Our gardening expert delves into this week’s postbag
Q: I want to cut back a climbing rose in my new garden. My neighbour says it’s lovely. Can I take cuttings? HI, Hamble.
A: Cut stems about a foot long, the thickness of a pencil. Make a sharp, straight cut below the lowest node and a sloping one at the top. Insert cuttings 6in apart. Add a generous amount of potting sand on the surface so some falls into the holes made for cuttings. Insert cuttings so only an inch is above the soil. They’ll root in spring. Firm the soil.
Q:What’s the name of the shrub enclosed please? FD, Hambledon.
A: Chinese witchhazel, Hamamellis Mollis – one of the best winter-flowering shrubs. You’re lucky to have this.
Q: I tidied my dad’s shed and found a bag of tulip bulbs. Is it too late to plant them? Dave, Copnor.
A: No. Plant them as soon as you can – four inches deep. They’ll bloom in spring.
Q: We bought a potted Christmas tree with a root. It’s a beauty, only five feet tall. We want to keep it but don’t want it to grow too tall. H and LD, Southsea.
A: Buy a pot a little larger than the existing one. Dig a hole in the garden. Sink the new pot into the ground. Put your potted tree in the pot. Keep roots moist through summer. Next December, when you want to bring the tree inside again, keep turning the inner pot so the fibrous roots are severed. Display it again and repeat the exercise. In the second year the tree will need a liquid feed a couple of times in summer to keep the needles green.
Q: The leaves on my poinsettia have gone yellow and have dropped off. What would you advise? DL, Southsea.
A: The plant was in a cold position before you bought it. The bracts will still look attractive. Poke some evergreen sprays of foliage into the compost and it will improve the display.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND (WEATHER PERMITTING)
• Holly seeds can be sown now. Squeeze the berries on to a postcard or piece of cardboard and after a week the seeds can be picked out of the squashed flesh and sown in a seed tray of seed compost. They need no heat. Just put them outdoors somewhere out of the way of cats and if kept moist they will germinate in April.
If you don’t want to sow the seeds, push the stems of holly used for winter decoration into the soil in a border and the blackbirds will soon eat them.
• Save mistletoe seeds. Simply rub the sticky berries on to an apple or lime tree. They will also grow on all sorts of trees but not usually on conifers.
• Prick over the soil where spring-flowering bedding plants such as polyanthus, forget-me-nots and winter-flowering pansies were planted. This encourages a good root action because the surface compaction will be broken.
• Try to get on with digging and manuring where potatoes, peas and beans will be planted.
• Make a note of the additional minutes of light we are now experiencing.
• Note in your new gardening diary plants which are looking good. It’s good to read what happened today in a few years.
• Sow exhibition onions from seeds in a propagator in the greenhouse. Onion seeds sown now are less likely to go to seed quickly in early summer.
• To keep the little ones occupied, get them to jot down the names of birds visiting the garden. If there are none, buy some wild bird food and you will be amazed how they arrive to feed. Soak bread in water and put this in the centre of the garden so the birds have a chance to fly away from cats and PLEASE don’t throw bread into the road. Shrivelled apples cut in half and left in a clear spot are much enjoyed by blackbirds.
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