There were two disasters in the garden last year. First the busy Lizzies were attacked by downy mildew, which had never been seen on them before.
The advice was to dig them up and remove them from the garden. As we grow literally hundreds of them in containers, Pam and I decided not to grow any at all this year and used begonia semperflorens instead.
As the weather has been so spiteful (that’s being polite) we’re now realising we made the right decision because begonias are reliable in all weather variations, including the wind.
Have you noticed several of our local garden centres are not selling Lizzies this year?
But the New Guinea hybrid types are available at all nurseries because they seem to be more resistant to downy mildew.
The second major problem we had was a pest which attacks all types of fuchsias. This was very rare until last year when all of a sudden hundreds of gardeners in the south of England reported that the tips of the shoots on fuchsias looked like tiny cauliflowers.
This pest is called Fuchsia gall mite and is so infectious it is spread even by touching a fuchsia plant.
This means if the dead blooms are removed from an infected plant, the pest would then be transferred to a healthy plant.
The outbreak was so alarming that nurseries were putting up notices asking people not to bring specimens on to the premises.
My advice at that time was to remove the infected plants and to burn them.
The Royal Horticultural Society asked garden writers to try to get the message widely-publicised, which we all did.
I would like to say thank you to all of you who took this advice on board because it could have been as disastrous as Dutch elm disease – and I’m not joking.
There is some good news though. I gave a talk to the Solent Fuchsia Club and the members are remarkably active and aware.
It was at that meeting that I heard about a brand new product which, if used correctly, will prevent the Fuchsia gall mite.
It is called Plant Rescue and is available at all garden centres.
If you see the distortion and cauliflower formations, cut out every piece and put the cuttings straight into a bag.
I stick by what I said last time – preferably you should burn the lot.
Use warm water to wipe the pots and bench, then make sure you wash your hands in hot soapy water before applying the ready-to-spray Plant Rescue.
Repeat this three weeks later and you shouldn’t have any more problems.