BRIAN KIDD: Readers’ problems and tips for the weekend

Leycesteria formosa (patridge/pheasant berry)

Leycesteria formosa (patridge/pheasant berry)

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Q: Can you identify a plant growing in a pot in my garden? It started growing about two years ago and is now four feet tall and for the first time has beautiful mauve and white candelabra-type flowers . Tony Lee-Wright, North End.

A: This deciduous shrub is leycesteria Formosa, commonly called partridge berry as it’s used as ground cover to protect partridges on large estates. It’s easy to grow but remove dead berries as they contain seeds and they will soon smother the garden.

Q: I have a problem with my summer-fruiting raspberries. There is an invasive weed in the bed and I have carefully used a weedkiller to kill it but it seems to have affected the raspberries. Is it correct that if I replace the raspberry plants I won’t get any fruit next year? KA, Havant.

A: The weedkiller is partially responsible but the weed has deprived the raspberries of all trace elements in the soil. I urge you to plant Autumn Bliss raspberries in a different place. You will get superb berries next August until the end of September. You will never regret this advice.

Q: Each time I plant snowdrops they don’t come up? HF, Cosham.

A: Instead of planting them in your garden, plant five around the edge of a small pot and keep them watered. Once the flower buds appear, plant them in the garden. Do not disturb the roots and water after planting. An alternative is to buy snowdrops in the green, adverts for these will appear in February next year.

Q: I grow roses in pots because I live in a flat. They are fed with tomato fertiliser but it seems to me they are not very happy. They are 4 years old. What do you think? KV R Southsea.

A: Very good question and a lot of readers will appreciate the answer. In November prune the plants really hard. Knock the plants out of the pots and after washing the pots replant in John Innes number 3 compost but add 10% extra sharp sand, mix well and next year the blooms will be abundant. Put little earthenware feet under each pot to prevent worms entering the pots.

Q: I have bought a wood burner. Is the ash good for the garden? JD, Denmead.

A: Yes, lightly scatter the ash over any areas where fruit or shrubs are growing. It is also good as a top dressing on rose beds. Any surplus can be added to the compost heap.

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

- This is the last time to sow grass seed for a new lawn. Try to get it done before October because grass seed germinates well while the ground is warm and damp. Patches on lawns can be repaired quickly. Put 1lb of good quality grass seed to 10lbs of moistened seed compost and mix well. Place in a black polythene bag for a week to chit the seeds. Prick over the grass with a digging fork and then scatter over the chitted seed and compost and water afterwards. This amount will repair about five square yards.

- Sow larkspur seeds in little patches where they are to flower. They are perfectly hardy. Choose a sunny area in well-drained soil.

- Give Autumn Bliss raspberries a high potash liquid feed if there are lots of green berries and flowers. The flowers will then provide ripe fruits in four weeks.

- Plant daffodils but don’t forget other little gems such as chionodoxa, scilla, iris reticulata and anemone blanda. These all give us something to look forward to seeing in the spring.

- Hoe through wallflower plants or better still hand weed the rows because chickweed quickly smothers wallflower plants at this time of year.

- Remove runners on newly-planted strawberry plants or layer them into three-inch diameter pots if more are needed.

- Pot up strawberry plants needed for greenhouse culture. Loamless compost is not suitable, much better results are achieved using JI No3 compost. The plants must remain outside in the cold until the end of January, to prepare them for greenhouse culture.

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