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Facebook Q&A Session 22nd February 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 22nd February 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

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Name: Pat Isherwood

Question: Can I grow Hibiscus in Cornwall, I have a greenhouse?

Answer: Hi Pat, you could certainly grow the tender Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (Chinese or Hawaiian hibiscus) in a greenhouse, moving it outdoors to the patio in the summer if preferred. Unfortunately it wouldn’t survive a winter outdoors; even in Cornwall so would need to be kept frost-free throughout the winter. Tender Hibiscus plants originate from tropical habitats and appreciate long hot summers for the best flowering, so place them in a sunny, sheltered spot or keep them in the greenhouse. You can also buy hardy hibiscus plants such as Hibiscus syriacus which are fully hardy in the UK and very low maintenance. Hibiscus moscheutos (Swamp rose mallow) is half-hardy and slightly more tolerant of cool conditions than the tropical varieties, but will still appreciate some winter protection in the greenhouse. I hope this helps Pat, good luck.

Name: John Hulme

Question: Do I cut back a potted hardy bush fuchsia (Delta’s Sarah)?

Answer: Hi John, hardy Fuchsias such as 'Delta’s Sarah' can be cut right back to a low permanent framework (about 20cm (8") above soil level) in the spring as they flower on current year’s growth. Wait until the weather starts to warm up and the buds begin to swell before pruning, making your cuts just a above a pair of buds. As your Fuchsia is growing in a pot, make sure you sprinkle some slow-release fertiliser such as our Fuchsia fertiliser on the compost surface to help the plant with new growth this season. I hope this helps John.

Name: Anna Mason

Question: Hi Guys I have several Clematis in large containers and I have two queries. 1. Can I repot by removing excess roots and replant in same pot as they are very pot bound and I do not wish to go up a size. 2. They are summer flowering and the sticks are peppered with green shoots should I cut them back hard now to get growth from the base?

Answer: Hi Anna, you can certainly repot your clematis by pruning the roots - it’s a good idea and will keep the plants healthy. Once you’ve removed your clematis from their containers, cut away the bottom third of the root ball and place fresh loam-based compost, such as John Innes No.3, into the bottom of your container. You could also mix in a little slow-release fertiliser at this point to give your clematis a boost this spring.

As you’ve cut away a large proportion of the roots you’ll need to prune the top growth to enable the plant to cope with the loss. Summer-flowering clematis fall under pruning groups 2 or 3, which are both carried out in early spring but need slightly different techniques. Group 2 clematis are pruned back to a permanent framework as they flower on old growth. Group 3 clematis are pruned back to about 20cm (8") above ground level as they flower on current season’s growth. If you know which cultivars you have, you can normally check online which pruning groups they fall under. If they’re group 3 then I would prune back hard to leave no more than 20cm (8") of stem. If they’re group 2 then I would cut back by about half, to strong healthy buds or alternatively cut back hard to rejuvenate the plant. You may lose flowers this year if you hard-prune, but you’ll encourage lots of fresh new growth for next year’s display. I hope this helps Anna, best of luck with your clematis.

Name: Sarah Jackson

Question: Some of my daffodils are coming up blind for the second year running - is there any way of rectifying this for next year?

Answer: Hi Sarah, how lovely to have daffodils coming up already! Daffodils coming up ‘blind’ (no flowers) is quite common and there can be several causes. It could be that your daffodil bulbs are overcrowded - daffodils naturally reproduce underground, which can lead to congestion over the years. If you think this may be the cause then lift your daffodil bulbs in the summer once the foliage has died back and re-plant them at a spacing of 5-7cm, and a depth of 10cm. Deep planting discourages bulbs from dividing. It’s a good idea to work in some organic matter and fertiliser before re-planting them, to help feed the bulbs. Lack of food can be another reason why bulbs come up blind. As the bulbs emerge in the spring try sprinkling a general purpose fertiliser around them. After flowering, feed your bulbs with a high potassium liquid fertiliser such as tomato food, every week or two until the foliage yellows. This helps them prepare for next year’s display. It’s worth keeping an eye out for narcissus bulb fly damage too. The larvae of this fly burrow into the centre of the bulb and eat the contents (which contains the flower buds), leading to death or bulb blindness.

Other things you can do to improve flowering include dead-heading the flowers once they’ve finished and letting the foliage die down naturally after flowering (don’t be tempted to tie the foliage in a knot) Dry conditions after flowering can also prevent flowers forming for next year. If you suffer from dry soil you can mulch around the bulbs in the spring with organic matter such as well rotted manure or compost, which should help retain moisture. I hope something here helps Sarah and good luck with next year’s display!

Name: Cheryl Maclaren

Question: Ok..last year I tried to grow tomatoes. They grew well but the awful summer meant they never really ripened. Do I try again this year or is there a variety that will thrive even in the wettest and closest of summers? I don't have a greenhouse sadly so need to grow outside. Thanks

Answer: Hi Cheryl, I definitely think it’s worth having another go this year as last year was abysmal - my crops certainly struggled with the lack of sun! I found the best producers were the compact, outdoor bush varieties such as 'Losetto', ‘Tumbling Tom’ and ‘Terenzo’. For taller cordon varieties (the type you tie to a support and side-shoot) you could try the very cold-tolerant tomato ‘Glacier’. You could also try ‘Stupice’ which was bred in the Czech Republic for cold tolerance, or ‘Tamina’ which is best grown outdoors. Fast-maturing tomatoes ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Cossack’ are reliable croppers which will give you ripe fruit early in the tomato season. If you can, place your tomato plants somewhere sheltered and sunny, or create a frame for them which you can cover with clear plastic sheeting to create a temporary ‘greenhouse’. I hope this helps Cheryl, best of luck.

Name: Fahima Khalil

Question: Hi there, a question for Sue or anybody else who have had planted Bougainvillea tree in England, is the climate suitable for this flower tree to be planted outside or not? Thank you indeed.

Answer: Hi Fahima, unfortunately Bougainvillea doesn’t grow well outside in the UK. They prefer long, hot and sunny summers which we struggle with here! They also do not tolerate our cold and wet winters. You can grow them in containers filled with loam-based compost such as John Innes No.3, placing them outside during the summer months and bringing them under cover for the winter. Alternatively you can permanently keep them in a greenhouse or warm conservatory all year round. Bougainvillea needs a warm, bright and frost-free position over winter. Water sparingly during the winter months, so the compost is just moist. I hope this helps.

Name: Michelle Williams

Question: Hi, I had my lily pots stored in a greenhouse over the winter and there was another pot sitting partially on top of one of them. The lily bulb underneath this pot seems to have started sprouting very pale, long, spindly shoots and the bulb itself is showing through the surface of the soil. Should I re-plant the bulb or leave it where it is? Thank you.

Answer: Hi Michelle, as your lily bulb has started its spring growth I would leave it in position. If you can, gently cover the exposed piece of bulb with a little compost to protect it. Pale and spindly shoots are often a sign that a plant isn’t getting enough light. For healthy growth try moving the lily into a brighter location. Don’t be tempted to place your lily outside yet as lily shoots are sensitive to frosts. It would be best to acclimatise your lily to outdoor conditions gradually once the weather starts to warm up in April or May. I hope this helps Michelle.