Our gardening expert answers your questions and suggests jobs for the week ahead
Q: At the bottom of the garden we have an area of primulas insipred by one of your articles. We want a good edging plant mainly for its leaves. What would you suggest? H and J, Denmead.
A: Ladies’ mantle. This has a delightful leaf with misty green flowers. It will grow well in wet soil, even in mud if it is in a light place.
Q: I watched a programme about the rhubarb which grows in the Yorkshire Triangle and would love to grow one. I only have a flower garden. Would rhubarb be out of place? DH, Cowplain.
A: Rhubarb will look great in a flower border.
Q: My aunt gave me a wonderful pot of gloxinia and I had 16 blooms in 10 weeks. Am I able to keep it for another year? AP, Emsworth.
A: Yes. Keep the compost moist, but in November gradually allow it to dry out. The leaves will turn brown. Leave the tuber in the pot all winter in a frost-free place. In March repot in fresh compost.
Q: Our magnolia had a branch touching the ground. I was going to prune it off but there are a lot of roots on it. I would like to give this to my mum. NC, Highbury.
A: Using secateurs, cut off the stem. Keep the soil moist to encourage the roots to grow. In spring, before leaves appear, dig out the rooted layer, pot into a suitable sized pot – not too small – using John Innes No1 compost. Give the plant to your mother when there are plenty of leaves on the layering. A lot of readers will enjoy your letter and, hopefully, my advice.
TIPS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
- Reduce the water given to cacti and dust off the pads with a small paint brush to smarten them up.
- Take cuttings of zonal pelargoniums (geraniums) – they root well at this time.
- Cuttings need to be about five inches long. Remove any flowers and buds and leave the top two leaves and growing tip.
- Make a sharp cut below a node and insert into a sandy compost. Don’t over-water.
- Try to remove chickweed before it flowers or it will cover the soil in winter. Put the weeds in the compost bin.
- Azaleas in pots are now brought indoors. Clean up the plants and give them a good shake. This will remove a lot of dead leaves. They always lose some l initially brought back indoors. Save rainwater for watering the pots.
- Prune indoor hibiscus as soon as all the flowers have faded. Cut back all the side shoots by half and nip out the tip.
- Water only when the compost feels dry. Don’t feed again until April.
- Amaryllis leaves should have died back by now. If not, cut all the leaves off and repot into John Innes No3 compost but don’t water until you see the flower bud next year. This will be fat. If watered too soon, there will be leaves but no flower, so wait until the fat flower bud is visible.
- This is a good time to fit another water butt. Put a piece of nylon stocking over the end of the down pipe to stop litter from entering. Rain water is very useful for all plants.
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