BRIAN KIDD: Weekly tips for gardeners and their problems solved

Dahlia Brandaris
Dahlia Brandaris
A bed of pink and white petunias - which will take a lot of dead-heading.

GARDENING: Brian Kidd answers your questions

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Our gardening expert dips into his postbag.

Q: I look forward to the questions part of your page and if you answer mine I will send a donation to the Rocky Appeal which I know you and Pam support. I have a brilliant red and gold dahlia. I’d love to know its name as it’s the best I’ve ever seen. My dad gave it to me 10 years ago. NR, Hilsea.

A: Thank you for your lovely letter, you made my day. The dahlia is Brandaris and it is a wonderful variety, worthy of a place in any well-cultivated garden.

Q: I went to an autumn show at Fareham and saw a vase of dahlias which looked like yellow water lilies. I wrote down the name but lost it. Can you help? HD, Fareham.

A: I too saw this exhibit staged by a man who grows it on his allotment where I have my plots. It’s Gloire Van Heemstead, an old variety, beautiful and free-flowering if it’s deadheaded regularly.

Q: Please can you recommend a truly perfumed pink climbing rose which will flower over a long period. I asked a TV programme the same question and bought the rose they suggested but it was weak and the perfume was poor to say the least. The pink rose I need will take pride of place over my new pergola. GS, Emsworth.

A: You will be very pleased if you buy Compassion. This can be seen at Southsea rose garden in full bloom all summer.

Q: Some of my tomatoes in the greenhouse are tiny, exactly the size of a 5p. They taste all right but I want all the fruits to be the right size. It may be a bit too late to get over this problem this year but as you always say prevention is better than cure. What would you suggest for next year? DP, Rowlands Castle.

A: This seems a bit daft but it will do the trick. As soon as you see the first flowers appear, shake the stems every day. The pollen will then fall from one bloom to another or the pollen will fall on to the female part of every flower. I have been shaking my tomatoes every day this year and I have had the best crop ever. So simple, but it works.


•Most gardening books recommend pruning Autumn Bliss raspberries in February, but here canes can be cut down to soil level as soon as they’ve finished fruiting. After pruning, apply a top dressing of well-rotted manure over the bed, a four-inch layer is perfect.

•Lots of leaves are now falling. Are you making leaf mould? Put 12-inch layers in large former compost bags turned inside out. After each layer sprinkle on one part urine to seven parts water. Sprinkle, don’t pour. Leaf mould will be ready in 12 months.

•Remove every rose leaf with black spot and bin them. Pick up fallen leaves too. Spray roses with copper mixture dissolved in water. Spray the bushes and the soil’s surface too. Spray on a dull day to stop the leaves scorching.

•Plant a few narcissus bulbs in a flower pot in John Innes No2 or 3 compost and put them out into the greenhouse for an early display. When in bloom in February they will cheer up the lounge and you will be able to say ‘I grew them myself.’

•Pick off yellowing leaves on all types of cabbage but in particular Brussels sprouts. This will encourage a flow of air below the crown of the plants and reduces the disease which causes the sprouts to rot.

•Plant crocus corms at any time between now and December. Choose separate colours. Don’t buy mixed because from a distance, the white flowers look as if someone has dropped litter in the drift of flowers.

•You have probably lifted your potatoes, allowed them to dry in the wind before half-filling potato sacks. Check them this week to ensure there are no rotten tubers in the bags. If you smell a strange smell in the shed it’s rotting potatoes.

•Please support the Rocky Appeal at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham. Thank you very much.

Got a question for Brian? Click here and fire away.