Help With Technical Terms
Confused with some of the technical terms? Hopefully this will help:
We have two different types of descriptor terms: ‘Variety’ and ‘Batch’ descriptors.
‘Variety’ descriptors give information about a particular variety of tree, such as ‘Ultimate Height’ or ‘Flower Colour’ and form the basis of our treefinder search filters
‘Batch’ descriptors give product specifications, such as pot literage or price, for a particular batch of trees currently available to purchase. Batch descriptors are used in our stock availability tables.
Below is a HELP guide for both descriptor groups.
‘VARIETY’ DESCRIPTOR TERMS (used in Treefinder search filters)
‘Variety’ descriptors are used mainly to find varieties (types) of trees that meet one’s particular criteria. Most are self explanatory but these two might need a little more explaining:
This refers to whether the foliage on the plant persists through the winter as follows:
A tree that loses its leaves for the winter. Different varieties have different temperature requirements, so a big spread can be expected as to when deciduous trees will drop their leaves, and when they again leaf out. This can vary from year to year depending on how soon the temperature rises in the spring.
A tree that never loses all its leaves. Obviously, as they grow or when under stress they will drop some of their leaves, but generally speaking leaf shed is a gradual process. They do still tend to enjoy a burst of growth in the growing season.
Some trees are semi-evergreen, which means that under normal winter conditions they retain their foliage, but if it gets very cold, or they get too dry, they can drop most or all of their leaves as a protective mechanism.
‘Crown shape’ refers to the natural shape into which a variety’s crown of branches will mature overtime. It is sometimes confused with ‘Form’, which describes the form/shape into which a particular batch of trees has been cultivated (see below). For example, a Prunus ‘Accolade’ will have a ‘Broadly vase-shaped’ crown shape whether it has been cultivated as a ‘multi-stem’ form (branching from the base) or a ‘standard’ form (with a main trunk).
In some cases the cultivated form profoundly alters the natural crown shape – for example ‘pleached’ and ‘hedging’ forms. For varieties frequently cultivated in these forms, we have at Majestic Trees created ‘hedging’ and ‘pleached’ versions of their variety profiles just to make it easier to find or exclude these custom forms when searching.
Below are illustrations of the various crown shape definitions we use:
‘BATCH’ DESCRIPTOR TERMS (used in stock availability information)
‘Batch’ descriptor terms are essentially product specifications and are used when selecting particular tree specimens for purchase. Apologies if our method of specifying the sizes and shapes of our trees seems a little confusing at first. We can assure you we have your best interests at heart. We adhere to industry specification standards because these are the most reliable and universally comparable indicators of size and maturity.
For example, although it is handy to know the height of a tree, you can appreciate that a very young tree can be extremely tall, whilst a very mature one can easily be shorter. Measuring the girth of the trunks would give a much more accurate idea of their relative maturity and value.
Whilst we could easily dumb things down for our non-professional customers, we simply cannot in good conscience sell our trees on a ‘small’, ‘medium’, ‘large’ or (Heaven help us) ‘supersize’ basis. No professional would dream of purchasing trees on this basis – there are vast value differences at stake here! Far better, we believe, to educate the novice tree buyer, and advocate insistence on disclosure of industry standard size and form specifications when shopping around.
Below is a rundown of the most commonly used specification terms:
Terms Describing Size (size of specimen at time of supply)
This is the circumference around the main trunk measured 1m up from the soil surface. The only exception to this rule is when measuring a ¼ or ½ Std (short stemmed trees) or an olive tree, in which case the trees are measured half way up the trunk.
Girth is the key indicator of maturity for trees grown as ‘standards’ (a single trunk).
Height is a very useful specification for practical purposes, but an unreliable indicator of quality or maturity. It is relatively easy to produce tall trees quickly by not investing in formative pruning, root system development, and the like. Trees without a strong central stem, such as multi-stems or hedging, should always be specified by both height and pot size.
Always be very suspicious of large trees supplied in small pots or trees specified only by their heights.
The 'pot size' of a plant refers to the literage of the container in which the tree/shrub is planted. It is expected that a containerised plant will be supplied fully rooted out into its pot, so this specification provides an indication of how well developed the root system is likely to be. A substantial root system is vital for good establishment and fast growth, so this specification is an important value indicator. It is easy for an unscrupulous grower to dazzle with height and spread measurements by selling immature 'leggy' trees that should really have been potted-on and pruned regularly to produce a better quality crown.
Pot size is also an important specification to consider as you plan the logistics of planting the tree in your garden. Generally speaking, pot sizes up to 85 liters are just manageable for handling by two strong people (usually men), and those in excess of 250 liters will require a minimum access width of 3 meters to accommodate lifting machinery.
Containerised trees can be supplied in plastic pots, bags, or airPots (airPots being the most superior). At Majestic Trees we grow the vast majority of our trees in airPots. A few of our trees do come in plastic pots or bags purely because we can’t keep them in stock long enough to pot them on! Batches being grown in plastic pots are indicated in our availability list with the letter ‘c’ after the pot size (i.e. ‘250c’).
It is critical that you check whether the tree you are purchasing will indeed be supplied as containerised, and what size and type of container. Trees can also be supplied as ‘rootballs’ or ‘bare-root’, which are more economical but not containerised and have a far higher fatality rate. (read more about different root system options)
Terms Describing ‘Form’ (the cultivated shape)
Trees can be encouraged to grow in a range of different ‘forms’. For example, hornbeam can be grown as a hedge, a pleached tree, or an enormous stately lawn specimen. Deciding on which form will best suit your space is an important stage in the selection process. It is also important to know which size specifications are most important for trees of different forms.
Here is a run-down of the conventional forms available:
A ‘standard’ form tree has a single straight trunk clear of lower branches for at least the first 1.8m (6ft). If you desire your tree to of ‘standard’ form once mature, it is crucial that you verify that the specimen you are purchasing either already has a clear 1.8 meter straight trunk, or, if buying a very young tree, that the specimen has a straight central stem running from root to tip with no bends or forks. In the latter case you will need to carry out formative pruning as the tree grows to ensure the trunk continues to grow in a straight manner and produces a balanced framework of branches as the crown develops (this isn’t as easy as it might sound!).
‘Standard’ form trees should always be specified by girth size, with pot size an important secondary specification.
A ‘half-standard’ tree is a tree a single straight main trunk cleared of lower branches for the first 1.2 - 1.5m, often grown for a small garden bed or container.
Half-standard trees should be specified by both girth and pot size.
A ‘quarter-standard’ tree is a tree with a single trunk cleared of lower branches for the first 1 meter (or less), usually grown for a decorative pot on a patio bed or raised planter.
Quarter-standard trees should be specified by both girth and pot size.
A ‘feathered’ tree has a single dominant, straight trunk running through it, but has lateral branches from the ground up.
‘Feathered’ stem trees should always be specified by height and pot size.
A ‘multi-stemmed’ tree has multiple stems from near the ground. A true multi-stem has one trunk that is cut off near the ground when younger (above a node) and then multiple buds appear and at least 3 are grown on to develop into a lovely tree. However, some so-called multi-stemmed trees are grown as 2 or more trees planted together when young.
Multi-stem trees should be specified by height and pot size.
A ‘pleached’ tree has been trained onto a frame (usually a Bamboo frame) of varying proportions/sizes to produce a highly structural effect. A typical pleach will have a 2m trunk and a 3m x 2m flat panel on top to be used for aerial screening above a fence/wall or as a feature. However, many other forms are available, including box and umbrella pleaching, or low fence-panel style pleaching. Pleaching is also often used to soften a wall or grow fruit trees along a wall. Pleached fruit trees are often described as ‘espaliers’.
Pleached trees are usually specified by girth size (if standard form) and pot size, along with dimensions of any less conventional pleached elements.
All technical terms aside, we strongly encourage you to avail of any opportunity to personally view and select your trees in person. There is no better way to appreciate relative size and quality. Trees are one of the few things in life which cannot be mass produced in exact duplication. Each specimen is unique, which is precisely what makes them so wonderful!