Gardeners’ question time with Brian Kidd

A magnolia tree, one of the most magnificent sights in a mature garden.
A magnolia tree, one of the most magnificent sights in a mature garden.
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This week Brian tackles a mature magnolia and… bubbled polythene.

Q: We have a mature magnolia tree that flowers twice a year. Over the years it has spread to a point where it is dominating the garden. We have had conflicting advice about whether to prune or not. Should we, and, if so, how and when is best? Ron Tate, Havant.

A: The best time to prune really hard is immediately the magnolia flowers have fallen in spring. This ensures you will have blooms the following spring. Do not prune now because you will be cutting off next year’s flowers.

Q: I saved my polyanthus plants from last spring and although I will need to buy some more my own are huge. Will it be all right to split mine? NP, Emsworth.

A: I am glad you followed my advice on saving your own. As your plants are so large it would be a good idea to split them but do ensure you keep them watered otherwise the plants will wilt.

Q: I am new to gardening and have bought a small greenhouse. I read in one of your articles it is wise to use bubbled polythene to reduce heat loss during the winter. How on earth do you keep it in place? BC, Cosham.

A: If you go to your garden centre you will find the fixings in packs. They are green and have a D shape. Push in and twist into the greenhouse glazing bars and you will see they fit very tightly.

Q: I bought 36 begonia Non Stop plants and they have been wonderful. I read your article which inspired me to buy them as they can be saved for next year. How can I save them? DP, Rowlands Castle.

A: I have included your question because it will help a lot of readers. Keep the plants growing by keeping them moist and then wait until the frosts burn off the leaves. A fortnight later dig out the plants and remove the soil to expose the tubers. Allow the tubers to dry off and then put them in dry compost and store in a frost-free place for winter. At the end of February moisten the compost and new shoots will appear.

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