Click here to view details of our previous Q&A sessions.
Name: Lucy Locket
Question: I bought myself a black aeonium in the summer but it’s not looking as healthy as when I bought it! I don't really know what to do with it over the winter as I only have a mini greenhouse, should I take it in the house?
Answer: Hello Lucy. Your aeonium will require a minimum winter temperature of 10C (50F) so you will definitely need to bring it indoors, as your mini greenhouse is unlikely to provide sufficient winter protection. I would recommend a bright, windowsill in a cool room of the house. Try to avoid placing it beside radiators and heaters. You can reduce watering so that the compost is kept barely moist throughout the winter months. Your aeonium may lose a few leaves but they should return next spring. Wait until all risk of frost has passed before moving it back outdoors next spring.
Name: Sarah Lane
Question: I have planted a baby conifer hedge (Leylandii Castlewellan Gold), I have noticed four of my neighbours hedges have been effected by a conifer disease – I have dug up four of mine already which have turned brown (could be lack of water?) – should I cut my losses’ now and dig up this hedge or take the risk that mine will/could become infected – what do you suggest?
Answer: Hello Sarah. That’s a tricky question to answer without my crystal ball! There are a number of causes of dieback in conifers including environmental conditions (such as a lack of water), cypress aphid and the fungal disease pestalotiopsis. Without seeing them it’s impossible to say what caused their death.
If I were in your position I would want to work out how much it had cost me to plant the conifer hedge in the first place, then work out how much more it would cost to replace it, as this may well be a deciding factor. You need to ask yourself if it is worth the risk to leave the conifers in place, knowing that in 5 years time when they have established nicely, there is a possibility that they will succumb to disease and you will be back to square one. Only you can make this decision.
However, I would suggest that if you decide to replant your hedge then it would be sensible to choose a different species. I would also recommend improving the soil with plenty of well rotted manure to help retain moisture. Bareroot hedging will be readily available from suppliers in the next month so now is an ideal time to replace your hedge. Have you considered native hedging? It is relatively cheap and can provide excellent cover for birds and insects in your garden. If you opt for a mix of native species then even if one species fails, there is a good chance that the remainder of the hedge may remain unaffected, and will eventually grow to fill any gaps. I hope that you are able to reach a decision. Best of luck.
Name: Kiara McMullen
Question: Yay! My mammoth box of tulips came. They look good enough to eat! My sis is getting married on 20 April next year. I'd love to plant some so they're in full bloom for her. Can you recommend when to plant the bulbs to improve our chances? Thanks!
Answer: Hello Kiara. What a lovely idea! You will need to get your bulbs into the ground in the next month to allow them to establish. Most varieties of tulip will flower sometime around April so this was a good choice of bulb for your sister’s wedding. But it is really a matter of luck as to whether they will be in full bloom at this time. Flowering will depend greatly on the weather conditions. An early spring is likely to bring them into bloom earlier whereas cold spring conditions will delay their development.
If you wanted to plant the tulips in containers then this might allow you a little more control over their flower development. The pots could be moved to warmer or cooler locations depending on how far advanced the blooms were in the weeks before the wedding - but this is a lot of work and there is no guarantee of success. Hopefully, nature will be on your side and deliver the perfect weather conditions to ensure you have a fabulous display. Fingers crossed!
Name: Julie Atkinson
Question: We have many alpine strawberry plants our son grew from seed earlier this year. They are still producing some fruits, but also now have new healthy growth from the middle of each plant. We live in the Lothians and it'll be getting much colder shortly. Should we prune them all back now, or leave them? We've already trimmed back our normal size plants in September. This is our first experience with alpines.
Answer: As the weather cools you will find that they will stop producing fruit anyway so you might as well harvest what you can while the weather is still warm enough for them to fruit. Don’t worry too much about cutting them back, but you can remove any diseased leaves as and when you see them. It won’t hurt the plants if we get a cold snap – the stems and foliage will die back naturally but they will return when the weather warms up again in spring. I hope that helps Julie.
Name: Lauren Bevan
Question: My Begonias are still in full bloom, do I dig up the tubers or wait for them to die back first, or can I leave them in the ground?
Answer: Hello Lauren. You will definitely need to lift your tubers before winter sets in as they are unlikely to survive if left in the ground. However you can certainly leave them for now if they are still in full bloom. Wait until the first frosts blacken the tips of the stems - this is your cue to go out and lift them. Wash and dry the tubers before storing them in peat or sand, in a cool but frost free position. You can replant them in February to start them into growth again.
Name: John Fowell
Question: I have a swiss cheese plant, a rubber plant and a palm. All are growing loads at the moment - new stalks/leaves in abundance. Can I still keep feeding them to help them grow more or should I stop? (they are permanent indoor plants).
Answer: Hello John. It sounds as though your plants are doing well but you will probably notice that they will start to slow their growth soon because of lower light levels. If they are all in active growth still then you can continue to feed them for the time being, but don’t overdo it – too much fertiliser can be quite damaging. I would suggest that you feed them less frequently now, and increase the dilution of the feed to make it weaker. It doesn’t hurt for them to take a rest during the winter.