Brian Kidd with tips on a potted hellebore and a dead orchid

Brian answers readers' questions and has a to-do list for gardeners

Saturday, 12th March 2016, 6:00 am
Group of multi-colored hellebores grown in winter. Picture: lucaar - Fotolia

Q: I was given a hellebore in a pot. It has been kept outside apart from a few frosty nights when I put it into my greenhouse. When can I plant it in my garden? I followed your advice about getting amaryllis into bloom again and am pleased to let you know there is a new flower stem. JB, Locks Heath.

A: I’m pleased you followed my advice and the amaryllis is coming into bloom again. The hellebore can be planted in your garden now. Put a layer of sharp sand over the soil’s surface to prevent mud splashing on to the flowers.

Q: Can you tell me why my orchid has died? A friend gave it to me and I have killed it. EC, Gosport.

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A: I doubt you killed it as the plant has been frosted or kept too cold for a long time before you got it. Buy yourself a moth orchid. They are a bargain and easy to look after. Use rain water rather than tap water.

Q: I want to plant a trailing summer flowering plant with perfume in the end of a downpipe junction which is no longer used. HF, Fratton.

A: Buy petunia surfinia Blue Vein. They will be in garden centres in April. Plant in early May.

Q: The fruit on my blackcurrants were tiny last year. I think you once advised somebody how to get them to grow larger? GL, Fareham.

A: Fork over the ground beneath the bush and scatter 4oz of sulphate of ammonia around the plant. Fork it in well. Now sit back and wait. The fruits will be excellent.

Q: My camellia is in bloom but is far too wide. When shouldI cut it back please? MD, Waterlooville.

A: Prune it as hard as you like as soon as it finishes blooming and it will have a good show of flowers next year.


Try to plant a row of early potatoes. If the soil seems too wet, walk on a plank. Plant the tubers in soil dug over earlier. Make sure the tubers are covered with 5in of soil. The tubers should be 15in apart with 2ft between rows. Earth them up with a ridge about 4in high. When shoots appear use well-rotted compost instead of soil for the final earthing up. Mix 1lb of sulphate of potash to a normal barrow of compost. If you do this, the new potatoes will be free of slug damage.

Did you know it is possible to start feeding seed potato tubers before they are planted? Sounds ridiculous but it can be done. Add a small amount of Maxicrop Complete plant food in water and

spray over the tubers as they begin to shoot. This gives them a very good start.

Short of space in the greenhouse? Anyone who can invent an elasticised greenhouse would make a fortune. If you are desperate for space, have a look at garden wall frames which simply need a garden wall as a backing. There are some types with polythene covering advertised in the garden press and more substantial ones with glass panes are a good buy, especially if you have a small garden.

Start buying 8ft canes for runner beans and keep them somewhere dry, Do it now before the shops sell out when you need them. This is a good idea because they are often already sold when we need them in May.

Buy runner bean seeds. These can be sown indoors at the end of the month if you would love beans in early July. Summer IS on the way.

Did you have a disaster sowing some of the annuals for summer bedding? Don’t let this get you down. There are lots of seedlings at garden centres and nurseries, already to be pricked out. Use insert cells, one seedling in each cell for perfect plants, much better plants than those in ordinary seed trays. Choose F1 seedlings for best results.

It is very upsetting to see millions of weed seedlings growing on the surface of the soil dug over in the autumn and winter. These can be hoed off but walk on a plank if the soil is too wet. A spray of Weedol 2 over the weeds will kill them in 3 or 4 days if the spraying is done on a sunny day. Avoid the spray drifting onto other plants and walk on that plank if the soil is too wet. Why? We must try never to walk on soil which is very wet because the surface becomes compacted.

Got a question for Brian? E-mail him at [email protected].