At this time of year many of us are thinking of buying bare-root trees and shrubs. There’s always a greater choice of varieties and in these cash-strapped times bare-root is also much cheaper.

Also, responsible gardeners want to avoid container-grown plants. Some 52% of compost now used by commercial growers is still peat-based but it should simply be banned, given the huge environmental damage caused by its extraction.

And though the sale of peat-based compost will be banned to amateur gardeners in 2024, the industry has been given an exemption and now plans to introduce a voluntary ban in 2025. We’ll see what happens.

Most plants are still sold in plastic pots but a few nurseries are now using plastic-free alternatives, so make a point of asking about this before purchase.

The more we support these forward-looking growers by questioning garden centres and nurseries, the greater the pressure we put on them to listen to what customers want.

The greenest way to buy bare-root trees and shrubs is undoubtedly to order and buy from your local garden centre. There are none of the packaging or transport costs entailed with mail order.

Some nurseries and garden centres like Glendoick, which grow many of their own plants, do click and collect.

If you are buying trees or shrubs by mail order, ask the company to explain their distribution policy, checking how the plants are packaged.

Many nurseries do have a responsible environmental approach to this. They use thick paper bags or cardboard and paper tape, which does the job every bit as well as old-fashioned plastic stuff.

Shredded paper or straw can be used as filler instead of plastic chips or those ghastly air-filled cushions. And roots are well protected with hessian sacking instead of plastic bags. Sadly not all nurseries have moved on with the times.

David Austin Roses do provide the best packaging I have come across and though other nurseries are pretty responsible, they may still keep roots moist in transit with black plastic.

Thomson & Morgan tick most of the green buttons but don’t deliver live plants to much of the north of Scotland.

Packing information can sometimes be vague or hard to find on websites, but there’s always a phone number: ask.

Plant of the week

The leaves of Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ turn from green to a brilliant fiery orange red in autumn. The tree can grow to 6m and does best in a sheltered position and partial shade where the large leaves get some protection from drying winds and sun scorch.