Is Big Really Better?

Is Big Really Better?

By Christina McDonald

The latest trend in gardening is to use really large plants and the nursery industry has responded with improved growing and shipping techniques that help to bring a variety of large perennials, trees and shrubs to the marketplace.

Why the trend for big? Not content to purchase a smaller plant and patiently await its maturity, new homeowners seek out plants that fill out their garden immediately. This trend also benefits those replacing a dead plant in an existing mature garden. A new plant no longer has to catch up to the surrounding landscape.

There are advantages to going this route. Aside from having an instant garden, you’ll spend less time guessing how a plant will look at maturity. Often several years old, these are premium plants that have been properly pruned and shaped and come with an intact, healthy root system.

There are also some disadvantages to consider, however. The price, for one, reflects the years of care each plant receives before it arrives at the garden centre. There are times when choosing a large over a small may not be economically advantageous. Fast-growing species that establish quickly may be best purchased in a smaller size and your landscaping dollars saved for bigger, slower growing plants or for those that will give you the instant impact you’re seeking. As well, while handling large perennials and shrubs isn’t too difficult for the average gardener, if you’re looking to bring in a very large tree, you’ll need the services of a specialty nursery or tree moving company.

Just how big are people planting these days? One excavating company in Connecticut handles trees up to 16 m tall with a trimmed and tied root ball measuring up to 4 m wide. Weighing in at almost 14 tonnes, these trees can come with a hefty price tag for the tree and its installation. Trees with the best survival rates are generally six to 12 years old with a caliper measuring 10-15 cm in diameter and a length of 3-6 m, depending on the species being planted. Planting is accomplished with a large machine called a tree spade, which is mounted on a truck. A ratio of 10 to 1 for spade diameter to tree diameter (caliper) is recommended so that the tree retains enough root mass to transplant successfully. Be sure to ask if the tree and its installation are guaranteed and let your landscaper know early on if it’s having problems.

Across North America some of the most popular trees to move and install are ash, apple, maple, chokecherry and evergreens such as spruce, Douglas fir, pine and hemlock. Trees are planted more successfully in the cooler spring and autumn months than in the heat of summer.

Not every property is a candidate for planting a tree this large. Accessibility is key with lots of room to maneuver and no overhead or underground lines and utilities with which to contend Keep in mind that the heavy equipment used can destroy sidewalks, driveways and compress and damage lawns. This type of planting is best done before the rest of a new landscape goes in and prior to the installation of fences. Trees may be installed before a house is constructed, however watch out for heavy equipment compacting the soil around a tree and factor in the cost of having water trucked in.

Whether planting a tree, shrub or perennial, provide an adequate planting hole that is at best 1.5 x 2 times the width of the root ball. Place at the same depth as in the pot. Backfilling adequately is important and building a trench or saucer around the plants root zone really helps to catch and hold moisture, as does adding a layer of mulch. Remember that root development is the goal in the first year and large plants need more water than their smaller counterparts. Make sure to ask how much and how often each plant should be watered and the best fertilizing routine.

Hole's Top 10 Favourite Fruit & Vegetable Varieties

Each year at Hole's, we tweak and perfect the way we grow our crops, so that we can provide you with better choices and the best advice. Here is a list of our absolute favourite fruit & vegetable varieties, sold here, at Hole's Greenhouses.

1. Sweet 150 Tomato

A Canadian favourite, Sweet 150 Tomatoes can produce more than 150 tomatoes per season. Bursting with flavour, these cherry tomatoes are perfect for fresh eating, cooking, & even juicing. Pick up your Sweet 150 Tomato plant today to keep you snacking all season long.

2. Odyssey Apple Tree

If you don’t have an apple tree in your garden yet, what are you waiting for? Developed in Manitoba, Odyssey apples are yellow with red blush. Much like Gala apples, Odyssey apples are very sweet and great for fresh eating. These apples are ready to harvest in mid-September, and store for up to 3 months. 

3. Tumbling Tom Red & Tumbler Cherry Tomato Plants

A unique cherry tomato that is perfect for container growing. Try our Tumbling Tom Red or Tumbler Cherry tomato plants. Like the Minimato Tomato, these varieties are also determinate, meaning they are bred to grow at a compact height and don't need to be pruned. Perfect for container gardening! 

4. Scarlet Nantes Carrot

Because of their sweet and juicy qualities, Scarlet Nantes Carrots are our favourite for snacking, cooking, and topping salads. These carrots grow beautifully in cool weather and shrug-off frost with ease.

5. Cool Breeze Cucumber

Here’s a cucumber that is really different. Cool Breeze is bred to set perfect fruit without cross-pollination. No male pollen is needed, so even if bees are scarce you'll still get a great crop!

If you’re short on space, these cucumbers can also be grown on a fence or a trellis for uniform straight fruit.

6. Cylindra Beets

As its name suggests, Cylindra is a cylindrical beet. This Danish heirloom is smooth-skinned with dark purple-red flesh, and grows a dark red, elongated root.

Cylindra is a favourite in the kitchen due to it's uniform slices and ease of peeling.

Nearly two thirds of the length of the root will grow above ground, so some gardeners like to hill up soil around each plant as the root emerges. This will keep the skins of the root very tender and protect them from insects.

7. Ghost Chili Pepper

Hole's smoking hot garden favourite! Great things come in small packages. The Ghost Chili Pepper is considered one of the world's hottest peppers, measuring between 850,000 and 1 million Scoville units on the heat scale. When ripe, it turns a fiery red!

8. Goliath Tomato

Just as the name suggest, this plant produces enormous beefsteak tomatoes. With tomatoes this big, be sure to provide a cage for support. Great looking plant as well, with high yields—up to 70 tomatoes from a single plant! Great for sandwiches and burgers... if you can find a bun big enough.

9. Bodacious Sweet Corn

The trifecta of corn varieties: great for fresh eating, freezing and canning. High quality sweet corn that has large, mouth-watering kernels. A popular market variety that shows tolerance to common rust and tolerates cold weather conditions better than other varieties.

10. Green Arrow Peas

The best thing about this variety is the pea-pod length. These extra long pods mean a generous yield of sweet, tender peas. Each pod will contain between 9 and 11 peas! Happy picking.

Visit Hole's Greenhouses today for better choices, and the best advice.


I had the opportunity to visit a yard that had two espalier apple trees. Espalier is simply a method of training fruiting trees, like apples, to grow in a fan pattern along wires or along a fence. For example, a common espalier technique is to string 4 wires between two solid posts, plant an apple midway between the posts, and then train the branches to run along the wires. Since there are two branches per wire, a total of eight branches are trained along the wires and secured with loose-fitting, foam covered ties.

Espalier is a fabulous way to maximize yield in a small amount of space. Besides, it just looks really cool! The other great thing about espalier is that each leaf has much greater exposure to sunlight, which means that these little ‘solar panels’ are maximizing their output of photosynthates (fancy term for sugars etc.) to the tree’s fruit. Many lower, and interior, leaves on regular apple trees rarely receive full sunlight and therefore are unable to contribute much to fruit development. On the other hand with espalier, virtually every leaf is fully engaged in fruit production.

Espalier is not difficult to do, and great for those of us who love homegrown apples, but don’t have the room for a broad, 15 meter tall tree.

 And if nothing else, for me at least, just saying the word espalier makes me sound a whole lot more sophisticated than I am.

~Jim Hole

The "H" Tree

When I was growing up on the farm, we always had plenty of space to grow fruit trees. Dad loved planting trees so we had lots of different kinds of trees around in the yard.

Because we had so much space, Dad planted about 20 different varieties of apples so we had plenty of apples to eat starting with the crab-apples in July and finishing with late maturing apples that were ready in late September and October.


But while we were fortunate to have so much space for growing apple trees, many small, modern, urban yards can only support a single apple tree at best. Yet, all is not lost if you have a small yard and yet want to enjoy a variety of different home-grown apples.

The solution is to plant a single apple tree with multiple apple varieties grafted onto it. We've got one this year that I’m calling the "H" tree.

 Now if you are wondering what the "H" I’m talking about, we have a single tree grafted with the following apple varieties Heyer, Honeycrisp, Hardi-Mac, Harcourt, and Haralson.

So the H apple provides a wide variety of apples to suit everyone’s taste, yet doesn't require a lot of space. It’s the perfect choice for those who have limited space and besides…I just think it’s cool to have so many apples on one tree! 

And, by the way, this H apple also has a "Parkland" apple grafted onto it. Why they put a P with the H’s, I don’t know. 

Maybe the grafter thought the H joke had runs its course.

Before you plant a grafted apple or any apple tree, for that matter, here are a few points to remember:

•    Evaluate the site, and spend some time visualizing what the apple will look like when it is fully grown. If the apple tree is going to block out the sun for your flowerbeds and vegetables, you may want to relocate it, if possible.

•    The apple tree should have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for good fruit production. Shady spots are poor choices for apples.

•    If the apple is planted near the neighbour’s fence there may be a concern with the mature fruit drop. The dropping fruit may be of concern to your neighbour and don’t forget that the best apples might be on his side of the fence. 

•    Always allocate some time in the spring for pruning. Healthy apples with strong branches require a bit of pruning each year.

•    Document the apple varieties so that you don’t forget which are which. Metal tags wrapped around branches (loosely!) are great way for keeping track of what’s what.

•    Prepare the soil properly and have the right tools at hand (shovel, pruners, tree supports, Myke, irrigation equipment, tree trunk wrap, etc.)

~Jim Hole

For more information on which varieties of apple trees (or other fruit) we carry, please click here to see our Fruit List for 2015

To learn more about our Myke 5 year guarantee on Hole's trees, please click here.

When to Prune Your Fruit Trees

Now is a great time to prune those long neglected apple, cherry, apricot, pear, and plum trees. 

I know that a lot of people become stressed-out about pruning fruit trees, fearing that they will irreparably harm them.

While it’s true that bad pruning can harm trees, no pruning is often just as bad if not worse.

Here are a few simple rules for pruning your fruit trees:

•    Don’t remove more than a quarter of the branches in any one year
•    Ensure that every branch is attached to the tree at a wide angle. Narrow "V-shaped" branch attachments are weak and can split
•    Remove broken branches
•    Remove crossing branches
•    Never leave a "stub" but never "flush cut" a branch, always leave a "collar" that is a few millimeters deep 

If you are still a little apprehensive about pruning, pop on down to Hole’s, and we can show you how!

~Jim Hole

Now fully stocked on all Corona pruning shears, loppers, saws, pole pruners, and hand pruners.

Now fully stocked on all Corona pruning shears, loppers, saws, pole pruners, and hand pruners.