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Facebook Q&A Session 1st November 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 1st November 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

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Name: Ann Ramsden Was Wright

Question: Hi sue. My hubby has just put in a fish pond. It's about 12ft x 8ft with a border of about 2ft all around it. Could you advise on what I could plant for colour year round? Nothing too tall as don't want to take away the view of the fish. There's water lilies in the pond so want to be able to see these when in flower too. Thank you any help would be appreciated.

Answer: Hi Ann, that sounds like a nice sizeable pond! If the surrounding border is moist or boggy then there are plenty of marginal plants which you could plant, many of which would also be happy partially submerged in the water. Mid spring to early summer is the best time to plant pond plants as the water is warming up and they will grow away rapidly. You could try growing plants with a mixture of heights for textural interest, leaving some areas planted with low-growing plants so you can see through to the water lilies. Some fantastic low-growing marginal pond plants include the Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides), our native watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum), Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), Slender club-rush (Isolepis cernua), Corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus f. spiralis) and Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga) the latter two of which are evergreen. For something a bit taller try planting Giant Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris var. palustris), Mimulus ringens (Allegheny monkey flower), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus) or Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus). The Dutch rush (Equisetum hyemale var. affine) also makes a lovely evergreen, architectural plant with bold stripy stems. If you wanted to grow any of these in the pond itself to soften the edges, all you need to do is pot the plants up in aquatic baskets and place some bricks underneath to raise the pots to the surface.

If the border surrounding your pond is normal, well drained soil then there are lots of plants you could choose! With a 2ft border it’s probably best to plant herbaceous perennials, annuals, bulbs and perhaps some very small shrubs if required. Bear in mind that trees and shrubs shed lots of leaves so can cause problems close to ponds. I would suggest taking a look at our Garden Plant Finder, where you can narrow down your search by colour, flowering month, seasonal interest and plant type. I hope this gives you some ideas to start Ann, best of luck!

Name: Pauline Petros

Question: Is there any chance the 16 figs on my young tree will ripen this year? It's in a largish pot on the patio outside.

Answer: Hi Pauline, with the sudden drop in temperature and the likelihood of it remaining this way, the figs probably won’t ripen in time now. If you can bring the plant indoors to a conservatory or greenhouse and we get a few more sunny autumn days they might still ripen if they are mature enough. The general advice for growing figs in the UK is to remove any fruits larger than the size of a pea in late autumn. Any pea-sized fruits should be protected over winter with horticultural fleece and will then develop next summer. Larger fruits are unlikely to come to anything and aren’t worth protecting over winter. To help your figs ripen next year, make sure the pot is placed in the warmest and most sheltered position possible - against a south-facing brick wall would be ideal. Keep the embryonic fruits protected throughout winter until all risk of frost has passed in the spring. I hope this helps Pauline, good luck.

Name: Wakki Jakki

Question: What are the little green caterpillars that are having a good munch at my Alstroemeria and Clematis? I have found a few and removed them and stamped on them but keep finding them. What are they and how can I get rid without endangering birds and other little wildlife that may eat them.

Answer: Hi Wakki Jakki, there are many green caterpillars which will happily munch on Clematis foliage and other tasty plants. For help identifying your caterpillars click here. If you prefer to garden organically you can rub off any clusters of eggs that you find on the undersides of the leaves and pick off the caterpillars by hand. You can also use nematodes, which are small parasitic worms which infect the caterpillars and kill them. They are perfectly safe to use and are harmless to children, pets and other wildlife. There are some organic sprays available too which are based on natural plant extracts, such as sprays containing pyrethrum (Scotts Bug Clear Gun for Fruit and Veg, PY Spray Garden Insect killer). They are normally labelled 'organic'. I hope this helps, best of luck.

Name: Shannon MiZzy

Question: Hi sue, I’ve just planted new roses in my garden should I cover them with a fleece cover for winter?? How do you care for new roses during the winter??

Answer: Hi Shannon, roses are very hardy shrubs, even when young, and should be fine this winter without any protection. Natural rainfall should keep the soil moist but if it does become very dry, water your newly planted roses to ensure good root establishment. In February time, provided we’re not experiencing extreme weather, prune your hybrid tea and floribunda roses to within 15cm (6”) of soil level. Climbing roses, rambling roses and shrub roses (including the wild species) should be left alone, only requiring pruning from their second year onwards. I hope this help Shannon.

Name: Jolanta Baužaite

Question: I live in Lithuania (5 cold zone). Why geranium leaves began sallow when they brought back from the outside to the inside?

Answer: Hi Jolanta, this could be due to a sudden change in temperature, light or watering. Yellowing leaves can be a sign of overwatering and root rot. It’s best to keep the compost only slightly damp to prevent water-logging, especially as the weather cools down and the plants need less water. It might be worth turning one of your plants out of their pots to check the roots are still white and healthy. Generally plants will yellow and drop their leaves when under stress. Your plants may just need some time to adjust to their new position indoors. Put your plants in a warm, bright place to allow them time to recover.

Alternatively, Pelargoniums suffer from rust disease so it’s worth checking your plants don’t have this. The symptoms are yellow spots on the upper leaf surface and whitish blisters underneath, which eventually develop into concentric rings of brown rust spores. In this case I would advise spraying with a fungicide – they will mention on the label whether they are suitable for treating rust. I hope this helps Jolanta, good luck.

Name: John Silcock

Question: Why do the flowers on the end of my courgettes rot?

Answer: Hi John, once courgette flowers have fulfilled their purpose and been pollinated they will naturally die away. I try and remove the courgette flowers as soon as I see the fruits forming because the rotting flowers can cause the end of the courgette to rot too. Once the flowers start to shrivel and brown they should come away cleanly if you give them a gentle tug. I hope this helps John.

Name: Peter Mckibbin

Question: Can you feed tree lilies as a one of when they have now died back, I have them in extra large containers so I can move to a sheltered spot in winter. Thanks.

Answer: Hi Peter, I would avoid feeding tree lilies in the autumn when they’re becoming dormant, but it’s certainly a good idea to feed them when they come back into active growth (in mid to late spring). You can either use a balanced fertiliser or a high potash fertiliser. Alternatively, gently work in a slow release fertiliser to the compost surface in spring, which should supply enough nutrients for up to 6 months growth. Lilies in containers are best given a bit of protection in winter – whether you move them against a house wall or wrap the pot in bubble wrap or straw held in place with fleece. I hope this helps Peter.