Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
All Suckers Aren’t Bad!
Many Trees Sucker whether they
are Native trees like Ash and Sycamore, or more ornamental varieties
such as Stags Horn Sumach and Sambucus (Elderberry). Some sucker freely
whereas some will only sucker when the trees are under stress from being
damaged such as with being heavily pruned. Other Trees may be shallow
rooted and when their roots are damaged, through digging around the tree
for instance, the roots will throw up Suckers. Suckers are often a
nuisance as the original Tree can become an overgrown thicket with time.
This is especially true of things like the Sumach that many people see
as an invasive pest. However, from another point of view, suckering
trees can be used to stabilize sloping banks of soil with their dense
root masses. The general thought is though, that Suckers are an unwanted
problem. Trees that have been grafted such as most Fruit Trees including
Apples, Pears, Cherries and Plums, are all prone to Suckering and the
Suckers of these will not be wanted and should be cut off at the Trunk
as soon as they appear. If not they will grow rapidly and drain the
energy from the Grafted part of the Tree that produces the Fruit and
that you want to encourage. Yes they can easily be dug up to give free
Trees, but they will not be the same as the Grafted Fruit Tree. Indeed
they will give a tree the same as the Root Stock Tree that the Fruiting
Tree was grafted on to. However, for things like Wild Plums and Wild
Cherries that also Sucker freely, and have not been Grafted, the young
Suckers will be the same as the parent tree and can usefully be dug up
and replanted elsewhere.
This is also true of Hazels, although Hazels don’t Sucker freely, and is
even true of the ornamental Red Hazel (if they have not been grafted.)
It is said that you should always plant Trees at the same depth they
were grown in the Pot, but if you plant some species a bit deeper they
will throw out shoots underground that will give you self rooted
cuttings very much like Suckers. I did this when I planted my Red Leafed
Hazel and regularly get a number of self rooted Cuttings in this way
each year. This Winter was no exception and I got about 10 such
Cuttings. They did not have much root on, but taken at the right time in
the Winter, they will produce some more roots while still semi dormant
and get away in the Spring with their buds breaking to produce new,
small, individual trees exactly like the parent. I also have a lovely
Twisted Hazel, but unfortunately it has been Grafted, so I have pegged
down a few thin Branches in the hopes that they will root by that method
instead. I did wonder if the Grafting was to control the Contortion of
the Branches, but instead, now believe it may be just to dwarf it. If
that is the case and the Shoots root, I will have some free trees, that
will get quite big like a normal Hazel, and they will need heavy pruning
to restrict them, but they will retain the characteristics of the parent
tree with its twisted stems.
Some people think Willows sucker, but like Hazels, they don’t really
unless there is damage to their roots that grow near to the surface.
Alternatively they can be planted a bit deeper to encourage underground
shoots from the dormant buds in their trunks. Again Trunk damage to the
Tree such as Coppicing, as with Hazels, will also encourage suckering,
although Willows root so easily from Cuttings that there is no need to
do this. I have a lovely “Twisted,” Willow in my back garden that gives
me lots of Cuttings when I prune it to keep it in shape and I have found
that I can best root these at Work every year by simply putting them in
a tall container of water for a few weeks.
Another Tree that will readily throw out self rooted Cuttings from below
Soil level that are not really true Suckers, is the Fig. However, Figs
root so easily in so many other ways that you can soon multiply up your
numbers if you want to and you could even create your own Fig Orchard at
virtually no expense at all. (Indeed, I understand that this is
traditionally how most Vineyards are planted and created with thousands
of Grape Vines.)
Indeed, Figs root readily root from both “Air Layering,” and “Ground
Layering,” as well as simply from Hardwood Cuttings taken before Winter.
They do take some months to root by any method, but you do get a
relatively high success rate although they will then take a few more
years to produce sizeable trees. However, as with all Tree Cuttings, if
the cuttings were taken from a mature and fruiting tree, then the
Cutting will think it is a mature tree and start fruiting almost
immediately even if it is only a feet tall.
It’s not only Trees that produce Suckers, but many other plants do as
well including a lot of Shrubby plants such as Liquorice, Bamboo, Kerria
Japonica and Acuba Japonica. Suckers are often produced close to the
surface of the ground in most plants, but in Liquorice they can go down
as much as 5 or 6 feet. This can make it difficult to control if grown
in the wrong place and indeed similar growing plants are often a
nightmare to eradicate. Such a plant is the concrete busting weed called
Japanese Knotweed. This plant is so difficult to kill when it gets hold
that it is in fact a notifiable weed. Giant Hogweed is another such pest
that was brought into the country by the Victorians as a Garden Plant
and has spread out of control along many of our River Banks and indeed
many of the Bamboos that people plant in their Gardens will spread by
underground shoots to such an extent that they too often become
Smaller plants often spread by underground shoots as well and
although most people would consider Ferns a welcome addition to their
gardens, the local Forestry Commission wage a never ending battle every
year to control their rapid growth and spread. The Shuttle Cock Fern, or Matteuccia Struthiopteris is one of many such Ferns that spread by
underground rhizomes and so does Houttuynia Cordata Chameleon. Both are
very popular garden plants, but planted in the wrong place can and will,
become a nuisance. From another point of view though, if you want more
plants of the same type, they could not be easier to multiply up by
removing and potting some of the young offsets that readily develop.
Other garden plants can easily be multiplied up by digging up new
offsets as well. Indeed many Herbaceous plants including some Heleniums,
Asters and Alstroemeria are what they call “Clump Forming,” because of
their habit of spreading outwards by underground shoots that grow very
much like Suckers, but are called Rhizomes. However, they too can easily
get out of control if their spreading growth is not checked
Like Herbaceous Plants quite a few of our worst Weeds like Nettles and
Squitch spread by underground shoots and it is this ability that makes
them such a problem. Their shoots are not really Suckers either of
course, but they do behave in a similar way.
Some of our best Fruit Bushes also spread by underground shoots that are
like, but not really Suckers, and that includes Raspberries. Many people
think that Raspberry “Suckers,” are of no use, but as they are not
generally Grafted, the underground shoots will always produce plants
that are identical to the Parent plant. This means that you only really
need to buy one Raspberry plant and with time, you can easily multiply
it up into a row with as many plants in as you want with no extra cost!
Black Currant and Gooseberries Bushes will often Sucker as well,
especially if you weed round them disturbing their roots a little. Again
as they are not usually grafted you can happily remove the young offsets
to give you some more Free plants.
Strawberries are another fruit that multiplies up readily with its
spreading habit. These plants definitely don’t make Suckers, but they
may as well do with their prolific over ground runners that easily root
down to make new plants. Garden plants like Ajuga, Stachys, or Lambs
Ears and Silene throw out shoots that rapidly spread and root down just
as easily to give lots more Free plants.
So although it must be said that many of our worst weeds are Suckering
Plants and indeed other plants that Sucker can become a nuisance, many
of our most favourite plants can be included in that category and their
spreading habit is one of the things that makes them so popular.