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Issues with stunted growth trees/plants


I am just looking for some info or advice as I haven't done much gardening before.

I bought my current house just under a year ago from my parents. In the back garden they had planted several Leylandii trees years ago which have now all been felled, there were 2 rows around 10 meters apart. I don't know why but one row grew to a height of around 20m, and the other row all appeared stunted growing no more than 1.5m high. 

Also around the property there are several laurel plants, a laurel in the back garden grew to around 8m high which I have now trimmed down, and in the front garden they had planted a row of around 10 green/yellow spotted laurels around 1m apart which stayed stunted at around 60cm high max. I know these laurels were planted onto soil which sat over some rubble. Several plum trees were also planted in this same row, which grew well to around 5m high. The laurels have weird looking roots which sit above the ground level, they look a bit like a skeleton's hand.

All of these trees/plants were in full sunlight and watered etc by my parents. The ground is a bit clay, plants and trees do seem to like it though as I get lots of weeds trying to grow through and seedlings growing.

The problem is I want to plant some palm trees myself and they would be in the locations where these stunted trees were, I don't want the palms to end up the same way. Is there any indication as to why those trees ended up stunted?

Thank you


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,549
    Do your parents know maybe?
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,246
    If they're on rubbish ground, and/or in a windy/exposed site, that could be the reason for the laurels not thriving. They also like wetter conditions. 
    Leyland cypress can grow almost anywhere, so a problem underground seems the most likely reason.
    Without digging down and investigating the soil, it's hard to think of anything else obvious that could be the reason. 
    Do you have any photos?
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 Posts: 783
    Maybe the rubble you mention has made the soil very alkaline? Some plants will like or cope with that better than others.
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
    East facing, top of a hill clay-loam, cultivated for centuries (7 years by me). Birmingham
  • Hi, photos would really help but here are some suggestions...

    You mention roots that look like a skeleton's hand, which suggests the shrubs were not planted deeply enough and their roots are partially out of the ground. This would affect the growth rates.

    With the Leylandii the second row may be either too dry or subject waterlogging. There may also be rubble in the soil or a hard pan that the roots cannot penetrate. Are they sure the second row was leylandii or could they have purchased a different conifer that is less vigorous?

    Laurels are know to be allelopathic which can inhibit the growth of surrounding plants - something to be aware of if you want to plant close by.
  • Hi,

    Thank you for the replies,

    As it was a long time ago they struggle to remember themselves but I just spoke to my Dad who told me (Leylandii part) that there's a possibility that they were something different and just thought they were leylandiis as they bought and planted the 2 rows at different times. 

    This is an old picture but you can just about see them leaning against the fence panel at the back.

    The laurels (I think they are the Japanese laurel) are still there at the moment so I have good pictures of those, the bottom pic was a few years ago and shows the trees there which grew well. He said the rocks were put in around 50 years ago by the previous owners and that when he was messing with it around 10 years ago it wasn't just pure rubble but a mix of rocks, bricks and soil.

    Thank you
  • Thank you for the tip to be cautious about planting around the laurels as I was about to put my new cordyline australis trees very close to them.
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,549
    Do you live in Derbyshire? 🙂
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • The Japanese laurels are not as fast growing as common laurel and the photo above looks like one has not been planted deep enough in the soil which also looks stony. I think they prefer more organic material in the soil and would benefit form the roots not being exposed. You might have to add some manure or compost to the area to improve it if you want plants you are going to put there to grow faster but it depends what your planting as some things will prefer less fertile ground anyway. If you are keeping the variegated laurel then a good mulch to protect the roots could help it.
  • pansyface said:
    Do you live in Derbyshire? 🙂
    I'm in Staffordshire Moorlands not far from Peak District so not too far from there  :)

    Thank you all who posted advice, I will get the ground sorted out first then see how the new trees go and I will use the fertilisers. 
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