Questions and answers

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No Caption ABCDE PPP-140807-134936001
Brian Andrews, Frances Leppard and Charles Mobsby with their trophies

Top-notch daffodils reap rewards as village spring show returns for 2018

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Brian answers readers’ horticultural queries

My hydrangea has white spots on the stems. There seems to be an insect inside the waxy spots. I’ve tried a fungicide but it hasn’t helped. What would you suggest? JECL, Southsea

This seems to be mealy bug. Use a cotton bud dipped in meths and dab it on each blob. The spirit will kill the pest. I realise this will take a long time, but quite a lot of insecticides harm hydrangeas but meths won’t.

How should I trim my cactus plant (pictured)? EL, Emsworth

This cactus would be best grown upright using split canes. They are very thin and green. If you take your time and use raffia the plant will look much better. If you want it to continue to trail, cut back each leaf pad with sharp scissors keeping the thick parts of the pads.

Why do the leaves on my cercis Hearts of Gold have white edges? AF, Lee-on-the-Solent

This problem has been caused by the tiny leaf miner and an effective insecticide is no longer available. Pick off the worst leaves and feed regularly with Maxicrop Complete liquid fertiliser.

My lettuces grew to nearly two feet high in just more than two weeks and there were no hearts. What have I done wrong? HL, Havant

It was down to the sudden hot weather. Plant lettuce called Salad Bowl and use scissors to cut leaves when they are large enough. Don’t allow the centres of the plant to run to seed.


Nine readers have asked for my recipe for freezing that most wonderful of vegetables – the runner bean. Follow these instructions and you won’t be disappointed.

Wash and DRY the beans.

Cut into slices after removing the outside edges.

Lay them on a DRY thick tea towel and fold the edges so the beans are covered.

Put them in the freezer for 24 hours.

Take them out, shake them to ensure they are separated and freeze again for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, divide the beans into portion sizes and place into polythene bags. This is very important. Don’t put too many in the bags, just the portion you normally eat.

The beans should be used by Christmas because they have not been blanched. Blanching causes them to lose their firmness and they don’t taste as good as my recipe.

Cooking. This is important. When cooking, lightly salt the water and bring it to the boil before putting the frozen beans in the water. This will conserve the flavour.

Enjoy the beans. They’ll taste as if they’ve just been picked. And they won’t be soft.