Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

Use ash from the wood burner on the garden.
Use ash from the wood burner on the garden.
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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Q: We have a magnolia which has deep red flowers. It has a perfume and rather than flower all over in the spring, the flowers start in April and continue until July. Do you know the name please? G and TL, Hambledon.

A: This is called magnolia liliiflora nigra and, yes, it is a very good shrub.

Q: We have a chaenomeles japonica shrub growing on a wall and the first flowers are opening now. We love this shrub but notice the new leaves hide the blooms once it comes into full flower. Any ideas Brian? PD, Fareham.

A: This might sound strange, but, leaving the main thick branches, prune all the side shoots now. Simply look where the flower buds are growing and cut back all the wood without buds.

Q: We bought a wood-burning stove. Is the ash any good for the garden? H and HT, Waterlooville.

A: Yes. Wood ash has a small amount of potash and can be scattered over the soil’s surface using about 4oz per square yard. Fork it in lightly. If your soil is heavy or has a lot of clay, use the ash in the compost bin otherwise the ground will become sticky.

Q: I would like to buy an apple tree which will fruit this summer, I don’t mind paying a good price but don’t want to wait years before it fruits. Any idea where I can buy one? HS, Newport.

A: As you live on the Isle of Wight, go to Deacons’ Fruit Nursery at Godshill. They will offer you a choice. Have a look as soon as you can, certainly not later than a month’s time.


If all the leaves on a poinsettia have fallen off, it may not be your fault. It was over-watered before you bought it or it was too cold where it was on sale. Make the best of the red bracts on top of the plant. If they don’t look attractive cut about one third of the length off each stem and the plants will send out new leaves. Pot into the next sized pot and you will have a good-looking house plant.

Did you install a soil-warming cable in the greenhouse? If you have never thought of buying one have a look at them at your garden centre.

Check all indoor plants to ensure there are no whitefly around. If you see any, squash them and rub off any eggs which you will see on the backs of the leaves. This prevents a build-up of thousands of the little blighters.

In the greenhouse hang yellow sticky traps just above the plants. Give the plants a gentle shake occasionally and the whitefly will fly onto the sticky traps.

If you have frogs or toads in the greenhouse, they will need water so they can spawn. A sunken dustbin lid filled with water fits the bill. The rim must be at the same level as the soil level otherwise they won’t be able to get in and out.

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