Q: by Su Brandon – I have some guttering that I want to plant up. I want trailing plants but don’t know which are good for shallow soil.
A: Hi Su – lucky for you there are lots of trailing plants which do well in not much soil. Aubretia (sometimes called rock cress) will do well in a sunny spot and give you great masses of spring flowers. If your guttering is in a conservatory, why not try trailing cacti such as the rat’s tail cactus (Aprocactus) – which tolerate drought really well and have lovely pink flowers to boot. Spider plants do well even without much soil and will drape their spider babies over the sides very happily – you could even use them as outdoor bedding plants during the summer months.
Q: by Stephanie King – I have a hydrangea, the one with the large flowers on. I’ve had it for two years now, however this year it has got really top heavy, so much so it as pulled the roots up so the plant has toppled to one side and the flowers are on the ground. The entire root ball isn’t exposed so when would it be a good time for me to dig it up and replant it? Also, can I cut it down please?
A: Hi Stephanie- now is an ideal time to move hardy shrubs like hydrangeas. To help the plant recover from the move, I’d cut off about two thirds of the top growth, and completely remove any damaged or spindly stems. I’d give it a general fertiliser such as this one in the spring to help it re-grow strongly.
Q: by Julie Goodwin – I grew a lovely lemongrass from seed which is lush and green and still in the greenhouse. What do I do with it when the weather gets colder please?
A: Hi Julie – I’ve got the same problem! This weekend I’ll be potting up my lemongrass and moving it onto a windowsill for the winter. Use ordinary multipurpose compost and put it into the smallest pot you can fit the roots into. It probably won’t grow very much over the winter so it’s better to give it a relatively small pot, otherwise the compost round the edges can go ‘sour’. Put your lemongrass on the sunniest windowsill you have, until next May, when it can go outside again.
Q: by Sandra Williams – How do I grow chrysanthemums in the greenhouse?
A: Hi Sandra – this depends on which varieties you want to grow, as there are literally thousands! They can be anything from 6 inches to nearly 6 feet tall, but they all appreciate good soil (and compost and/or fertiliser before planting in your greenhouse borders), or if you’re growing them in pots use John Innes No. 2 compost. Remember to ventilate the greenhouse well on sunny days to discourage rots and fungal problems. You can buy ready grown plants year-round, or special packs of small plants in the springtime. If you want the largest flowers possible, then remove any side flower-buds around the main buds and be generous with the feeding and watering over the summer months. Cut them back after flowering finishes and give them a winter rest with less watering and no feeding.
Q: by Claire Harkins – I have a seriously straggly honeysuckle. Not many blooms the last couple of years and just not sure what to do with it!
A: Hi Claire – time to be vicious! Honeysuckles respond well to hard pruning. I’d cut it back almost to ground level. It’s worth having a look around and seeing if anything has caused it to stop flowering – have nearby trees grown so much the honeysuckle is now in shade? If so, maybe time to move the honeysuckle somewhere sunnier (after cutting it back) , or thinning the trees.
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