Brian Kidd on rhododendron cuttings and jobs for the bank holiday weekend

This week's readers' questions

Saturday, 28th May 2016, 6:00 am

Q: I want to take a rhododendron cutting. I have tried lots of times but they wither and die. KF, Hambledon.

A: The best way is to layer the stem into the soil about four to six inches from the tip of the stem. Make a cut through two or more nodes (joints). Keep the cut open with a small stone and bury the cut underneath the soil adding a handful of sand as you break up the soil surface. Keep moist and roots will emerge from the cut stem. Wait until October before potting up the rooted cutting and plant out once the pot is full of roots.

Q: I saw gladioli corms were half-price at our garden centre. Will they flower if planted now? GLD, Havant.

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A: Yes, if planted in March they will flower in August but if planted in June they will flower in late September. Plant them in groups as they look much more attractive.

Q: I used a saw to cut up the huge roots on my water lily as you suggested. They have been replanted in lily containers but the leaves are really small. Do you think they will grow to the normal size again? FM, Cosham.

A: I am glad you followed my advice. They will grow really well once the weather becomes warmer.

Q: I saw an annual climbing plant with dark yellow, five-petal flowers last summer and want to buy one his year. What is the name and where can I buy one? HD, Waterlooville.

A: Thank you for the drawing. This is called thunbergia. I saw them in pots at Keydell Nurseries last summer and they will have some more soon.

Q: We had a huge number of tadpoles in our pond but there are only a few dozen left. I saw a grass snake in the border nearby and wonder if this rascal has eaten them? GL, Widley.

A: Yes, grass snakes skim over the top of the water and devour them rapidly. Temporary fine netting will keep the snakes from getting on to the water.


Advice from a reader called Chris who is a flower arranger. When arranging carnations, put them in a vase of lemonade and they will last for nearly three weeks.

Keep a sharp eye out for flea beetle on all types of cabbages, wallflowers and stocks. These tiny creatures hop all over the plants causing brown blistered edges on the leaves and if left unchecked multiply rapidly. They are difficult to see because as you approach the plants, they hop off and hide. The answer is to use ant killer dust over the foliage.

As the early blooms of roses die, remove the dead petals and seed head and put them in the compost bin. Never leave them on the soil. This encourages massive attacks of black spot disease. Spray roses late in the evening with Multirose to keep pests and diseases at bay.

Plant out mid-season Brussels sprouts, not closer than 2ft 6in apart.

Check for rust on hollyhocks. Remove all infected leaves, then spray the underside of the leaves, the soil around the plants and the wall behind the plants with Systhane to prevent further outbreaks. There’s no need to stop growing these gems, we simply need to prevent that rust disease.

To prevent carrot root fly, cover the row with insect barrier mesh supported by plastic water piping in the form of half hoops. Ensure the edges of the mesh are either buried in the soil or kept in place with two-inch square wood. The idea is to stop the fly getting at the carrot seedlings.

Try mowing the grass before it needs cutting You will do it in less than half the time!

Have you got a compost bin? It’s about time you did! Use one part urine to seven parts water every time you add a gallon measure of waste material which you want to turn into excellent compost.

Make sure raspberries are kept moist. Cold washing up water is ideal for them. Rapberry fruits are always larger if watered well when they are in flower and when the fruits are forming.

Tomatoes and tender plants can be planted outside now.

Got a question for Brian? E-mail him by clicking here.