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Facebook Q&A Session 8th February 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 8th February 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

Click here to view details of our previous Q&A sessions.

Name: Sarah Griffiths

Question: Hi, can anyone offer advice on growing bamboo in my back garden please? Thanks so much.

Answer: Hi Sarah, many bamboos have spreading rhizomes and are best grown in containers if you don’t want to keep digging bits out. There are some which are naturally clump forming and more suitable for borders, such as Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) or varieties of Fargesia. If you do decide to grow your bamboo in a container, make sure the container is at least 45cm (18") wide and deep to give the roots room to spread, and use loam-based potting compost such as John Innes No.3. Keep containerised bamboo well watered and fed throughout the summer months. Bamboos like a consistently moist soil and a fairly sheltered spot for the best growth, either in sun or dappled shade. I hope this helps Sarah, best of luck.

Name: Debbie Callender

Question: Hi, I have a friend who is getting married in September, and would like to grow her own bouquet. She would like a white and green theme. Which seeds can you recommend, the easier to grow the better?

Answer: Hi Debbie, what a lovely idea! You’ll need varieties which flower late in the season so for green flowers I would try Nicotiana langsdorffii, ‘Envy Double’ or ‘Queen Lime’, Aster ‘Hulk’ and Moluccella laevis (Bells of Ireland) . You could try annual grasses such as ‘Hare’s Tail’ or ‘Greater Quaking Grass’ which are very easy to grow, although by September they will have a soft golden hue to the seed heads rather than green. Herbs such as fennel, dill, sage and rosemary make unusual but textural additions to a bouquet (although only fennel and dill would grow from seed this year). Although only available as plug plants, Dianthus ‘Green Trick’ is a fabulous recent introduction which will start flowering within 8 weeks of planting and keep blooming until the autumn.

For white flowers I would try Cosmos ‘Purity’ or ‘Double Click Snow Puff’, Nicotiana ‘Fragrant Cloud’, Antirrhinum ‘Royal Bride’, Scabious and Orlaya grandiflora. Although there are others which will sometimes flower until September, such as annual poppies, sweet peas, Lavatera and stocks, they produce their best flowers earlier in the summer so there is a risk they would be past their best for the wedding. You could buy plants this spring for flowering later in the year - Dahlia, Aster and Chrysanthemum are classic September-flowering plants. I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration Debbie, all the best for the wedding.

Name: Simon Gibbins

Question: What is the best covering for cabbages etc?

Answer: Hi Simon, to stop cabbage white butterflies laying their eggs on your cabbages you’ll need netting with a mesh size of no more than 7mm. They’re surprisingly adept at fitting through anything bigger! Butterflies are also good at finding any holes in the netting, so make sure you secure it to a frame and seal it at the bottom with pegs, bricks or a long wooden bar. If you’d like to protect against cabbage whitefly as well then it’s best to use a very fine enviromesh. You can use horticultural fleece, but this will encourage crops to mature faster and may induce bolting in hot weather. Although cabbage whitefly doesn’t cause too much harm to Brassica plants, they can be a nuisance if they infest the more central leaves of cabbages and kale, making them unappealing to eat. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are less affected. I hope this helps Simon, good luck with your crops.

Name: Heg Deaville

Question: Hi, I bought some acanthus mollis seeds from T&M last spring and I put them in seed trays almost immediately but no luck with germination. The seeds still look healthy and shiny under the compost but they just don't want to get out of their sleepy little beds, any ideas? I really want them to get moving.

Answer: Hi Heg, I would expect Acanthus mollis to germinate 3 or 4 weeks after sowing, although sometimes it can take a bit longer. You could try starting them into life by providing them with a cold period, placing them in the fridge for 4 weeks. Make sure the compost is moist but not wet. After 4 weeks take them out and place them in a warm propagator at a temperature of about 15-18°C. Hopefully after a few weeks you will see some shoots emerging but do let us know if not. Best of luck Heg, let us know how you get on.

Name: Helen Bazzard

Question: I'd need to plant your Pinkberry in a container as our garden is at the foot of the South Downs, so much chalk and clay. How large a pot would I need ideally - this will dictate where I place it. The bush can reach 5 ft but what's the likely size in the most suitable pot? Thanks.

Answer: Hi Helen, it sounds as if you have very alkaline soil so Blueberry ‘Pinkberry’ would certainly be best in a container. Blueberries will grow in a variety of pot sizes so you can choose the size which suits the location most. The smallest pot size I would use is 30cm (12") diameter and depth. For a bigger plant and more fruit use a container of 45cm (18") diameter and depth. Make sure you use a mixture of ericaceous compost (compost for acid-loving plants) and soil based compost such as John Innes No.3 for long-term container growth. Keeping your blueberry in a pot will result in slightly smaller growth - in a 30cm pot your plant will probably reach 2-3ft tall and in a 45cm pot it could reach almost full size eventually. You can see an example of a pot-grown blueberry in our pruning video - click here to view it. I hope that helps Helen, good luck.

Name: Abi Mark Ryan Garvey

Question: Hi T & M UK. I've been given some peony tree seeds but I'm unsure what exactly to do with them. Any advice?

Answer: Hi Abi, tree peonies are a bit of a long-term investment from seed - they can take up to two years to germinate and then another five years to reach flowering size! Commercially they are propagated by grafting as this is much quicker, but you can get some very interesting hybrids when growing from seed. Peony seeds have a ‘double dormancy’ meaning they need to be exposed to two winter chill periods with a warm summer in between. The best way to achieve this is to sow your seeds in pots of soil-based seed compost such as John Innes, at a depth of 2.5cm (1"). Do this in late summer or autumn. Place the pots outside in a cold frame or similar sheltered area, checking occasionally to make sure the compost is kept moist. It may be a good idea to place some netting over the pots to stop hungry mice or squirrels eating the seeds. In hot periods throughout spring and summer keep an eye on the pots and water when necessary, as the root will emerge at this point. After the second winter a shoot should emerge too. Once the roots of the seedlings have filled the pots you can pot them on to slightly bigger containers filled with loam-based compost such as John Innes No.1 or 2. Best of luck Abi, we’d love to hear how you get on.