Facebook Q&A Session 15th April


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 15th April - Your horticultural questions answered.

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Name: Christina Goozee

Question: T & M can you help please? I purchased this Lotus last July at Hampton Court with 2 water lilies from a Dorset co. that do not reply to my pleas for help. The lilies have started to show new life but the lotus is still asleep or may be dead. When does it start to rejuvinate? I have kept in a heated conservatory under water in a huge tub with an air line as with the lilies. What do I need to do please?

Answer: Hi Christina. Lotus (Nelumbo) can be quite slow to emerge in spring so it is worth remaining patient. It sounds as though you have given it the best of care, so if it doesn’t emerge in the next month or so then I would definitely persist in contacting the seller. One point to make you aware of however, is that the growing tips are extremely fragile and resent disturbance so it is best not to investigate for new growth too vigorously in case you break them.

Name: Josh Stebbings

Question: What is a good species of ivy that can go on a rock feature without running all through the garden and up the house.

Answer: There are actually quite a few small ivies that only grow a few feet. Hedera helix ‘Congesta’ would probably be ideal as its stems only reach 45cm (18"). ‘Ivalace’ or ‘Mini Green’ as it is sometimes called gets slightly larger but not much more than 1m (3’). ‘Kalibri’, ‘Triton’ and ‘Shamrock’ are also similar in stature. Hope that gives you some ideas, Josh.

Name: Stephen Muddell

Question: Any tips to slow down growth of my Begonia Lotto plugs received today? I only have a windowsill to grow them on, in trays of small pots, and previous years T&M have had the facility to request late delivery (ie late April) but apparently this isn't possible this year so they arrived today! Obviously they can't go out until no risk of frost so somehow they've got to survive on my windowsill for at least 6 weeks! And I don't want them to spoil! HELP!!!

Answer: Hi Stephen. Your begonias should be fine on a bright windowsill for a while. Try to make sure that they get plenty of light to prevent them from becoming stretched, but avoid very strong direct sunlight as this will scorch them. As the weather becomes warmer you can pop them outside during the day and bring them in at night, until you are satisfied that they are sufficiently hardened off.

Name: Mary O' Donovan

Question: Is it better to start off sweet peas inside in pots, i have some that i've grown in the autumn & they're starting to flower, can i plant the autumn sweet peas outside now?

Answer: Hi Mary. It is really a matter of how you prefer to grow them. The only real difference between autumn or spring sown plants is that those sown in autumn will flower earlier, but they will require care over winter. Direct sowings in spring will soon catch up with earlier sowings. You will need to harden your sweet peas off before planting them out, but they could certainly go outdoors now. Just keep an eye out for slugs and snails who love the young growth at this time of the year. Don’t forget to pinch the stems back once or twice to encourage more stems, for bushier growth and more flowers.

Name: Anna Mason

Question: Hi T & M I mentioned this before now I have photos. This is a Laurel bush in a ladies garden I look after what do you think?

Answer: Hi Anna. I think that David and Jeffrey have pretty much covered it in their comments beneath the picture that you supplied. Certainly your shrub could use a good feed. The yellowing of the leaves is quite typical of lime induced chlorosis or iron deficiency, as is the scorching which tends to particularly affect young leaves. This problem is caused when lime in the soil prevents the plants uptake of iron or manganese. I would suggest that you test the pH of the soil and if it is alkaline then you could apply sulphur to gradually reduce the soil pH. You could also mulch around the base of the plant with an acidic material such as bark chips which will also help to retain moisture at the plants roots too.

Name: Matthew Eddy

Question: Hi I have a question. I have flowers on my broad beans, can I pollinate them myself because I have not seen many bees around and I don't want to lose the flowers! Also if you can pollinate them, can you apply to other bean family members?

Answer: Hi Matthew. Broad Beans would be really tricky to hand pollinate as they have a ‘spring loaded’ stigma that catapults triggers against the pollen at the lightest touch. However, this means that although insect pollination will certainly increase your crop, it is not entirely essential given that your broad beans are more than capable of self pollinating. Generally, most beans will not require hand pollination as insects are far more effective at this than we are - although it is possible to do so by using a fine paintbrush and a great deal of patience!

Name: Christina Goozee

Question: Bought this plant at Hampton Court F S 2 - 3 years ago & advised it was a "Ginger Lily" I got 'cos the flowers display looked like a fire cracker was not advised not a UK friendly plant. Last November saw the aftermath of the flowers when our cruise stopped off in Monaco. Mine is kept in a heated conservatory but often gets covered with spider webs. This spring I have fed it "miracle grow" any other advice please?

Answer: Hi Christina, yes ginger lilies range from frost hardy to frost tender and are best kept inside in most parts of the UK. From your picture and description about spider webs, it looks like your ginger lily could be suffering from spider mite. Spider mite thrives in the warm, dry conditions of a conservatory and will cause discolouration to the leaves. Have a look for these tiny creatures on the underside of the leaves. If you do spot any spider mites then it is important to control them by misting your plant daily to increase humidity (spider mites don’t like humid conditions but ginger lilies do!), introducing a predatory mite, or by spraying with a chemical spray which will be available at all good garden centres.

If you can’t see any sign of insects then the shrivelled leaves may be a sign of over-exposure to sunlight, which causes the leaves to curl and brown. Try placing your ginger lily in a position that receives lots of light, but not direct sunlight. You’ve done the right thing in feeding your ginger lily; ideally it should be fed monthly in the spring and summer with a balanced liquid feed. Also make sure you keep the soil moist (but not wet) during the growing season - these plants originate from moist woodland and will suffer if kept too dry. Ease off watering in the winter and keep the soil just moist. Good luck Christina, let us know how you get on.

Name: Nicola Reeves

Question: I have lots of wild primroses on a bank in my garden that need moving, can you please tell me the best time to move them please. Obviously they're in flower at the moment, should I move them whilst in flower or wait till they've finished? Only thinking that whilst in flower, they're easier to spot!

Answer: Hi Nicola, you’re right the flowers do make them easier to spot! Primroses are best moved after they have finished flowering, preferably between autumn and early spring. However you can move them now if needed, although this does put strain on the plant to re-establish its roots and find water and nutrients whilst at the peak of its growth. To help your primroses along, make sure you take as much of the root ball as you can when lifting them. Also work plenty of well-rotted manure or compost into the soil before re-planting and keep the soil moist, especially during dry spells. With a little TLC your primroses should be fine Nicola!

Name: Elaine Harrison

Question: Is it too early to plant up flower pouches, obviously not putting them outside till all chance of frost has passed?

Answer: Hi Elaine, if you can provide protection in a greenhouse or conservatory then now is an excellent time to plant up flower pouches and hanging baskets. This will bring the plants on earlier and ensure you have beautiful, full and flowering plants ready for hanging outside in early summer. After you’ve planted your flower pouch, make sure you lay it flat until you’re ready to hang it up outside - this will ensure even growth of the plants. As you’ve rightly said, only hang your flower pouch up once the risk of frost has passed (normally the beginning of June to be safe). I hope this helps Elaine.

Name: Louise Rowley-Spendlove

Question: Got a question for you i purchased 9 tree lilies last year and as i was not ready to plant them in perm position i planted them in large containers 3 per container and had a brilliant show. So I am ready to plant them in perm position is now the right time to do it (growth already about 4 inches) looks like asparagus. And if so how deep and what conditions ?

Answer: Hi Louise, ideally lily bulbs should be moved in the autumn when they are dormant. If you move them now there could be a check to their growth, as they will have to re-establish their roots. It would be safer to leave them in their containers until the autumn to ensure you get another good show of flowers this year! If you do keep them in their containers try mixing a slow-release fertiliser into the soil surface to provide plenty of nutrients for the season ahead.When you re-plant your lily bulbs choose a sunny site with moist but free-draining soil and work in some organic matter (such as well-rotted manure or compost) before planting. Lily bulbs should be planted at three times their own depth and about 15cm (6in) apart. Deep planting is important to protect the bulb from the worst of the elements and also to give the stems stability. Good luck Louise, I hope your lilies are a success.

Name: Julie Thomas

Question: Hi I have bought two lovely buzz (dwarf) Buddleia plants which are growing well. Can you advise me on their care please? Do I have to prune them as you would the larger buddleia plants and can you tell me if they are hardy. I am really keen to have these plants, especially for the butterflies but cannot keep the bigger plants as they take over the garden so would like to look after these dwarf versions best as possible. Thank you

Answer: Hi Julie, Buddleja ‘Buzz’ plants are fully hardy and are pruned in the same way as larger Buddleja plants. You simply remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood and then prune all the stems back to form a low framework. Make sure you always cut to just above a pair of leaves. In future years shorten the previous year’s growth to 2 pairs of buds from this permanent framework. Follow this video link for a step-by-step guide to pruning your Buddleja ‘Buzz’.

Name: Louise Roo Warner

Question: Hello, I am just wondering how to de-head my Gerberas when they start dieing???? thank you

Answer: Hello Louise. Deadheading gerberas really couldn’t be easier. Simply snip out the whole flower stem back to the base of the plant. And that’s all there is to it!

Name: Charmaine Curry

Question: Can anyone tell me how to grow Amaranthus Pony Tails successfully? They end up tiny and scabby looking. I've tried for years and have new packet of seeds calling to be opened.

Answer: Hi Charmaine. Yes I remember that you asked about these plants last year. Last time I suggested you may be pricking them out before they have developed sufficient root to cope with being transplanted or that you may be over watering them. Amaranthus caudatus can survive in fairly thin, poor soils and they prefer not to be too wet at the roots.

Prick seedlings out into small pots, no larger than 3" across. Small pots of compost dry out quicker and are less likely to become waterlogged. Once you have transplanted them, try to keep the compost evenly moist but not completely soaked with water. Grow them on a bright windowsill until they are fully rooted in to their new pots. Once they are well developed, you will need to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions in a sheltered spot for a week or so before transplanting them into borders or containers outdoors.

The only other thing that springs to mind is that perhaps they are being scorched if you are growing the on a hot windowsill in strong sunlight. Try to avoid growing them in direct sun while the young leaves are still very tender. Better luck this year Charmaine.

Name: Anna Mason

Question: My Hydrangea Bavaria and Tivoli are not thriving they dont appear to be making any roots ? Hi yes they were plug plants I received a few months back and grew in 5 inch pots I then planted them in a border about a month ago. The soil is very dry and dusty so I dug in some soil improver. All the top growth died off so I drew soil around the tops. Today I dug them up and they were still pot shaped and no roots had even attempted to break out of the pot shape but they are alive because there are little green shoots right at the base. I got them last autumn. I am concerned now about my potting compost because I also bought Buddlea Buzz times 3 and they are all bin jobs. In fact I lost other plants I bought at the same time too.

Answer: Hi Anna, hydrangeas prefer a moist, rich soil in a sunny or part shaded position. If the soil was dry and dusty after you planted them this may explain why they were unhappy. You did the right thing in digging in some organic matter - this will help the soil hold moisture and provide nutrients for the new plants. It is also very important to water new plants thoroughly and regularly, especially in hot weather, to help them establish roots. You’ve said there are green shoots at the base of the plant so hopefully, with a little patience and TLC your hydrangeas should be fine. Try mulching them with some more organic matter and make sure that they receive sufficient water until they are growing strongly. Let us know how you get on Anna.

Name: Jo Moore

Question: I have a peach and a nectarine tree which I believe came from you (they were a gift). Last year they suffered really badly with peach leaf curl so I sprayed them last autumn and again this february like it said on the packet, but the nectarine is still really badly affected. Any ideas please?

Answer: Oh dear Jo. I’m afraid that once the symptoms of peach leaf curl are spotted in spring it becomes very difficult to treat the problem. This is why most treatments for peach leaf curl are preventative rather than curative. The fungal spores of peach leaf curl require moisture to germinate, so this infection occurs particularly during wet spring weather. You did exactly the right thing by spraying in autumn and again in February. You will need to do the same this year but I would suggest that you might need to follow up your late winter spray with a second application about 2 weeks later.

If your nectarine is wall trained then you can erect and open ended screen to cover the tree from late winter to May to keep the rain off, thereby preventing the spores from germinating. I know this sounds a bit extreme but this technique has been proven to be very successful.

For this year, I’m afraid that all you can do is pick off infected leaves the moment that you see them. Destroy them by burning them or removing them from your garden entirely - do not add them to the compost heap. Better luck next year Jo.

Name: Liz Blower

Question: I've planted some in pots...and some white powdery stuff is showing on some of the leaves..What is this, do I need something. Would like some advise please.

Answer: Hi Liz, It is always difficult to diagnose a problem without a picture. It sounds like a fungal infection but it is hard to say what the disease is without a little more information. Often fungal spores spread under quite specific conditions e.g. wet and warm or cool and dry. Try to make sure that the soil is kept moist and that there is adequate air flow around each plant. If only a few of the leaves are infected then you could remove and destroy them. This may be sufficient to prevent the spread of fungal spores. You might also try spraying with Dithane 945 as this will combat many fungal diseases that affect potatoes. If you are able to provide a more detailed description and a picture, I can refer your question to our vegetable specialist for his opinion.

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