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Name: Daniel Stewart Marshall
Question: Hi Sue, I have a damp shady lawn with blue bells and snowdrops. I left leaves on it and after the snow it is all muddy. Can you suggest any plants/ flowers I could put in there that can compete with the grass when it grows back in spring? Thanks.
Answer: Hi Daniel, there aren’t many plants that can compete with a lawn so I think bulbs are the best thing to grow. You could try Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), Crocus, Scilla bifolia (Alpine Squill), Erythronium dens-canis (Dog’s-tooth Violet) and Camassia. If your lawn receives sunlight for part of the day you could also try Narcissus bulbocodium, or Miniature Narcissus. The easiest method for planting small bulbs is to peel back sections of turf and fork over the soil underneath to loosen it. Plant the bulbs and gently firm the turf back into place with your hand. If a period of dry weather follows then water your lawn to help the lifted grass root back in. It’s also best to try and keep leaves off the lawn throughout autumn and winter as they block out light and air, weakening the grass. This can in turn allow moss to grow prolifically. I hope this helps Daniel, good luck.
Name: Paul Britton
Question: Hiya, I was thinking of screening my lawn from my pool using Delphiniums, will this by OK? I am concerned that when they shed their flowers any that collect in the pool may affect my fish, any help please?
Answer: Hi Paul, the toxin in Delphiniums is present throughout the whole plant so I would be concerned about the fish eating any fallen blooms by mistake. Some alternative tall perennial plants which would be safe to use include Verbascum , Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’, Monarda (bergamot or bee balm), Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), Cichorium intybus, Campanula pyramidalis, Agastache foeniculum, Nepeta transcaucasica, Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata), Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Herbstsonne’, Liatris, Knautia and Verbena bonariensis. Ornamental grasses such as Pennisetum macrourum would also be a good option for screening. I hope this gives you some ideas Paul.
Name: Martina Jacobs-Sarang
Question: How do I grow agapanthus from seed?
Answer: Hi Martina, agapanthus seeds should be sown from late winter to spring. Fill a pot or seed tray with fine quality seed compost and sprinkle the seeds thinly on the surface. Sprinkle a small amount of compost over the seeds so they are just covered. Water them with a fine-rose watering can. Seal the tray or pot in a clear plastic bag or cover it tightly with cling film and place in a bright position at a temperature of 15-18°C. They take a while to germinate - up to 3 months so some patience is required! Keep an eye on the compost and make sure it stays damp but not soaking wet. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into small pots to grow on. Harden them off for a week (only if there is no frost) before placing them outside in a cold frame to grow on. They will need to be kept in a frost-free greenhouse or similar cool location for their first winter. Once they are well grown, plant them out after all risk of frost has passed in late spring or early summer. Agapanthus will take up to 3 years to flower from seed. If this is too long to wait you can also divide existing plants in the spring by digging up the plant and chopping the clump into several pieces with a spade or sharp knife. I hope this helps Martina, good luck!
Name: Julie McCrae
Question: Will agapanthus survive a Scottish winter and when do I divide them if they do survive?
Answer: Hi Julie, agapanthus range from being fully hardy to half-hardy and anything in between! The evergreen varieties tend to be less hardy than the deciduous ones so it may be better to stick with deciduous types. Most varieties sold, such as Agapanthus ‘Headbourne Hybrids’ are deciduous but if they are evergreen it should be mentioned on the description. Deciduous agapanthus should survive a Scottish winter in the ground provided you offer them some protection. In autumn or early winter spread a thick layer of dry mulch, such as straw or bark chips, over the agapanthus plants aiming for a layer 15-20cm (6-8") deep. Remove this layer in spring when growth resumes. All agapanthus plants like free-draining soil so if yours is prone to becoming water logged then try growing them in pots which can be placed somewhere sheltered for the winter.
Divide agapanthus in the spring by digging up the plant and chopping the clump into several pieces with a spade or sharp knife. I hope this helps Julie, best of luck.