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Facebook Q&A Session 4th October 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 4th October 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

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Name: Lucy Garden

Question: An Azara question for Sue - I have a big old Azara serrata in my garden and it developed a variegated shoot. I took some cuttings and they seem to have rooted - I've just taken off the plastic bag over the pot and there are thread roots coming out of the drainage holes. Do I need to give the cuttings winter protection, do you think? Any other tips for growing them on?

Answer: Hi Lucy, what a great find! As Azara serrata isn’t completely hardy (generally quoted as hardy to -10°C) and the plants are very young I would give the cuttings some protection over winter. I would be tempted to play it safe as the variegated form of Azara microphylla is much less hardy than the species - the same might be true of Azara serrata. Find a position indoors on a bright windowsill, in a cool room to over winter them in their first year. As their root systems are still quite small take care not to over-water them while temperatures are cool. If you feel they’re ready then you could place them in a cold greenhouse provided you have some fleece to hand on very cold nights. It should be safe to plant them in their final positions in May when the weather warms up.

Question: Another question - I have an Azara microphylla in a pot. I've had it through two of three seasons and each year it seems to be getting buds but these simply open into leaves. Will it ever flower in a pot or do I need to plant it into a border?

Answer: Azara microphylla have very small flowers which are borne on the underside of the shoots between the leaf axils in late winter and early spring. Flowers are borne on shoots produced the previous year, which are susceptible to damage by late spring frosts. If the new shoots were knocked back when growth resumed in the spring this could have disrupted flowering the following year. Alternatively it could be that your plant is too young to flower. Growing Azara in a pot shouldn’t prevent flowering provided it is well fed and watered throughout spring and summer. Hopefully you should start to see some flowers soon. Let us know how you get on this spring!

Question: Reposting a question I asked on 15 Sept on your pic of planting depths: "when planting up a big pot with layers of bulbs, I'd always planted the daffs at the bottom but, looking at these depths, have I been doing it wrong all along? Should the tulips be deeper than the daffs?"

Answer: When planting tulips in the ground they should be planted deeper than daffodils, about 15cm (6”) deep, apart from some of the smaller species tulips which can be planted at the same depth as daffodils at 10cm (4”) deep. The reason for doing this is to try and prevent the tulip bulbs from producing too many offsets which in turn affects flowering. It can make them more reliably perennial (depending on cultivar). Deep planting also helps to support their often flimsy and top-heavy stems. When growing tulips in containers the planting depth isn’t as important as they are much more likely to produce offsets anyway, due to the light texture of the potting compost and the warmth of being above ground. It might still be worth planting them deeply though to help support the stems! I hope this help Lucy, best of luck with your Azaras and bulb planting

Name: Ellen Kunec

Question: Good Morning T&M! I read your interesting email about planting overwinter onions in October and Garlic in November, and then feeding them in February - would you recommend planting the Jermor shallots at the same time as the onions? I wonder if I left planting them a bit late last year and that, with the cold and wet weather, was why they didn't do so well. Cheers - Ellen

Answer: Hi Ellen, Shallot 'Jermor' is a suitable variety for autumn planting as it is less sensitive to cold exposure which causes bolting. Shallots are normally planted in October so would be fine to plant alongside your overwintering onions. Shallots do start growing roots once planted in the autumn so a late planting could have been responsible for poor results. Also, autumn-planting shallots and onions don’t do well on heavy clay soils as the wet soil over winter encourages disease and rotting. In these instances you can plant the bulbs in module trays of multi-purpose compost and place them in a cold frame, cold greenhouse or front porch to keep the worst of the rain off. In March they can be planted out in their final positions. I hope this helps Ellen, good luck.

Name: Imrana Rashid

Question: Can you please tell me what has happened to my corn? Thanks

Sweet corn mutation

Answer: Hi Imrana, this certainly looks strange but is nothing to worry about, it does occur sometimes. A cob shank is a modified stem and the husk leaves grow from nodes along this stem. Sometimes further cobs are initiated at the nodes to produce multiple cobs from one stem. General thinking is that this could be because of nutrient-rich soil providing the plant with ample energy and resources early on in the growth cycle, which they make the most of by producing extra cobs. Provided your soil is fertile and the weather is warm, this shouldn’t affect the development and flavour of your sweet corn cobs! I hope this helps, let us know how you get on.

Name: Liz Blue

Question: Advice needed please on what to expect of the 72 perennial plug plants that I received from you recently. All are potted on and being looked after on cool, light but not too bright indoor windowsills. So far they are doing OK but I have seen only very tiny signs of new growth. How much growth can I expect between now and next Spring? Should any of the foliage die back naturally in the winter, or would this be a sign of the death of my plants? Would love some tips on keeping my new babies alive and well, please!

Answer: Hi Liz, in a cool environment growth will be quite slow although you are doing the right thing, as too much warmth will encourage fast, leggy growth. Plants are best kept indoors over winter in a cool, bright place. If they put on sufficient growth to fully root into their pots they can be hardened off in late autumn and moved to a cold frame or cold greenhouse for the winter. They probably won’t grow much (or at all) over winter, perhaps even dying back with cold temperatures and low light levels, but should romp away in the spring. Keep the compost just moist over winter to prevent rotting. Wait until the weather has started to warm from April onwards before hardening off your perennials and planting them in their final positions. I hope this helps Liz.

Name: Becky Fisk

Question: Hi, can you tell me please if it's ok to leave my hardy azalea out all year round? My husband says no, but as it's hardy I thought I could? Thank-you.

Answer: Hi Becky, there is often some confusion with Azaleas. Many are fully hardy shrubs but there are some hybrids out there which are grown as houseplants, known as florist’s Azaleas (or ‘Indian Hybrids’), which are not hardy and will require frost-protection over winter. If you know for sure you have a hardy variety then it will be fine outdoors over winter. As with all container plants it’s a good idea to bubble wrap the container or group plants against a house wall to offer the roots some protection from freezing. I hope this helps Becky!