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Making room for a sequoia; Few people would have space for a giant redwood, says Roger Clarke.

We have all read about the leylandii wars. Neighbours battling over 30ft tall hedges in gardens 60ft long and people who cannot drive their cars on to their drives through leylandii forests.

It's not the fault of poor X Cupressocyparis leylandii though. It just happens to be the wrong tree grown in the wrong place and when grown as hedges are usually grown in the wrong way with people giving up on the heavy clipping four times a year.

Trees have been known to reach 110ft or more with a girth exceeding 30ft in 60 years so it is not a suitable specimen in the middle of the lawn of your average semi.

But if you want to make the leylandii wars look like a skirmish then go for the really big boys.

Greatbigtrees.com sells the tallest and the largest plants on earth - but as they are delivered by post these are little great big trees and it will be ten generations or so on who will see their full splendour.

The company, based in St Austell, was exhibiting at the recent International Gardening and Leisure Exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre selling seed kits and year old seedlings of the Giant Redwood, Sequoia and the coastal redwood.

These trees have always fascinated me since I saw a photograph of a car driving through a tunnel cut through the trunk of a sequoia when I was a child.

Seeing them in the flesh in California I fell in love. They are both truly magnificent trees - if you have the room.

The coastal redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, grows at a foot a year and the tallest known is 112m, the tallest trees on earth, while the oldest is a mere 2,200-years-old, so plant one now and the family can shelter under it for the next few millennium parties.

A few seeds were imported in 1843 and the largest through to be from that lot is at Boding, Gwynedd, North Wales, and was measured at 46.3 metres ten years ago.

The giant redwood, Sequoia giganteum, was also first grown here from seed with the imports arriving in 1853, at the time of the Duke of Wellington died, hence its other name, wellingtonia. The tallest in Britain is at Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, North Wales standing at 42m so it must be something in the air in the Principality. This is another big boy and gains its title of largest plant from its volume. Specimens have been recorded with a circumference of more than 60 yards - that's three cricket pitches.

Both trees have the advantage though that despite their towering appearance when full grown they develop a head of branches and leaves which move up with the tree. So an attractive conical bush when young slowly heads up into the sky with a bare trunk beneath so you don't have a massive spread at ground level or great problems with shade - at least from the branches. A trunk 300 ft high and 60ft across at the base might just block out a bit of sun but I am sure descendents in 2,300 will find a way around it.

You don't have to grow them as giants, though; both can happily be grown as bonsai specimens and in large tubs as long as they are well watered.

Visit the company's site on www.greatbigtrees.com where you can see examples of the trees and their history and can order online. The yearlings are pounds 7.99 while the seed kits with all you need are pounds 6.99.

With tropical plants which will survive our winter and now trees which hail from California all set to adorn our gardens it would be nice if we had some tropical weather, or at least some California Dreamin' weather to go with them.

No one has yet developed an instant micro-climate for the patio but the next best thing is a heater and local firm H Mason & Co of Redditch, were at GLEE with their range of Calor garden heaters.

When the heaters, which look a bit like street lamps, first appeared a few years ago they seemed a good idea for the rich and famous. I was impressed but my wallet wasn't. Since then prices have plummeted and sales are expected to top 100,000 heaters next year.

The products are relatively cheap to both buy and run, with larger models costing about 70p an hour and Calor has developed a new easy connector for the regulator which reduces the risk of accidents.

They start with a simple small affair with an output of 3.5 kilowatts which will heat about 7.5 square metres, and costs about pounds 100. The Alfresco mini is fitted through the central hole in a garden table rather like a parasol. Keeps everyone warm around the table through the Stilton, port and coffee and late night chat.

The maxi in the same range is about pounds 200 and throws out up to 10kw to heat up to 12 sq m. They come in various colours so you can even match the furniture and I am assured that they throw out enough heat to allow you to even have Christmas dinner on the patio in comfort if the mood takes you.

I can confirm that to an extent having had a meal one freezing evening in December outside a York bistro under one of the heaters. This wasn't through choice - the seats inside in the warmth of the restaurant were full. But once the heater had been going for a few minutes you could have been sitting outside on a balmy summer evening. If you want to go the whole hog you can move on from anti-corrosive steel in the Calor Gas Choice range to a stainless steel jobbie which blasts out up to 14kw and will heat up to 25sq m at a cost of about pounds 500.

Latest in the range from Masons is a heater which looks rather like an old fashioned lamp post which is designed to be plumbed in to either a natural gas or a bulk gas supply making it a permanent fitting.

The result is a much more slender base - no gas bottle to house - and a heater which can be built into a terrace or patio. This is a new product in cast aluminium which is expected to retail at around pounds 450 and could be the latest addition to the well-kept garden - after the boundary walls, block paved drive and wrought iron gates of course.

Expect to see them in pub gardens and it is quite likely they will start to appear in pedestrianised shopping areas and retail villages in the not too distant future when they will make winter shopping a much more comfortable experience.

Victoria is a queen of the cyclamens

Christmas might not be upon us yet although at least one supermarket chain has its Yuletide stock on the shelves already. No doubt their Easter eggs are already hatching in the warehouse, but at the International Gardening and Leisure Exhibition I did come across this cyclamen called Victoria on the stand of the East Anglian Growers.

It is an open pollinated variety and quite old, although these earlier flowering plants are less popular than the later blooming varieties which appear for Christmas, so are less commonly seen, which is a pity as the ruffled pink petals with red margins are quite attractive.

Also on display from S F Hoddinot, a specialist climbing plant producer from Evesham, was a new Clematis Montana Primrose Star, a pale yellow fully double bloom with some fragrance. Like all montanas it blooms early in the season so nothing was on display.

But the firm did have quite a selection of clematis in bloom which were struggling to keep hold of their flowers under a strange light in the hall rather reminiscent of the sort of illumination you find on the brightly lit urban sections of motorways.

Here we see Mrs James Mason, main picture, a good strong purple, and Arctic Queen, which is a double white, pictured right.

Like all doubles it is rather a weak grower - they tend to flop a bit after flowering - and as such is more susceptible to wilt, but for all that it is a splendid bloom and worth the extra effort involved.

Primrose Star by the way will be available to the trade from spring next year and will appear in garden centres shortly after that with a price which should be around pounds 7.99.

The company will also be launching standard passion flowers and wisterias next spring. Nothing new about that, but these are grown on a 1m frame with an 18in head for the passion flowers and 1.5m from with an 18in head for the wisteria which makes training and pruning, if not a doddle, then at least a lot easier than traditional methods.

Keep the plants in the conservatory or greenhouse for the winter bringing them out for a stunning spring and summer display.
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Title Annotation:Gardening
Author:Clarke, Roger
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 30, 2000
Words:1513
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