provide great Autumn colour, Spring blossom and lush Summer growth and in the Australian climate it also helps that they’re very hardy and drought tolerate.

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There is always so much happening at Winter Hill Tree Farm so we thought a blog would be a good way to let everyone know what we do and how we do it!

Many people assume that to produce top quality mature trees we simply plant them then sit back and watch them grow!  The reality is slightly more involved.

Continue reading

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