SUCCESSFULLY transplanting a large tree should be all about preparation.

I saw an impressive example of success in an olive tree, flourishing in the biggest terracotta pot I have ever seen, on a recent holiday to the West

Country — and was inspired to have a go.

I didn’t have the time to adequately prepare the tree for my transplant because Christmas was a-coming and the spruce had to decorate the patch of grass at Bullen Cross at Pondwell.

I knew what should be done but I have taken a chance, preserved as much of the rootball as I could, and the beautiful tree now sits in a giant tub at the crossroads.

It was kindly donated by Jim Wattleworth, a neighbour of Cllr Reg Barry — the second year in a row Jim has been so generous.

Last year’s tree was huge and had to be felled, but this year, encouraged by the parish council to adopt a sustainable approach, I decided to try to keep this tree for future years.

Preservation of as many of the delicate fibrous roots is essential when transplanting any tree and especially so when the specimen is large, because they have a lot of growth to sustain.

A big tree mostly loses a significant portion of its roots when transplanted, making it hard going when replanted in a new location.

The key to success is to help the tree grow roots that can travel with it to its new home.

Winter or early spring, before bud-break, are best.

The first step is root pruning.

It involves trimming the roots of the tree six months before the transplant encouraging new roots to appear that can be preserved during transplanting.

Estimate the size of the rootball and, after tying the lower branches out of the way, dig a circular trench around the tree severing the roots with a spade.

Replace the soil, untie the branches and water well.

In six months, vigorous new roots will have sprouted.

Go back to the tree, tie up the branches again and then dig a trench about a foot outside the root-pruning trench in order to capture the delicate new growth that will have formed.

Dig down until you can undercut the ball at an angle of about 45 degrees.

Wrap the soil ball in sacking or a tarp and move it to the new planting location.

Remove the sacking and place in the new planting hole which should be the same depth as the root ball and half as wide again.

Backfill with soil, water-in thoroughly and, like me, keep everything crossed...