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Name: Maria Tiltman

Question: My fuschia doesn’t look too good, it was doing ok, plenty of leaves and buds but it now looks dull in colour will it be ok? We have had a lot of snow and freezing evenings.

Answer: Hi Maria, it sounds like the freezing temperatures have slowed or completely stopped your Fuchsia’s growth. If you have a hardy variety of Fuchsia then the plant will become dormant now until the weather warms up again. It will be fine over the winter as long as it’s in the ground. Half-hardy and tender varieties will not survive the winter and are best treated as annuals plants.

If your Fuchsia is a hardy variety then mulch deeply around the base of the plant with some bark mulch to give the roots some extra protection throughout the winter. Make sure that you don’t mound it up around the stem. If it is in a container it may be best to shelter it in a greenhouse or move it against the shelter of a warm wall. Wrap some bubble wrap around the pot to protect the roots from the cold. If you’re unsure about the hardiness of your Fuchsia, let us know the variety and we can get back to you.

Name: Allan Bramley

Question: What can I plant when it is minus 10 degrees and the ground is frozen..?

Answer: Hi Allan. My advice would be to make a cup of tea and put your feet up. You could even take a browse through our latest catalogue. When the ground is frozen, planning is preferable to planting!

Name: Calum J Wiley

Question: This might sound stupid, but when is it the right time to collect seeds? I've started grown Poppies and Sweet Peas from seeds for next year and from January onwards, I am planning to sew my bedding plants (just the common ones), sunflowers and some daisy type plants. So, I have looked at the plants that I have had this past year and could never see where the seeds were or knew what to look for. For example, Petunia, Busy Lizzie and Marrigolds. Any help would be great.

Answer:Hi Calum, seeds are normally collected in late summer and early autumn although many bedding plants will produce seeds earlier than this (especially in hot summers). As soon as they start flowering it’s best to keep an eye on the plants you’d like seeds from as the seeds can mature rapidly. When the flowers die you’ll see them being replaced by green seed pods (as long as the bees have been visiting!).

Petunia and busy lizzie seeds are contained in a rounded, slightly pointy seed pod which will ripen to brown and become crispy before splitting open to disperse the seed. You will need to look out for them though, as petunia seed is particularly tiny. Marigold seeds aren’t contained in a pod but are simply tightly clustered at the point where the flower was (just like a sunflower) and can be pulled off. If you’re unsure what you’re looking for, try saving a few seeds before you sow them next year and keep them for a comparison later on in the summer! Also just be aware that seeds saved from F1 Hybrids probably won’t look like the parent plant. This is all part of the fun though!

Name: Maureen Lehane

Question: Could you give me a reason for rooted pelargonium cuttings going black at the base, even though they are in a heated glasshouse. Thanks.

Answer: Hi Maureen, this sounds like Blackleg which is unfortunately a common problem with Pelargonium cuttings. It’s caused by a micro-organism which is spread by using unwashed pots/trays or tools. Using water from a source other than mains water can also cause this. The only way to prevent it is to sterilise everything the cuttings will come into contact with: pots, trays, secateurs etc. Make sure you use sterilised compost from your local garden centre and it wouldn’t hurt to dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone which contains a fungicide too. Make sure the soil isn’t too moist as the disease will thrive in these conditions.

Unfortunately I would have to advise disposing of the affected cuttings with normal household waste to prevent it spreading. I hope this hasn’t put you off and that you have better luck next time!

Names: Ian Woodhams

Question: Sue, I'm trying to grow coleus from seed for house plants and I read that I should pinch off the growing tips to promote bushier growth.....I'm not sure what this means, is it just the top section of the central stem?? Mine seem rather leggy..., so any advice as to the best way forward? Many thanks, Ian.

Answer: Hi Ian, it’s correct that pinching or cutting the tips off the stems encourages bushier growth. Don’t worry that your plant is leggy ; as soon as the tips are removed the plant will grow side shoots along the stems, filling the plant out nicely. With your finger and thumb, pinch out the tip of each shoot just above an opened leaf. When new side shoots form, pinch the tips out after they’ve developed two pairs of leaves. Coleus are very forgiving plants so don’t worry if you feel you need to pinch back further. It’s also worth remembering that growth will be slower or weaker at this time of year, even in the warmth, due to low light levels (this is probably what has caused your plant to become leggy) but this will pick up again in the spring.

Name: Debbie Cousins

Question: My magnolia bush from you came last week, but I don't stand a chance of getting it into the ground, will it be ok???

Answer: I’m assuming that you received a bareroot magnolia plant, Debbie. If so, I would suggest that you soak the roots for several hours in a bucket of water, before planting it in a container for the time being. Stand it in a sheltered position so that it doesn’t get too wet during the cold winter months. It can stay there quite comfortably until you are ready to plant it out.

Alternatively you could ‘heel it in’ temporarily. This simply means digging a temporary trench outdoors that is deep enough to cover the roots. Lay the plant at an angle making sure that the roots are covered, but so that the stem lies uncovered just above the soil. Keeping the plant low to the ground will help to protect it from wind damage particularly if it is angled away from the prevailing wind. It can stay in the ground like this for up to a couple of months at this time of the year until you are ready to plant it in its final position.

Name: Sarah Gregory

Question: I missed the chance to get some horticultural fleece out in the garden before the 'big freeze', now it's thawing a bit should I put some out or has that boat sailed? Thanks x

Answer: After the particularly cold weather that we have had, I would expect that any damage has probably already been done. Even so, it is worth taking a walk around the garden to see if there are any plants in containers that would benefit from being moved to a more sheltered position. Don’t be too hasty to remove plants that you think are dead, as many plants will reshoot from the base even after the top growth has died back. When the plants begin to break bud in Spring you will find out just how tough your garden is!

Name: Carol Burton

Question: I have just bought some hyacinth bulbs in my local shop which have little offshoots coming out from the base will these make new bulbs after the bulb has flowered? And if so how do I remove them and treat them next year? Thanks

Answer: Hi Carol, it’s best to remove these little plants now before planting the Hyacinths. Be warned it will take several years before the little bulbs grow big enough to produce flowers! The bulbs should quite easily snap off from the parent plant. Plant them upright at a depth of 2.5cm (1 inch) in trays or pots of multipurpose compost, preferably with added perlite for drainage. Water them and put them somewhere sheltered outside for the winter to make sure they have a cold period. Make sure the soil stays moist in the summer and eventually in a few years you’ll have identical flowers to the parent plant.

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