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Q&A - Question & Answer about gardening
Daphne Ledward - Gardening Expert
Daphne Ledward

Q: Joanne Parkin- I have 2 large spruce (?) trees side by side in a very tiny garden the roots are draining and clogging the rest of the soil I want to grow perennials but the lack of moisture is making it hard work. Any advice please.

A: Have you thought of growing them in raised beds?   For best effect, they should be as big as looks sensible in a small garden, possibly arranged in a pattern with decorative slate or granite chippings in between.   They should be 45-60 cm deep, filled with good topsoil or JI No 3 compost.   you will have to water in dry weather, but at least the roots will be growing in a good medium.   The same rule applies as to the suitability of what you plant as if you were planting into the ground – if the beds are in shade, you will need shade lovers, in full sun you have a huge choice of flowering perennials, and in half sun you will still find a good selection.   Check in the catalogue as to their preferences before ordering.

Q: Irene Davies –  Is it to early to lift and dry my begonias. Done them middle November last year but my arthritis is worse thought I’d at least get them in the shed to dry then wrap in newspaper.

A: My begonias are still flowering prolifically, and I shall wait until flowers and stems start to drop off before I take them in.   If your shed has a window, I would lift yours, damaging any parts as little as possible, and pack them loosely in strong cardboard boxes until they start to die back.   The tubers can be dried off,  cleaned up, and wrapped in newspaper.

Q: Irene Davies – Hi Daphne. I have a few different hostas and one of these grew about four plain leaves darker than the plant and furry. I broke these off and now the whole plant is like this.

A: I think you’ve got an uninvited invader – possibly comfrey, foxgloves or some other easy-seeding plant.   If you don’t like the look of it, dig it up, and the roots of the hosta with it, which may have died back naturally.   You should be able to distinguish between the furry plant and the hosta roots quite easily.   You can then replant the hosta.   If you like the new plant, that can be replanted elsewhere.   One thing is certain – the interloper is unlikely to be a different kind of hosta!

Q: Clare Madderson I asked you last time about my hydrangea which had not flowered for 2 years. I said should I re-pot to a larger pot. You told me to hide the pruners. Thing is I have never pruned it. Should I repot it in the spring? The leaves are green and full, so I am rather stuck as I am a learner gardener. The plant was my mum’s before she died and I really want to save it. Thank you.

A: I would do it now, while the weather is reasonably warm ,and the hydrangea will start making new roots into the fresh compost (use John Innes No 3) before the winter.   You may find next year that it puts on a lot more growth, but hopefully will start flowering again.   If you think it’s getting too big, thin out about one third of the shoots every year, cutting back to ground level, to keep it under control.

Q: Jacquie Hobbs Millions of wood lice! They ate all my veg! Well at least ate holes in them then moved in!! I have never seen so many in one garden and am at a loss to know what to do! Help!!

A: I think the woodlice are a secondary problem, as they usually only eat rotting wood and vegetation.   Maybe your veg were originally damaged by something else, such as slugs, snails or caterpillars and the woodlice moved in to finish the job.   Clearing up all old prunings and other rubbish will discourage them from moving into your garden in the first place.   As the weather gets colder they will disappear.   Some years woodlice are more of a problem than others, depending on the weather and other natural conditions, even the previous years, so you may find this won’t happen next season.

Q: Peggy Sue Langdown – I am starting a new bed from scratch, it will only be a small one, about 10′ wide x 3′ deep directly in front of the house and is the only south-facing aspect I have. I want a traditional cottage garden look, wild-life and insect friendly. What three plants would you absolutely have to have?

A: For the look of a traditional cottage garden I would suggest that you begin with roses. Large-flowered roses are ideal for beds and borders and are attractive combined with other plants. Lavender is a great option to combine the roses with as in addition to its bright colour and rich scent it helps to deter aphids. Finally I would like to suggest a buddleia, whose large clusters of small flowers will attract butterflies while giving off a delightful scent.


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