Do you have a problem in your garden?  

Or a question on how to make that flower bloom?
Our gardening experts can help! Email us at [email protected], and we will reply to you directly. We will publish the questions and answers we send to you.


Please note: by sending material to us you agree to unrestricted usage of any images and text by Meika Ltd on any of our websites and in future promotions. We will not post personal data such as email addresses or phone numbers on our site. Your privacy rights are not affected.

Q: Some of my tomato plants look as if they have blight already, even before they have flowered. How can I be sure it is blight, and if it is, should I destroy them in case they infect the remaining ones?
A: If they had blight, by the time you read this the little black marks would have turned into a stinking mess. The fruit will be ruined and the crop a disaster. The thing to do is to make sure you remove all the leaves at this time of year - decreasing the humidity, around the plant and therefore lowering the chances of developing any fungal infections.

Blight starts as brown to black semicircles on the leaves, and quickly spreads to the whole plant - within 48 hours. Remove the haulms, and the fruit - everything. Burn it, don't compost, and then disinfect the greenhouse and the soil.

Q: My husband and I moved into our house early last year and still haven't done much with our garden. We have a small patch where we could probably plant a few bits and a large area covered in wood chips that we were thinking of putting some pots on. We both work full-time so we need some suggestions for things we can do with it that aren't too high-maintenance. I'd like a few herbs and vegetables as well to use for basic cooking. Any advice would be great.
A: I would say put bulbs in pots straight away. Try plants like ornamental alliums - easy to grow and so amazingly lovely. Lilies especially "Triumphator" - it’s huge!, delphiniums, a pot of montbretia, and then some summer annuals. Sow night scented stocks, primroses, marigolds, lobelia, in individually in 12 inch pots - just fill with compost and spread the seeds about, then water. Nothing could be easier, and then when they are flowering, you can move the pots about to create different effects.
You can sow all kinds of salads from lettuce to rocket, radish, spring onions (yes, even though it’s late for onions, you will get good results in August). The only way to grow mint is in a pot - and you can get so many varieties, along with parsley, chives and sage. If you are really stuck, buy the living herbs from the supermarket and plant them out.
Finally, potatoes - there is nothing like a new potato from a large put or a potato planter. Try "Pink Fir Apple" for consistently good results, they take 12 weeks to give a crop.

Q: Can we plants when it's this wet? Can we plant earlier varieties of seed if we missed the sowing time because of the rain, or should we buy new seed of a later variety?
A: Gardeners always overstep the mark. Truth is we tend to plant too early, so I would say just sow the ones you have, and they will soon catch up. Many plants have a growing period of 2 to 4 months, so if you sow now, you will get mature plants in the height of the summer, and generally that's what you want!
There is no better weather for plants than rainy, warm days. So yes, plant out in the rain, if you can cope with it!

Q: I grow most things successfully but have a real problem with Rosemary, have tried it in pots, in the ground and in various spots around the garden - starts off ok but then after a few months has died off. Up to now I have just taken cuttings from my mums established rosemary bush. Whilst it is establishing itself I do tend to pick off leaves for cooking etc would that affect it?
A: Rosemary and basil are the hardest herbs to grow, but make sure you have well drained soil, and make sure there is no heavy rain bashing it around. Rosemary needs sandy-ish soil and lots of sun.
Cover with horticultural fleece in wet weather, and if you can, grow in pots raised from the ground, so if it rains a lot it isn't standing in a puddle. Move the pot to follow the sun on cooler days.

Q: My daughter loves flowers, but I am not sure which one should I put for summer in my garden and that they are easy to maintain as well. Some tips on that would be really useful.
A: Try Californian poppies, they seed themselves and the petals roll up at night - really interesting to watch. Then try some aquilegia - Grandma’s Bonnets, that have some beautifully complex flowers. On top of these try some snapdragons - they're great for watching bumblebees climb in and out of them, and no garden is complete without hundreds of summer marigolds. All the above are easy to grow, just seed them in and up they pop. On top of these, have a go with some dahlias. You can buy them ready to transplant into the garden at garden centers and you will have a lovely show in almost any sunny border, and for a plant that comes again and again with little effort, grow some astilbes - you get a mass of really beautiful pyramid flowers.

Q: Please can you tell me the best growing conditions for Pulsatilla. I have taken them out of my sink garden as they are no longer small alpines and want to put them in my general flower borders.
Any advice would be much appreciated.
A: Pulsatilla is really forgiving so long as they get full sun, and really good draining soil.
All you need to do is dig a large hole, think twice as large as your specimen, and fill the bottom inch with grit, then the rest 50% grit and 50% soil or compost. You should be fine.

Q: I'm interested in planting and growing my own cottongrass, specifically Eriophorum Angustifolium, and have missed the "recommended" planting season of spring. If I planted seeds now, in September, would they still germinate, grow and flourish? Would I achieve better results using your plug plants at this time of the year?
A: I am afraid it is probably best to wait until Spring, the reason being that you might get some germination, but the weather has been so erratic that there might not even be enough light around for decent growth, and it is at the young stage this plant has to really get a good start to be a good specimen.

Q: I have hogweed - tried digging roots but it's faster this year with all the rain. Any suggestions?
A: It's rotten, isn't it!
The only thing I can really suggest in this case is to make the plant use some of its resources trying to grow, so that next time it appears (which it will) it will be much weakened, and so as you continue, it will then get weaker and weaker.
When you dig it out, put a piece of slate or brick in the hole, make the tiny pieces that will grow, work hard to grow around them. Try covering with black plastic. I'm afraid that none of the herbicides will work in this particular case.

Q: Can you suggest a way I can look after my tropical plants that I brought over from Spain. I don't have a greenhouse and don't want to bring them indoors, so is there something I can buy to protect them? What about a mini greenhouse, would that be ok?
A: The problem you have is the frosts, and to be honest you need to bring them indoors if you can. If you really can't do that, place a plastic mini greenhouse against the most sheltered wall you have and when the frost comes, you need to do something to help them.
Wrap the whole thing in bubble wrap is a start.
Use a night light (small candle) in a saucer, with an upturned ceramic pot over it as a heat source.
Maybe think about bringing them in on really bad nights? Keep them out of wind and rain.

Q: I have tried growing potatoes in bags for the last 2 years, but the harvest has been disappointing. The only thing I can think of is that the potatoes have not been getting enough water. The reason that I think that is that even after the recent torrential rain, the compost was not particularly wet when I emptied the bag, apart from the top 25%.
So my question is, how much water should you give the potato bags, and how do you ensure that the water reaches all the potatoes down to the bottom of the sack?
A: Always make sure the potatoes are wartered at the very least every other day. In containers you should not let the rain do the job. Also, once a week, give them a feed - you are more or less treating them like tomatoes. But don't use tomato fertiliser.
Always grow First Earlies or salad potatoes in sacks - never Maincrop, they will always disappoint in sacks. If it is any consolation, my crop has been poor this year too!

Q: I am creating a parterre garden in my front garden and already have the box hedge edged beds and paths in. I am planning to plant bulbs (daffodils, tulips and alliums) now as its the right time of year but also want to put in some standard roses, perovskia (little spire), verbena bonariensis and anemone honorine jobert. Advice I've found on the internet seems to suggest that the roses shouldn't go in yet and that the perovskia, verbena and anemone shouldn't go in until spring. But I'm worried that I'll damage all my bulbs if I do all this later. Should I try to get them all in now, at the same time as I plant the tulips? If I buy the perovskia as plugs now will they survive the winter or do I need to get larger plants? I think I'll need 20 plants, 5 for each of 4 approximately 1 metre square beds (each will have a standard rose in the middle). In addition to these 4 beds I have a further 8 narrow beds and was thinking of putting the verbena and anemones in these (with the bulbs). I was going to try propagating the verbena and anemones myself in the spring to cut down on the cost of buying lost of established plants (never done this before though!) but again I'm a bit worried about messing up the bulbs when I plant them. Any advice would be very gratefully received.
A: Your plans sound amazing, and we would certainly love to see some pictures when it is ready.
I certainly wouldn't plant the verbena, anemone and the roses until spring, or at least approaching it.
Not sure about the perovskia, because it is very hardy, but plug plants are a little vulnerable, so I would at least cloche them, or even pop them in pots and keep them in a cool greenhouse.
The best way to overwinter the bulbs is to wrap them in dry newspaper - lots of layers, and keep them in a stout wooden box if you can get one. I have one we made here just for the purpose, made from ply. It keeps the mice and rats away.
Store the box in a cool place that is frost free but not really warm. Before the days of central heating we used to use the cupboard under the stairs.
Propagating verbena is easy. Take small shoots that have not flowered and remove the lower leaves. Pop them in compost and thence into a poly bag. Keep them frost free and in the Spring you will have about a 70% success rate.

Q: I have been searching relentlessly for a proper African violet pot. I have two violets which are in vital need of a proper pot. I have searched everywhere to no avail. Please help as I fear it will be the end of my lovely violets.
A: African violet pots are shallow and wide, to allow air to get to the plant and keep them from rotting, and as far as I can see they are like hen's teeth!
There doesn't seem to be any anywhere. What we have done, with some success because our African violets have been wonderful this year, is to use a base / waterer and fashioned some holes in the bottom of it.
We have also done quite well with a bulb pot too.
When I find a supply, and I have been looking for a year now, I will save you one!

Q: My garden ends in a very steep SE facing slope at the river bank.
For years I have struggled to get grass to look good as the slope causes the soil to dry out into concrete very quickly during the Summer.
Last year I hit upon the idea of replanting the entire slope with a dwarf thyme which loved the dry conditions and rewarded us with a carpet of mauve flowers which looked stunning.
However...the river floods every couple of years, covering the slope for around a week at a time, and from experience I am pretty sure that it will happen this year with high water levels in the aquifers so my question is, will being submerged damage/kill the thyme?
A: All the odds are against you in as much as thyme likes really great drainage. Actually, this is not always the case. If the water can be made to drain away quickly, as in a couple of days, then the possibilities are that it will survive. A week and it will probably be the end of it. I am at a loss what to suggest should this happen, but I do know of people growing thyme hydroponically - on sponges of water, and n drainage. But the water is warmish, and i think that's the problem in your case.
Please do keep us informed, this is a problem that doesn't often get aired, and we'd love to know how it works out.
That said, I would start taking cuttings and keep them in a cool polytunnel or greenhouse so you can replenish stock next year if need be.

Q: Can I divide up winter primroses when they die back?
A: Yes you can but it is far better to do it in early summer. If you have to move some primroses now, then you can't help it, otherwise wait until summer.

Q: I have assembled a 1m square 'raised bed' & bought a polythene liner. I intend to raise salad stuff. There are no instructions regarding drainage. I intend to punch some holes in it and have a thin layer of grit/pebbles, does that sound a good idea?
A: Yes, that sounds fine. If you use thick polythene, use a garden fork and punch holes in it - quite a lot. If you can make the bed around 30 cm deep you will have a perfect medium for growing salads.
You could box clever and attach some hoops over it ( a bit of old plastic piping will do, and you could drape horticultural mesh to keep the insects off your crops, too.

Q: I have heard of an evergreen clematis, which obviously would stay green all winter, do you know the variety?
A: Try Clematis urophylia "Winter Beauty"

Q: I wonder if you could recommend a clematis for me? I have been looking at and reading all about the ones on your site and am becoming confused :( I'd like a scented, shade loving, summer flowering one! - Do they exist? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.
A: For a lovely blue that is slightly paler in shade, try 'Fond Memories'.
'Zara' is blousy and new, more purpler, excellent in shade.
For a pink, try 'Pink Fantasy' - excellent in shade.

Q: I want to find some disease-resistant (black spot/mildew) roses which also have a good scent. What would you recommend?
A: Unfortunately there are no really resistant strains of rose to black spot and mildew. The best thing is to keep them well drained and well fed the previous year. Also prune them into a goblet shape so air can flow through them, and keep the humidity down.
It is also important to remember that roses are not for ever. Change your stock regularly, at least 6 years, and don’t grow roses in soil that has grown roses for ages previously.
There are some varieties in the UK that have some resistance "Silver Jubilee" being one.
Sorry I can't offer any more help than this, if anyone says they have a disease safe rose, take it with a pinch of salt.

Q: We live on the top of a hill in Northamptonshire and it is exposed and very windy. We would like to plant some of your Clematis - alpina to grow up wire fencing fixed to wooden posts. Would these plants be suitable? And if not could you suggest some others?
A: Clematis alpina should do well. It is quite hardy, though it might do a little better if you simply wrap a little horticultural fleece around it when very wet, windy weather is expected. It does well in cool temperatures, and generally, so long as you have a moisture retaining soil, should be fine.

Q: Two years ago I bought a David Austin Standard rose, which I might add is spectacular, the first year it threw out long stems 4ft plus, we cut these down as instructed.
This year to our surprise, the beautiful yellow cabbage sized roses are lovely but we also have a white floribunda rose - how could this happen? And if we leave it, it is very pretty, will the white roses take over from the original yellow?
A: What you have is a spur or a leg from the rootstock. Roses are grafted onto a completely different root, giving the rose grower the ability to guarantee the same rose for their customers, rather than relying on seeds, some of which would produce different roses.
If you keep it, there should be no trouble really. If you cut it out, do so as near to the root as possible.

Q: I would like to send my father a climbing honeysuckle plant as his existing one was killed by frost. I can only find the honeysuckle bush on the Primrose website. Can you please tell me if this is suitable to climb up a wall or not and any tips for protecting it from frost.
A: This particular variety is suitable for pruning as a stand alone bush, or will grow over a fence or wall. Try to give it a southern aspect if you can. I have one in my garden and it has so far coped with -18C. If you are worried about it , give the base a good mulch of compost and drape horticultural fleece over the rest of the plant.

Q: I would like to purchase two five foot tree ferns to plant into large 800 mm square planters.
Would you advise waiting until the autumn or plant now? The planters have timed watering systems installed to limit the risk of them drying out during the summer months.
Also what compost mix would you recommend?
Thank you for any advice.
A: I am fairly sure your system will keep them well hydrated, so they should be fine planted now. They prefer a sheltered spot, and they come from an acid woodland part of Australia - so the compost should be mildly erecaceous, I'd probably say mix general purpose with erecaceous compost, 3:1.
Make sure you give them plenty of shelter and protection in the winter. I have seen them wrapped in straw, then wrapped in bubble wrap too.

Q: I would like to purchase two five foot tree ferns to plant into large 800 mm square planters.
Would you advise waiting until the autumn or plant now? The planters have timed watering systems installed to limit the risk of them drying out during the summer months.
Also what compost mix would you recommend?
Thank you for any advice.
A: I am fairly sure your system will keep them well hydrated, so they should be fine planted now. They prefer a sheltered spot, and they come from an acid woodland part of Australia - so the compost should be mildly erecaceous, I'd probably say mix general purpose with erecaceous compost, 3:1.
Make sure you give them plenty of shelter and protection in the winter. I have seen them wrapped in straw, then wrapped in bubble wrap too.

Q: I need some advice how to get my orchid to flower - keeps putting out new leaves but no flowers? Any suggestions?
A: Generally this is down to over kindness with orchids. They don't need to be fed every week, and they should be watered when the compost is dry, and not much at all in the winter. Ill treat it a bit, and you'll get flowers.

Q: I have bought several roses bushes, I need to re-pot them, when should I do this? I have bought them all in last 3 weeks from Primrose.
A: Presumably they are in the pots they arrived in.
You can re-pot them any time really, if you are careful. If they are to stay in pots then choose a size about an inch (no bigger than two inches) bigger than the ones they are in now and add a few crocks or pebbles for drainage. Fill to a third the height with good quality compost. Tap off the plastic pot they are in and firm this into the new pot and fill in with good compost, firming down.
Give them a good water and keep them out of direct sunlight (in this hot weather) for a week at least.
Check for moisture, don't let them dry out, but not soaking wet either.

Q: I am wanting to purchase a Ligularia and was looking for dentata dark beauty and I see you only have Britt Marie crawford. Can you tell me the difference and which one is more spectacular?
A: There isn't much between them to be honest. 'Dark Beauty' has slightly darker leaves, but that's about it. They both need a moist soil but not soaking wet, and will do well in all light conditions.

Q: Can you tell me what to do about Rust on leeks please?
A: I am afraid not much. It is caused by a fungus, called Puccinia, and it is really difficult to shift. Keep the leeks uncrowded. If it's just a little, ignore it, just let the air circulate around the plants. You can then remove the worst leaves before eating, they are quite safe when there is not much on the leaves. However, they are infectious, so burn the removed leaves. Don't over feed the soil where you grow leeks. Take claims of leek rust immunity for various varieties with a pinch of salt.

Q: I am thinking of getting a trough planter that measures about 24cm x 24cm deep. Will it be ok to plant Alliums, lavender and verbena in these planters? Presumably, I will need drainage holes in them?
A: You will struggle with the larger alliums, but the dwarf varieties will be fine. Make sure you add plenty of slow release fertiliser pellets to the compost, and never let them dry out completely. Planters can become dry, even if it is raining.

Q: I am interested in growing a raspberry bush on my terrace. Since it is a terrace, the only planting space I have are some large planting troughs (50cm deep, 1m wide). I have got roses and other shrubs flourishing in the troughs. Do you think raspberries will be able to grow in them? If so, which variety do you think would do best?
A: Yes, they would. Probably two per planter. You'll have to feed them well and keep them moist, and every year scrape out some of the compost and replace - do this in the winter. I think I'd go for an early variety like "Glen Moy" then if they have a bad year, you'll still have plenty of summer to fruit.

Q: I'm going to be buying some 'Phyllostachys bissetii' for create a screen/hedge along a rear fence which has a width of 12ft - how many plants would you recommend I buy for a decent screen in a year? What would be the planting distance?
A: I'd go for one plant per metre. They grow for fun and probably will not ever be troubled by frost, save in the far North. You can divide them in spring, and if they are a bit expensive, grow a hedge and then divide a couple of years later to fill in the gaps. Great choice, and you can eat the new growth if you fancy being a Panda for a while!

Q: I want to find a creeping or climbing, small leafed house plant like Ficus pumila but that has flowers, my dad has some Tropaeolum speciosum in his conservatory which has lovely delicate green foliage but he just can't get it to flower that lovely bright red colour, and if he can't get it to flower I know I won't be able to! Is there an easy-grow plant that I can train up a wooden post indoors? It won't be in a conservatory so will need to survive low-light indoor conditions (which I know Ficus pumila can do very well)
A: I am sure you could do well with the Tropaeolum speciosum. It's not that difficult to look after. Honest. But I think a good one would be a mock Jasmine. Tracelospermum jasminoides. It's a cute plant with spiral like flowers. But then any of the real jasmines will suit the bill too. Another whacky idea are hops, which make brilliant climbing plants, and smell hoppy, so you'll always fancy a pint! Actually, they look really nice.

Q: I have recently bought 4 large bamboo plants (10ft high each) and am going to plant them in 2 large metal trough planters from Primrose. They will be in an area that gets a lot of sun, and I read that metal containers can burn roots. I was going to put some old carpet and some TermaWrap insulation sheeting before putting in the compost and plants - would this be ok?
A: Try to keep the containers cool on hot days, but if they are large ones, there shouldn't be too much of a problem. Make sure you have ample drainage. Don't have the carpet rotting in the container, it might affect the roots. But the ThermaWrap will be fine.

Q: Regarding trough planters product ID PP0442, would the medium sized or the large sized troughs be suitable for planting climbing clematus in or are they too small?
A: It\'s a bit small I think. I think the size you need is at least 30cm by 30cm by about 45cm deep, otherwise the plant will not really overwinter that well. I\'d go for a large planter to be honest. The roots need to be cool, and this is best achieved in a larger container.

Q: I am looking for screening bamboos to cover approx 3m length. My garden is south facing but I am looking to plant the bamboos next to a brick wall approx 1.6m tall at the bottom of my garden, then I will be having a 2.3m high wooden shed built in front of the bamboos. So I am looking for plants that are already quite high, 2-3m or more, that can tolerate shade (at least at the bottom 1.6m), with contained roots to avoid damaging the wall nor undermining patio slabs. can you give me any suggestions? Perhaps the Aureosulcata Alata or the Aureocaulis may do the job?
A: I would go for the Aureocaulis. I know it's a little more expensive, but it will cope with shade more easily. The wall and shed are a great place for shelter, but keep them as light as you can. Dig a big hole for each plant, and don't plant them right close to the wall, give them as much space as possible. Feed in the Spring with a general purpose fertiliser and then remove dead leaves.

Q: I'm interested in your 'Kiwi Issai' for my allotment, and wondered would you have any idea how long before it got any fruit?
A: To be honest, this is (I think) a cultivar of the other variety we sell called 'Jenny'. I have only ever grown 'Jenny' and from my information they are very similar. 'Kiwi Issai' is a little smaller than 'Jenny', which can get very big. They are both self fertile, and you will get a lot of fruit from both. It will take a couple of years to get fruit, though it is usually quite prolific. Keep it warm, free from wet, cold blasty winds, I grew mine in a tunnel in the north of England.

Q: I’m looking for something to grow in in a tall pot, something similar to Primrose’s Tall Terracotta Fibrecotta Cube - H60cm x W27cm or White Ella Arstone Vase. It needs to be hardy because it will be in a spot that is exposed to all the elements. Ideally, I would like something that has foliage all year round, not overly tall but with some height. A tall order, but can you recommend anything, please?
A: Try a really nice Euonymus Fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety', or this tree mallow Lavatera 'Barnsley Baby' is really sweet and quite hardy, lots of summer flowers. A Cornus Alba 'Elegantissima' will look good, will need a trim, but is fine. You could go mad and try this Carex comans BronzeSedge. Also St Johns Wort - Hypericum inodorum 'Orange Gem'

Q: What flower bulbs can I plant in clay soil?
A: None really! What I would do is cut out a hole the size of a big pot and then fill with compost - plant in that. Alternatively you could use pots. You could get away with irises and dahlias for a while (though dahlias are not bulbs) but they will rot or not grow at all in heavy clay soils. You\'d just be wasting your money. An old trick is to simply bury pots in the ground so you can\'t see them. That really works well.

Q: Can you recommend a rose which I can train across the top of a fence for about 12ft?
A: Really any of these will do the trick Make sure they get a bit of light to start them off - and after a year they will fend for themselves. Give the planting point a good feed with compost.

Q: I would like to buy my husband a rose bush but we live very near to the sea, it does get quite windy and we have clay soil so not many plants actually survive. What would be the best rose bush to get? Could it live in a pot?
A: The one I would go for is \'Panache\' because it is fairly low, and therefore would be good at withstanding salty winds, and is genetically predisposed to the seaside - being of Rosa rugosa stock, and it does well in a pot.

Q: I have a fence in my garden which is 6ft high, 9 ft long but its only the top two feet that get the sun as its north facing. Garden is open though and gets plenty of light. I would love to grow the libretto rose along it but not sure if the position is suitable?
A: I am pretty sure it will be perfect. It is quite a tough beast, and as long as you give it plenty of feed in it\'s early years, it will be fine.

Q: I recently purchased 3 bamboo plants for screening. I transferred them to 30cm pots and filled with compost. Due to the heavy rain the compost is like a mulch. Will this harm the plants and should I have drainage holes in the pots? The name of the yellow bamboo is Phylllostachys aurea.
A: The short answer is yes. Be careful you do not break the pot - I hope it is plastic!

Q: We have two Shropshire Lad roses bought from you about 2 years ago. This year they are performing beautifully with many flowers. We have noticed that a few of the blooms are a very pale creamy yellow with pink on the edge of the petals similar to ‘Peace’. Is this a normal occurrence?
A: Yes, this is often a question of infection, usually viral infection left behind by aphids. No matter how you try, sometimes they do get through. I suggest giving them a good feed this summer, once a month, perhaps every 3 weeks and give them some rich compost as a mulch next spring. This will help them overcome anything next year.

Q: Which bamboo would be best to plant in front of a 6 foot high x 8 foot long fence; it must be clumping bamboo and grow to a max hight of 7 feet? How many plants would be needed? My garden gets full sun all day.
A: Almost all the bamboos will do this job. You might get away with two plants, but three would be better. The hedging bamboos are probably best because they give the thickest coverage. Plant it a little way from the fence, about 40cm, a little more if the fenceposts are set in concrete.

Q: I have a south facing terrace at Saltdean near Brighton. I was going to get some of your fiberglass large square planters, do you think these are a good option and what plants would you suggest for long term use that can tolerate sea winds and sun? I'm not there all the time so should be drought tolerant and cold/wind resistant? I would prefer a few specimen plants, I cannot imagine a riot of colorful plants could survive. I was thinking cacti but they are not that cold tolerant I was told.
A: Well you have to grow Sea Holly - its a beautiful plant, and it grows on the beach! - well, in the sand dunes. But there are many more. Try any of the following: Fuchsia magellanica Alyssum Achillea Amaryllis belladonna Armeria (Sea Pink) Centranthus (Valerian) Corynephorus 'Spiky Blue' (Grey Hair-Grass) Crocosmia (Montbretia) Calendula California Poppy Delosperma (Ice Plant) Echium Erigeron (Fleabane) Eryngium (Sea Holly) Fatsia japonica Festuca glauca Gaillardia Helianthemum (Rock Rose) Hebe Lavatera trimestris (Mallow) Osteospermum jucundum Phormium Red Hot Poker Rosemary Senecio Sedum Thyme Best thing by the sea is to plant in planters!

Q: I bought my 2 Goji Berry plants over a month ago and it has grown to over 2 metres in height but there is still no sign of any buds for flowering/fruit, just leaves and thorns. My questions are, when will my plant start to flower for fruits? What might I need to do to help it?
A: It takes about 2 years before the plant starts to produce fruit - pretty much the same as any other fruit bearing plant to be honest. I am pretty sure it will start off fruiting next spring.

Q: I would love to buy a Cornus Kousa “Milky Way” but feel it would be too big. As they can grow to about 25 feet can it be pruned to keep it under control and, if so, would we have a root problem too or does pruning also keep the roots under control too? We have a south facing garden.
A: I am afraid it would become a real problem for you because you will be forever having to keep it under control, and it will always be wanting to get out of the box and run amok. I wonder if a Philadelphus ( Mock Orange) would do the trick.

Q: I have ordered a 'Mary Rose' Rose Bush that I thought could go in a pot on the patio. Having read lots of information I don't think this is possible - please can you advise?
A: Yes, it is easily possible to grow that rose in a pot. Start with a 30 cm pot then after three or so years pot it on to a 45 cm pot if needed. Make sure it is watered well (put some crocks in the bottom of the pot for drainage) and then it is fed monthly from May to August, with a good quality rose feed. Then every year carefully dig out some of the compost and replace with fresh stuff. The rose will need pruning. This is simply a question of imagining a wine glass, then cut the branches so that the buds on there will point outwards and not inwards, so you eventually get a wineglass shape to your rose plant - best for keeping down any fungal infections.

Q: I need to re-pot 2 Pyracanthus shrubs which are 3ft tall at present. I do not want to have to re-pot them again at a later date and obviously need the pots to be frostproof. The original containers that I chose were "Taupe Ella Artstone" but they were much too small. I am looking for something on the same lines although I realise the shape will need to change.
A: You will find your pyracantha shrubs will do fine in any pot that is about 50 cm or larger. However, you will need to remember that the compost will need to be replenished - usually by scraping a bit out and then refilling with fresh every couple of years. Pyracantha gives lovely white flowers, then brilliant berries, so needs feeding to make all that colour, in the Spring and in the Summer - I use a general purpose liquid feed. In the heat, make sure they are not under water stress, and in the Winter leave them alone. They are quite hardy, but will grow wizened if kept in too harsh and cold a wind. I think all the pots Primrose sell are frost proof, but buy some pot feet to keep the pots off the ground - really does make a difference in very icy conditions.

Q: I would like to buy some fruit trees/shrubs to grow in pots on the patio. I am interested in growing blueberries, gooseberries and raspberries and was wondering which species you would suggest?
A: First of all, you can grow almost any plant in a container. The main things to look out for are: - Watering - especially in summer - pots dry out more quickly, so you might need to water every day. - Nutrients - all that water washes away nutrients, so you will need to feed at least once a week and use slow release fertilizer. - Space, as soon as your plant gets to fill the pot, you will need to pot on to a larger one - not massively large, but the next size up, which should take place about every two years. - Cold - in the winter keep the pots near the house and stand them off the floor for added protection. Some people wrap them in bubble wrap, especially in the north. Use dwarf varieties where possible. Blueberry "Top Hat" is a dwarf variety. Autumn fruiting raspberries do well. I have grown gooseberries in pots for years, I have an old variety "Victoria" but I believe any will do. i do prune it quite small.

Q: I need some scrubs or small trees to add some privacy screening above an existing 2 metre high fence. I do not intend to make a full hedge; I just need some occasional extra screening above the fence to hide some ugly neighbouring sheds. There is only a narrow border alongside the fence, so any scrubs/trees will need narrow trunks. The soil is neutral to alkaline (London) and my side of the fence faces south to southwest. I was thinking something like Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ but I am no expert and would appreciate your advice on suitable plants.
A: Yes, excellent choice - it is such a magnificent hedge plant, and it doesn't grow wild, about a foot a year, and you can keep it under control very easily. It also will be a good sound absorber too. I really cannot think of a better choice, save the old fashioned privet, which smells too much for my liking, or the varigated laurel, which gets a bit leggy around its legs when old, or maybe a philladelphus for flowers, but is too hard to keep in hedge form, or dogwoods, but they are too loose round the top.

Q: We have noted code: PPI762SET4 - tall fribrecotta terracotta cubes, 2x H70cm x w34cm - £59.99 x 2. We are planning to plant three Madame Alfred Carriere climbing roses and would need 3 containers. We have noted this planter - tall fribrecotta terracotta cubes, 2x H70cm x w34cm Do you think these cubes would allow enough root room for these roses and be suitable for them?? If not, please what could you suggest in the same style, colour and fribrecotta material?
A: To be quite honest, I don't think they are suitable. Please look for something that is about 45 cm wide. The depth is fine, but climbing roses are hungry, thirsty plants, and you need more compost in there. Growing them in containers needs good watering, and slow release fertiliser too, so please bear this in mind. They are lovely planters, but just not suitable in this case.

Q: We are working on a residential development in London, in Belgravia and would love to plant some trees on our street. The surrounding streets have Gleditsias trees planted into the street, but we are keen to plant them in pot above ground. Can you please tell me what sort of Pot size would you recommend- bearing in mind we would like to avoid having to change the pots? Would they out grow their pot? Is it possible to ‘trim’ their rootball so they stay a certain size? How much maintenance would they need?
A: To be honest, I wouldn't bother trying to grow this plant in pots at all. They are so fast growing, and like to spread, you would find the amount of work needed to keep it to the right size too much trouble. Indeed, trying to trim the rootball would probably be a serious problem because this would change the balance between root and leaf area - and whereas they are deciduous, they are only mildly so, there is still quite a lot of leaf to shift.

Q: A couple of years ago I saw a large (small tree size) white fragrant rhododendron flowering in the autumn at the Saville Gardens. Do you sell anything that meets this description?
A: Most rhododendrons are Spring flowering, and even the late Summer ones do not usually push into the Autumn, however, in Windsor Great Park and South, you do sometimes get confused late Summer flowering plants that have been bred over the years to flower later and later.

Q: I have a kiwi plant growing in a very large pot, East/South facing and growing up a brick wall in a sheltered position. It has been well watered and fed over the last 5 years. 2 years ago it produced blossom which then fell off with no evidence of any fruit. This year the blossom dried up and it looked like tiny mini kiwis but these then dropped off. This plant has never fruited. I would appreciate some advice on how to get this plant to bear fruit.
A: Jenny is the one to grow, it is self fertile and should grow like stink. What I guess is the pot is too small, what size pot is it? I have always grown it in soil, and had few problems. It needs plenty of good compost and in a pot, really well watering.

Q: Can evergreen clematis be planted in pots at this time of the year (November)?
A: You should more or less get on with it right now. If it is frosty then give them protection. Don't over water in the winter and water well and feed well in the Spring. Avoid really cold days, and place them where they can be sheltered from driving wind and rain.

Q: What raspberry plants are small and compact, good for eating but don't need to be staked or grow too tall?
A: Polka is a great raspberry and well worth growing, and Malling Leo - a traditionally sweet raspberry are suitable.

Q: I would like to purchase two blueberry plants. Could you please recommend which two different species I should purchase? How long can I keep them in the pot it comes in? Can I keep them indoors until it gets warmer? Do I need to purchase any special soil or containers for them to survive in?
A: You can buy the self pollinating variety - and they need no extra plant. They need to be grown in erecaceous compost - they like acid conditions. They need a good sunny and sheltered spot, and need to be moist but not ever wet - which is sometimes difficult to judge. If you want to grow in a container, you should choose a minimum of 30 cm pot, and then after a couple of years increase this to 45 cm. They shouldn't need to be indoors unless the temperature is really, really cold, and then don't let them get warm, or hot. A frost free but cold place is ideal.

Q: I want three blueberry plants to be grown in containers. I would like your views on Duke, Patriot and Golden Traube. Are these all available in 3 litre pots?
A: Of the three, I would go for Gold Traube because it is the easiest to look after, but it\'s only a marginal difference. To be honest they are all much the same. So far as I can see, Patriot comes in a 2 L pot. Remember they need erecaceous compost, and it is best to water with rainwater, keeping the compost moist but not soaking wet. A few sulphur flakes in Spring will help with acidity.

Q: I need some advice regarding what type of plant would be suitable to provide screening for a recently constructed roof garden. The plants need to provide screening for a run of 13m and are to be set into galvanised planters measuring 450 x 450 x 1000. The minimum overall height required including planter and plant is 1.8m. The screen will be south / east facing, one storey up. The plants will be sheltered by a parapet wall and glazed safety rail to 1.1m high.
A: Well the world is your oyster. Make sure the containers are good draining ones, and they compost is changed a little ( not all of it, but fluff it up and add some fresh, and also add fertiliser in Spring and possibly the early Summer.) If all you want is a screen I would go for laurels, which you prune to a shape with secateurs. But you could go for hydrangeas, ceonanothus, spireas, forsythias, pieris, the list goes on and on.

Q: I have purchased 4 strawberry plants, do these grow fruits every year? Should I plant these next to each other in the ground or should I keep these in the containers that they come in?
A: Strawberries have a 3 yearly cycle. You will notice them sending out runners, and little plants about 30 cm along the runner. Get a small pot of compost and rest the plantlet on the compost - held down with a pebble on the runner. Plant strawberries in beds for best crop. Year 1 and 2 take the fruit and runners. Year 3 just take the fruit. So the year two runners become your new plants. At the end of year 3 remove the old plants.

Q: I am looking for hardy evergreen trailing perennials that will tolerate part shade to plant in a narrow shallow trough. Could you please advise?
A: Creeping Jenny is a good one in shade and easy to control and Geraniums do well in shade, but can be invasive. Ordinary Lobelia are fine in shade, and you can replant with a different colour if you get fed up quite cheaply and, of course, the fuchsia is always a shade loving favourite.

Q: Which bamboo plant would you recommend for height and bushiness - my neighbour has kindly built an extension prior to planning approval with a nice window looking over our patio, so we been advised a bamboo would best solution as we are not allowed by planning to build a higher fence. The bamboo will have to go in a pot as we have drain covers in that area.
A: Well, I would go for the rufa type for a number of reasons. It is slow growing, but not so slow that it wont do the job well enough. It takes clipping back well - use secateurs, not a hedge trimmer. It is hardy and it clumps easily. You might need two plants, depending on the size of the window, I would plant them two metres apart.

Q: I would like to grow grape vines in large deep tubs up a fence, two sides of the garden get full sun all day. The patio area is block paved so no soiled area available. Is that possible? What would be the best variety to buy - ideally one red and one white that are widely available? What would be the best time to plant them out?
A: It is possible to grow grapes in pots. There are some rules. Good soil / compost mixed - about 50:50, Good drainage too, add a spade of grit to the mix, Use a pot at least 45cm in size but 60cm is better, Feed regularly - I use tomato feed, Support on a trellis - Prune to keep the leaf area down a little, Don't let them dry out in the summer - check for watering even if it's raining. Apart from that take your pick on grape varieties. There is no preference except to say Black Hamburg has always been the traditional UK garden grape.

Q: I purchased a ‘Sweet Juliet’ rose, can I keep it in the pot and if so for how long before it needs re-potting?
A: Yes, you can. I would repot next autumn and give it a bit more compost. Keep it in a sheltered spot in winter and remember that during the summer it must not be allowed to dry out - although it shouldn't be waterlogged either. Feed it monthly from June to August. After that repot the next year, then every two years, bearing in mind that it could grow more quickly than you expect - but by that time, you'll be used to it's habits.

Q: I have 250 feet of newly erected 2m high close boarded timber fence. I am looking for a selection of flowering evergreen climbers with a vigorous growth than can deal with sun & partial shade on a well-drained soil that sits on a clay subsoil.
A: Any of the climbing roses will tackle your conditions well. I would also suggest that you go for a honeysuckle - Lonicera 'Cooper Beauty' is a good one and a false jasmine - Trachelospermum, which are delicate but tough as old boots. You have quite a lot to cover, and I would like to suggest you train the plants on wires so your wood can be maintained - there is nothing more annoying than trying to paint a fence covered in plants. Clematis montana covers like stink - is gorgeous in the spring and is easy to care for. Place a few pebbles round the base of the plant - they like to have cold feet.

Q: How wide apart should one plant mature rhododendron bushes?
A: Much depends on the variety, but as a general rule I would suggest they are spaced at 2m intervals, 1.5m to make a thick hedge that is regularly pruned, but a good 2m for standard trees.

Q: I want to create a 3-4 metre-high screen wall of bamboo, using the sort of bamboos that normally run rather than clump. If I bought long planting troughs (which could not be more than 30 cms wide), how high would the planters need to be to provide the root conditions that bamboos need? Also, if the planters have to drain, how could I retain enough moisture in the summer to keep the roots happy? And would I need to add sharps to the soil to facilitate drainage?
A: Well from what you describe I feel it might be a bit touch and go. I would say the planters would need to be an absolute minimum of 50 cm, possibly more. I wouldn't worry too much about sharps because they should drain reasonably well,but the summer will need to be looked after regarding watering. Incorporate someorganic material to act as a sponge, but also keep an eye on the dryness of the material and water accordingly. Sometimes you have to water even if it is raining.

Q: I'd like to buy a clematis which is evergreen, thrives in shade and can survive life in a large pot. I was thinking of an Armandii but there is conflicting information on this site and others as to whether it can grow in a pot. Could you let me know?
A: Yes, there is a lot of talk about Armandii grown in a pot. I have done it myself, however, in a large 45 cm pot. They do better if you put pebbles around the base of the plant, on top of the soil. I fed mine in the Spring and again after flowering in the early Summer and it did fine. It was growing over a hedge and onto a neighbours tree, and was quite happy until the tree was cut down. Even then it came back. You have to make sure the compost is not too wet, but that it doesn't dry out completely, and every year I used to remove some of the compost and replace with fresh. You can trim it after it has flowered. A similar one is Montana, in habit.

Q: I live in the south east of England and have an acid soil in my garden. I planted some gladioli last year successfully, in a border and thought I would do the same this year. I have received some gladioli from Primrose and wondered if you could advise me on best planting time and depth and if I should keep the gladioli I have been sent in a darkened bag until planting time. Also-the border I want to plant them in is already crowded with daffodil and tulip bulbs which have not flowered yet. What should I do after they have flowered to give the gladioli room. i.e. should I pull them up and then plant the gladioli which might mean the gladioli can’t be planted until the end of April.
A: I would plant them at the end of April, about four inches deep, pointy bit uppermost. Add some good quality compost to the planting area, and they should be about 6 inches apart. If there really is no room at all in the border take some of your other plants out and move them elsewhere.

Q: What would you recommend for a climber for the front of my house, it faces North and there is a large protected holly tree about 6 metres from the front.
A: If you are looking for a rose, I'd have a go at 'Altissimo' Climber Rose. It's as tough as old boots and copes with poor soils. For something more fragrant try this honeysuckle - again good and hardy Lonicera periclymenum 'Serotina' Late Dutch honeysuckle. Any hardy clematis such as Montana- Mayleen or Jackmanii

Q: I was recently given a pot plant anthurium as a gift. The large green leaves already had blotches of dried leaf on them & it has steadily got worse. Why is this? Should I just cut off all the damaged leaves & dried out blooms? Could I put them in the compost or are they diseased?
A: It's hard to say without seeing the plant. My suggestion is to simply cut out the leaves and dried up flowers and see what happens. If it finally dies, you can compost it without worry. You can get billions of them from a single packet of seed, and they are notoriously short lives, so don't lose too much sleep over it.

Q: I would welcome your advice on which perennials you would recommend planting to provide colour throughout the summer months for a grave in the UK, they would have to be in a 35cm growing range to conform with regulations.
A: Well, it's Rosemary for remembrance, also try Lavenders and Sage as they are also lovely and would only need one visit a year to trim them back a little. These shrubs will stay small if you simply plant the pot in the ground, covering it so the thing looks like it is planted, especially if you trim the roots beforehand and then return it to the pot.

Q: I want to create a screen in my garden. I have a planter approx 130cm wide by 40cm deep. How many pots would I need to buy of Barred Horsetail Equisetum robustum – 3L Pot to make a sufficient screen for that planter?
A: I would say two plants, but be prepared to buy another to add next year if it doesn't completely fill out. Important: Leave it fully standing in the winter, cut back when new strands grow, and you will need to feed them - imagine all that growth coming out of the soil. If it's a tub it will quickly deplete. Keep it moist but not completely swimming in water.

Q: I have a new garden and am trying to plant the same evergreen clematis as I had in my previous garden. I thought she said it was Armandii , but it wasn't the white version and had pink buds which opened to round whitish pink, very fragrant and vigorous. I bought from a garden centre what I thought it was Apple Blossom and planted it last year; it is now flowering but disappointingly smaller flowers which are brown-pink, not as nice at all. Confusingly, my old plant looks the most like your photo of clematis Armandii. Although you describe it as white, the photo has the pink buds and is not like the white Armandii another friend has. However, your photo of Apple Blossom is an all-pink flower and different again. I don't see a picture of the clematis I seem to be growing at the moment. I am very confused, is apple blossom a form of Armandii? Does Armandii come in white/pink options?
A: Yes, Apple Blossom is a cultivar of Armandii chosen for it's pink flowers. The actual form of the flowers of clematis will vary a little according to soil type and treatment. What I suggest is that you leave it a year, and don't feed it this time and see if that makes any difference. Was your former clematis grown in a container or a bed? Were there pebbles around the base? The pebbles are actually quite important when it comes to growing clematis. All these factors will change the colouring of the flowers, and in particular, white forms taking on a pink hue. Wait a year and see what transpires.

Q: I am looking to buy the Dark Slate Fibre Cube Planter (44cm), I am going to put clematis in it to climb along an ‘L-shaped’ wall with the pot in the corner but would ideally like to have 2 or 3 plants to have a varied flower and times of flowering. Would that size pot be able to cope with 3 clematis plants? Would the 44cm cube only facilitate one plant? What would I be able to get in that?
A: For 3 clematis you would need to go for the largest one, 70 cm. In the 44cm planter you will get any of the clematis plants but basically just one. You could get two in to start with but they would outgrow it.

Q: I want to cover three garden fences with instant height and width, as it would cover the back fences I would like it to look busy, high and exotic maybe with some flowers?
A: To get the best sound absorption I would go for the bamboo (phylostachys) and plant them just short of a metre apart. They look very exotic and will eventually grow into a thick covering. You could also plant a hazel hedge, which will take a little more time, but give good coverage, as would laurels.

Q: I have a roof terrace that requires a bit of privacy. I want something that's not too bushy (doesn't grow outwards too much), optimum height of 1m - 1.5m. The plants would be potted, and the terrace receives sun all day long.
A: You could try Cornus, but this would need a lot of pruning. The Fargesia bamboos are probably best, when grown in a tub or container, they will not grow too high. The terrace will need to be such that the wind doesn't blow them off, which can be quite a problem.

Q: My clematis is showing loads of green leaves but no flowers. I bought 3 Hendersonii Rubra clematis a few months ago, two of which have flowered but one has not (but loads of green leaves). WHy is this? And after the flowers on the other two have gone do I cut them back or will they flower again? Also some of the leaves are going bit brown at the tips, do I cut them off or leave them? Maybe I am feeding/watering them too much?
A: Thanks for your query and I hope I can help - clematis can be sulkers until they get really settled in. Firstly, pruning: It doesn\'t need to be cut back unless it gets too big. However, at about 8ft or more, it can outgrow its welcome and if you need to cut back, do it straight after flowering - it will take hard pruning. Secondly the plants position - clematis are picky and need to be planted deep, with the sun on their foliage and their roots in shade (however they need lots of moisture until established, so don\'t worry about that). Cold, drying winds and late spring frosts can be a problem, causing the browning foliage - other growers say this does get better as the season gets warmer. Leave them on and newer foliage should be OK. As for the non-flowering plant, if it is otherwise healthy, just keep it well watered and fed this Summer and Autumn, when embryo buds will be forming for next Spring. Cover it with fleece if very severe temperatures in Winter and it should be fine next Spring.

Q: Hi, What would you recommend as a suitable climbing plant to go against a West facing wall of a house? The plant will be planted directly into the ground (light clay soil) and ideally I would put a trellis up. I don't want it to be too vigorous and take over the house, and ideally I'd like something that looks nice all year. Happy to have a combination of climbers growing together.
A: You've a large choice on a west-facing wall, as it will absorb heat and then release it slowly at night. I have jasmine (can't beat the scent) and the golden hop, although this can run rampant and leaves look tatty in windy spots. I've trialled the James Galway Rose for David Austin, which has very few thorns, is disease resistant and has the most gorgeous 'old rose' pink flowers and is repeat flowering. The wild roses tend to be quite rampant and don't repeat flower. A different sort of clematis would be C. Armandii, which is evergreen and has fragrant flowers in early-mid spring, year-round foliage and autumn leaf colour - a good backdrop for summer flowerers. If you're on a clay soil, dig in plenty of organic matter when you plant.

Q: My 10 year old Cordyline which is now a tree, has now started to loose it’s bark at the bottom and sprout out from the trunk at the same time. The top is still growing and sprouting flower heads as usual. Is there anything I can do now, or is it dying?
A: I'm afraid they all have their lifespan, but 10 years isn't too old really. It depends on the conditions it lives in. It is the winter when you need to protect it - simply tie an old coat around it and if you can, stuff it with straw, and at the end of May, you can take it off.

Q: I've just planted a loquat tree (not very young) in my garden and it has new shoots coming out. The problem is my neighbours very mature sycamore tree which is about 4m away. I've cut away all overhanging branches, so there's at least 3m clear headroom above my tree and it does have full east and south sun. Already it's covered in the stickiness and aphids that come with a sycamore. I'd like to know whether that will cause a problem and/or if there's anything I can do (at the moment I spray it down regularly)?
A: Yes, you can get fungal infections from the honeydew, so it is good to spray it off if it gets too sticky.
You'll just have to hope for a cold wet summer. Having such a large supply of aphids nearby, you'll find it difficult to kill them all the time - so just keep on spraying!

Q: I planted 4 self fertilising fruit trees (bought from Manchester) on my allotment in Calderdale, West Yorkshire three years ago. 1 plum, 1 pear, 1 apple, 1 cherry. I have barely got any fruit yet - three apples this year and nothing else. The trees are between 8 feet and 12 feet high now. I have not pruned yet and would like some tips please.
Could and should I fertilise this autumn with old composted donkey manure which I acquired?
When, how and how much should I prune?
What sort of mulch should I use and when should I apply it?
How do I protect the trees against insects and diseases?
Do I need to wrap the lower trunks to protect against frost damage?
What other things should I be doing to enhance the fruit and the trees please.
A: For a start fruit trees take a good three years to even start to produce fruit, and during that period they should be really well looked after.
They should be fed at least annually, preferably in the autumn or late winter / early spring.

Pruning: You should aim to make an open tree at the moment. 1) Cut the lowermost branches off completely - to give the tree some height
2) Cut out all branches that point inwards towards the centre of the tree
3) Cut out branches that touch another branch
4) Next year cut back the branches to their first outward facing buds, to cause the plant to open out.

You can use donkey manure, so long as it is well rotted.
Insects, you can use a wax strip against some moths, and there is a biological control against codling moth, which you use in September.

Q: There are already two established fruit trees in the garden we have. An apple tree that is huge (and is a bramley but we don’t know what kind) and a pear tree that we think is a Conference. But hasn't fruited for a few years. We would like to plant a Braeburn apple tree and a Doyenne De Comice, will the above trees already established in the garden (ie Bramley and Conference Pear) be suitable pollinators with a Braeburn and Doyenne De Comice? Also we live in Lancashire, will such trees be suitable for the Lancashire climate?
A: The apples will be fine in Lancashire - I'm just over the valley from you and we have exactly the same old apple trees. The pear might struggle for pollination, and the best partner for it is "Concorde". I'd plant them up and then take no fruit - not even allowing fruit in the first year) for 2 years, then assess the situation, planting another pollinator if needed.

Q: I am considering whether to plant a fig tree in my garden, I am concerned because I live in the north near to Manchester, would it bear edible fruit, if you could advise me I would be most obliged?
A: I grew a fig in North Manchester for many years, it fruited perfectly each year. Pretty much the variety 'Brown Turkey' is the one to use - self fertile.

Q: I live about 600yds from the sea at Worthing and my newly planted apple and pear trees have suffered from salt burn. Are there any fruit trees that are resistant to salt burn? I would like to grow a quince tree for example or any other fruit trees.
The problem is certainly salt burn it always happens when we have high on shore wind with rain. The house windows get some salt deposit at the same time. We are not in a very exposed position, but we do have some big storms, especially this time of the year when the leaves are starting to grow. We have a fig tree and a vine, both of which are okay. We have a very well established crab apple tree which suffers a little, but not a significant amount.
A: Salt burn is always a major problem, especially at Worthing, where you get quite a lot of bracing weather.
I know of people who significantly reduce the effect of storms using horticultural fleece, which they cover their fruit trees when a storm is due, but it has to be very firmly pegged down.
But it's not only spray hitting the bush, but salt getting into the soil which can cause branch die back so keeping the soil in good condition can be important, but less so 600 yards from the shore.
In relation to salt resilience there is not much to say when it comes to fruit. Apples do well - there is the The Dunwich Pearmain that grows 100 metres from the sea, and still goes strong.
The other thing to recognise is the number of brambles growing by the seashore, bearing fruit easily. So the relatives are reasonably safe bets for the garden - raspberries.
Quince is one of the old English favourites, and very lovely too. I feel it will take a bit of starting off, and would grow it in as fertile a soil as you can muster, protecting it with fleece when necessary. But then, once established, it will be fine.

Q: I want to buy a dark/black cherry tree with a sweet fruit. Could you recommend one of the following or a better one:
Cherry Sunburst
Cherry Kordia
Cherry Kolney
Are any of these self fertile or do I need a similar tree for fertilisation?
A: I'd stick to sunburst, it's very dark, very sweet and self fertile. It's a great variety, and will do fine. It is reasonably late season, but none the worse for that because some summers aren't as good as others, so you get a chance to 'catch up' at the end of the summer.
Dig a big hole for bare rooted cherries, about 2 ft deep. Line the bottom with good quality compost and some well rotted manure. Plant the tree so the graft is just above soil level and fill in with the rest of the soil.
They can take up to 3 years to fruit properly.

Q: Most fruit trees for sale are 1 year old (root wrap). Is it possible to buy older trees which will start to produce fruit after 1 or 2 years and if so where? Are the 9Litre pot fruit trees on the primrose site older trees?
A: If you were to effectively dig up a more mature fruit tree to transplant, you would cause it to be put back at least a year or worse, it might even introduce disease. Consequently, all bare root trees are young trees that will bear fruit in three years (ish). In the long run, it works out more or less the same.

Q: Can you advise me on the best cherry tree for a large pot in Manchester?
A: I have to say that you are better with two, and the ones that will suit you best are Colney and Sunburst. That way you get a large and a small tree, and brilliant pollenation, although they are said to be self fertile, they always do better when they have a partner. Give them plenty of good quality compost with a little well rotted manure (very well rotted) when planting and then give them 3 years to produce full fruit.

Q: I have a relatively small garden but room enough I think to get some fruit trees. I've already planted a plum tree, and hope to add an Apple, Pear and Fig tree. I'm looking at getting an Apple tree that is self-polinating, and have come across "Cox's Orange Pippin' that suits the bill. Primaliry I want an Apple that is good to eat off the tree, or a variety that can be used for eating and cooking with. What other varieties could I choose from?
A: If you are planting a Cox's pippin, you needn't worry about self fertile apples, the Cox will do it for you. A really excellent partner for this is James Grieve - I have one, it is always full of apples in September, and really disease resistant. You couldn't do better. Another one I would go for is 'Discovery'.

Q: We have a small area up against the bungalow wall facing SSW, and management would like to grow a cooking apple against it. Would it be more sense to plant a cordon rather than an espalier on an M26 rootstock, and would I need to plant another group-3 (or whatever) to go with it. The site is fairly well protected but we live in Crowborough, East Sussex on top of the Weald (literally) with its own microclimate. Please do you have any advice/suggestions on what varieties would go?
A: Most cooking apples are on M26 or MM106, which are semi dwarfing stocks. They are quite fast growers, so don't think of trying to find other rootstocks, they are hardly ever used. For me old is best. A good Old Bramley. As a partner - maybe a Bramley Seedling, but you can choose any apples out of groups 2,3 or 4, since either of there are group 3. I think an espalier by the wall is the best way to go. I have one half way up a mountain in Lancashire, espaliered, so they do well. When planting, incorporate as much well rotted manure or compost as you can. Don't expect too much fruit for the first three years, indeed, for the first two I remove the flowers.

Q: I'm looking for a flowering cherry tree for my front garden and therefore fairly small and slow growing. I'm looking for a 'church yard' or 'Japanese' style, i.e. delicately flowing rather than bold and erect. I am also looking for light, see-through airy branches rather than dense foliage. Colour - delicate pale pink or white. Good autumn colour would be a bonus. My soil is alkaline and relatively heavy but I could add plenty of grit and compost. The tree will be planted around 12 ft from my house so the rootstock would need to be non-invasive. The two I am particularly interested in are 'The Bride' and 'Shogetsu' although alternatives would be welcome.
A: On the whole, a light tree is created by pruning, most cherries grow with a deal of vigour. You could try Prunus Shogetsu on our site but there are many others to choose from specialist nurseries. You can keep them fairly slow growing either by growing them in a container, or yearly pruning. At 12 ft from the house, most root-stocks will be fine on that. I had one for many years only a few feet from the house, and neither the house or the plant were under stress. If you want a 'standard' type tree, go for 'The Bride' - I must confess it rather reminds me of a candyfloss, and that puts me off a bit. You also might want to think about Prunus Amanogawa which has many stems, and is very light.

Q: Regarding planters for bay trees - I have recently purchased two bay trees. Is the right size planter for them 12 inches? And is the shape important - would you recommend square planters or tapered planters?
A: I would go for 18 inch planters Jennie, this will give you two good years of growth before you need to think about potting on. Leave yourself about 2 - 3 inches space at the top of the pot, and you can add a little good quality compost and very well rotted manure mixed 50:50 next year. This way your trees should do well. The shape doesn't really matter, but I would prefer square.

Q: I have a few questions about cherry trees - I don't know which variety to purchase. Do I need to buy 2 trees in regards to pollinating? Or will one on its own be enough? Which varieties are for eating? Which varieties are suitable for the Scottish climate? When should I plant the trees out and how long in general does it take to get a yield of fruit?
A: 'Stella', 'Sunburst' or 'Morello' are edible, self pollinating trees, so you don't need two. Depending on the actual location, you can grow cherries anywhere... grow it on or by a wall, in a sunny spot out of the way of the wind and it should be fine. Plant it now, when there are no leaves on it. Dig a hole 2ft wide and at least 3ft deep, fill the bottom third with 50% compost and 50% well rotted manure.

Q: I would like a Rowan tree on my front drive, contained in a pot. Is this a feasible option or will the tree only survive if dug into the soil? If okay what size pot would I need if the tree is delivered in a 9ltr container? I realise the pot would need to be changed as the tree grew, I would like a pot big enough for the tree to grow in for at least a couple of years. If not, could you recommend tree or large shrub that would cover an area of 5x5 mtrs (approx). The area is unsheltered and windy in winter, evergreen option would be ideal.
A: The Rowan should do well so long as it is in as big a pot as you can manage AND it is well drained. You see many Rowans in the wild, up mountains on very sparse soil, so it should be fine.

Q: I inherited 2 mature flowering cherry trees. They are a delight each March/April time when in bloom. However what to do about pruning? I was originally led to believe that as older trees they should just be lightly trimmed as new branches are not going to happen and any vigorous / hard pruning would damage the tree not help it. What is you opinion please?
A: To be honest, I prune cherries very sparsely. First of all I cut out branches that are touching each other, and if I remember, I rub out some but not all of the flowering spurs once they have flowered. More importantly is to make sure they are pruned in the summer, or the dormant period, but not in the autumn. If we have a warm autumn and you prune, then there will be some growth and these will not harden off by the time the frosts come and kill them off. Apart from that, if you are not happy with the shape then prune it accordingly and also take any dead wood that might (but hardly ever does) appear on the tree.

Q: I would like to plant an apple tree (maybe eating) like red devil, do I have to plant another next to it for pollination and what do you suggest, can it be a cooking apple or a pear?
A: Much depends on where you live. If you are in a town it is most likely that within the flight of a honey bee there are a few dozen apple trees, at least, nearby. But if you buy the "Red Devil" you don't need one at all, as it is self fertile. It should come in a container at this time of the year, and you need to dig a hole at least twice as deep and twice as wide as the container. Fill in to a third with very rich compost, tap the plant out of the container, place in the hole and then fill in with the earth you took out. The scar where the tree is grafted on the root should be just peeping from the surface. Bang in a stake away from the roots and use a tree tie to hold it secure - not string. Firm well in with the boot - really well in - and water copiously. You won't get any fruit this year, or next - remove any that do come, and feed with a mulch of well rotted manure (that does not touch the tree) and then give a liquid feed in the summer.

Q: I bought an Apple, Pear and a Plum. All 3 had a few fruits on the first year. For the last two years I have had no flowers hence no fruit. Can you please tell me what I need to do.
A: I take it they are in good sun, they have set leaves and they are at least 2m apart. This year, during the summer, I would give them a liquid feed once a month - now, in August and again in September. Any multi-purpose liquid feed will do. Make sure they are well watered through the summer, don't soak them to death, but make sure hey don't lack water. Then, in the winter, when the leaves are gone, give them a mulch of well rotted manure and compost mixed 50:50. Don't let the mix touch the stem, but give them a good feed of this. Hopefully that's all they will need. However, it does often take 3 years for apples etc to set their fruiting properly.

Q: Recieved a fig tree today - can I leave it in the 3 litre pot and re-pot into a slightly larger pot when dormant? I intend to grow it in a pot only so that I can protect it under a carport in winter. Do I need to pinch out growing tips now to stimulate embryo bud formation this autumn? When can I expect it to fruit? I will water only for now and feed with high potash tomato feed next year weekly.
A: I think you have just the right idea. I'd leave it for now, don't even prune it, and then set the regime off next year. It can take 3 years for fruit.

Q: I want an apple tree that will grow to about 5m height, do you have such this and can it be successfully planted at this time of year?
A: 5m is a bit big for a modern apple tree. The largest I think Primrose do is Elstar, You can always plant pot-sold apples in a good sized hole - twice the depth and three times the width, filled in with enriched soil (the soil you dug out plus some well rotted manure (really well rotted) or good quality compost). It will take 3 years to give you good apples, and will reach full height in about 6 - 8 years, depending on the environment. It is only bare root apple trees you cannot plant in the summer. Give it a good feed of quality mulch each spring, and restrict the amount of apples you allow it to grow. A couple in year 1, a few more in year two and then leave it alone from then on to produce all its fruit.

Q: I would like to send a fruit tree - preferably a greengage or similar - as a present to my sister who lives near Liverpool. Are there any particular varieties which would be more suitable for this sort of climate?
A: Yes you can grow greengages in Merseyside. They are best by a wall, south facing, and in full sun. You are probably best with a self fertile one, such as \'Blue Violet\' or \'Czar\'. If you have difficulty with getting one of these, why not go for a \'Victoria\' Plum. They should be planted as bare root trees from November to March, a big hole filled with 50:50 Soil and rich compost.

Q: Can you give me some information on step-over fruit trees? I would like some info about varieties, how to train etc
A: I am afraid Primrose do not have any varieties specifically grown as step-overs. However, you can make your own by pruning a tree on a dwarfing stock as an espalier, trained at the specific height you wish. This is done by tying in the bottom branches to a framework - usually wires on stakes, and then training these along, pruning out the rest. Since step over trees are usually planted four feet apart, they are easy to maintain and prune each year, depending on how the fruit is produced (old or new wood).

Q: I am looking for a plum tree and was impressed by your range. Could you tell me which varieties have a dwarfing rootstock?
A: With plum trees, look out for the rootstock Pixie, which is specially designed for this tree.

Q: I am thinking of building a orchard in a large plot of ground that used to be a field. Could you advise me with regards as to the best to purchase, all would have to be sweet not cooking; Apple, Pear, Fig, Nectarine, Plum, Peach, Kiwi, Giant Plum, Donut Peach.
A: I am supposing you are in or near a town, so there would be few pollination problems. Should you be more than about a mile from other gardens, you will need to plant two apples, pears, plums. The time for planting fruit trees is not quite on hand, best around November to January, as the trees are dormant then. You will need to get some good quality compost, or very (very!) well rotted manure. Dig holes that are about two spades deep by two spades in diameter (that's the blade, not the whole spade) and one third fill the hole with rich compost material. If you but trees in pots, tap them out and hold in the hole, and back fill with earth. Give them a mulch of compost over the top - that does not touch the stem, but goes all around it. If the site is exposed, they will need staking, and the tree attached to the stake by a rubber tree tie, that is twisted into a figure of 8 - making sure not to hit the root area with the stake. Apple: James Grieve - really hardy apple, great flavour and heavy cropper. Pear: You can't beat good old fashioned Conference. Fig: The best one is Brown Turkey - really hardy and does well. Self fertile. Nectarine: Lord Napier is a good one, somewhat hardy, but still needs cosseting - a minimum is against a south facing wall, or better still in a greenhouse. Self fertile. Plum: I would still go for Victoria - use the Pixy rootstock for a smaller tree, about 7 ft tall. She grows almost anywhere. Self pollinating. Peach: Like the nectarine, this tree needs a lot of warmth and sunlight, and they are less frost tolerant than nectarines, at least a south facing wall, but best in a greenhouse. Should be fan trained, on the whole. Kiwi: Jenny is the one to get - you need a lot of space for her, but she is self fertile. Again, I prefer to grow her in an area that is protected from hard frosts, but she is a little hardy. Giant Plum: I am sorry, Primrose do not do them, but look out for the variety Valour. Donut Peach: Buy in Spring, plant in April. Keep warm in the winter. Small fruits really, but many people love them.

Q: Can you please tell me if the 3ft 3in x 1ft 8in Growbag Growhouse with PVC Cover would be sufficient to take a small lemon tree through the winter; ie just to keep the frost off etc?
A: I do believe you would find it difficult if the weather gets really cold. Inside that particular product the temperature is typically 5C warmer than ambient, without heating. Now if we get -12C it would need heating. You need a temperature of about 5C, and there wouldn't be enough room in there for a heater to work properly. You could use an unheated room, by the window, but too much warmth is dangerous. When it comes to heating buy a min/max thermometer - they are only a few pounds and you can measure how well you are doing. You could go to a local allotment society and find someone who is keeping a cool but frost free space and beg a little room. Finally, you don't have to buy a full blown heater. I find night lights work well, just keep them from anything flammable etc.

Q: I am due to receive three miniature fruit trees together with three tubs after 1st November. I am not a knowledgeable gardener so would appreciate your advice as to type of soil (can I buy it from a garden centre?) and what depth in the tub should I plant the trees.
A: Well any multi purpose soil will do, but buy also a bag of good quality compost and mix that in too. You can get these from a garden centre. Fill the tubs to about two inches from the top. Depending on the tree type, they might well be grafted onto a reducing rootstock, and you will see what looks like a knuckle where the graft took place. This knuckle should be just clear of the soil - about half an inch clear. Firm well in and top up with soil as necessary. Don't forget, containers will need regular watering once the leaves appear on the trees, and feeding more regularly too, I'd say around about once a month with a general purpose fertiliser - not too strong.

Q: I have a small area in my garden against a fence and which is approx 6ft long x about 3 ft wide, it’s also very sunny. I would love to grow a small ‘dwarf’ Apple and a pear tree but unsure if this is possible due to pollination etc. I love Braeburn apples and conference pears and wondered if there were any dwarf trees like these and any you would recommend which I could purchase from you.
A: A wall is ideal for growing apples and pears, but you would only get one of each in there. Regarding pollination, much depends on where you are. If you are within a mile or so of a town or village the probability is they will be pollinated every time. Have a go at Apple, \'Scrumptious\'. With regards to the pear, Primrose do not currently have anything that would fit in your space.

Q: I am interested in honeyberry 'Kamtschatcia', what height does it grow to? Can the berries turn out untasty sometimes due to propagating from seed? Can you guarantee fruit quality taste of the ones you offer? Do you have different varieties of honeyberry that have better fruit? I am also concerned about growing issues if planted near a walnut tree (a toxic substance which walnut roots give out). Is this a concern?
A: The plant will reach 1.5 m but is easily trainable too, although I have never grown one myself. The official height is 1.2 m but I always find they do a little better than official figures eventually. So far as flavour goes it is best to give it a good feed in the spring, making sure there is no real reduction in flavour, and as far as I know it is not affected by genetic influences. I don't imagine anyone has any other varieties at the moment, this being a new plant for the UK. It flowers in late winter, so you might want to hand pollinate with a soft brush or a feather. I am somewhat worried about Juglone from walnuts, an organic compound that can effect or poison other plants growing in the vicinity. What worries me is this plant comes from Siberia, and might never have actually inherited any resistance to the poison. I just can't offer an opinion on that one.

Q: I have a fig tree (brown turkey) delivered today, I plan to keep it in a cool porch untill spring when I will plant it outside. Do I need to keep it moist or dry?
A: Lift it off the ground, on a couple of bricks or something, and then generally leave it until the Spring where you can plant it on. It doesn\'t need watering, but do keep it from driving cold icy winds.

Q: I am interested in purchasing a number of mature laurel plants from Primrose to immediately establish a reasonably mature hedge. I need to put in place a good screening hedge to give us back our privacy. The hedge has two sections - one of 6m and one of 2m. I would like to have the hedge to be around 175cm to 200m tall with the aim for the hedge to be maintained at 180cm (6ft) once it has settled. To ensure that the hedge is reasonably thick to start with how many plants would I need to purchase to provide me with what I need and what spacing would be recommended? Would I need to plant it in a staggered formation to achieve what I require? Which laurel plant would be best to purchase in these circumstances?
A: We would normally recommend planting a hedge of this size from rootballed plants. This ensures there is less stress to the plant and a greater chance of it growing away and establishing quicker. A spacing of 60-80cm is normal as the plants are generally about 45-60cm in diameter on arrival. However if you want a more instant effect then a planting distance of 45-60cm would give you plants that are touching immediately. Unless you want a particularly deep hedge then staggered rows are not necessary - a single row is normally sufficient. For a single 8m row (the total length you say you need at 60-80cm spacing) would be 10-13 plants or at 45-60cm spacing would be 14-20 plants. I would suggest planting the straight Cherry Laurel - Prunus laurocerasus or the variety "Rotundifolia" which has more rounded leaves. We have a specialist supplier of rootballed hedging and could supply these to you. Due to their size and weight they would arrive on a pallet with 10 plants per pallet.

Q: I have just purchased a cherry tree (sunburst), can I plant this in a container? Would you know what size container I would need for this?
A: It's the rootstock that decides if it can be grown in a container. If you can't find that information out, plant it in the largest container you can get - even rubble bags from builders merchants.

Q: I'd like to buy 3 or 4 fruit trees to plant against a wall and so would like fan-trained or espalier trees. Could you advise please on which type would be best?
A: Plum, Apple, Pear and Cherry trees are best for espallier or fan training. Choose plants that are not going to grow too large, on moderate to dwarfing rootstocks - that is trees that will not grow bigger than about 3 - 5 metres. You will also need training wire and attachers to make the framework to train your plants.

Q: I am looking for an informal hedge, but not sure what shrubs to use. I am thinking of using different varities of the Cornus, so I get all year round different colour. But the site is very exposed and can be very windy.
A: Well you are right to think of Cornus. They generally are tough as old boots and make great displays both in summer and winter. There are quite a few to choose from and you can rest assured they will cope with most of the conditions. That's why councils use them a lot in parks, they are almost plant and forget. You could inter-plant them with something like hardy fuchsia, viburnum, forsythia (good spring colour) and pieris, all of which will give your hedge some depth. I would plant in March / early April.

Q: I am interested in purchasing: Fig Tree 'Rouge de Bordeaux' - 3L Pot I have a smallish greenhouse (6x10ft) and plan to train it as an espalier. Would it be suitable to train a 3 year old tree or would I better getting a younger one? Plus, do you think my greenhouse will be big enough or is that irrelvant when creating espaliers?
A: With figs, it is not the shoot that matters so much, as the root - which needs to be unencumbered, and can grow an awfully long way - so there is no need to worry about espaliers, it will be fine. In essence a three year old tree is perfect. So I think you are on to a winner, Rouge de Bordeaux is self fertile, so it will work a treat - feed it well. If you decide to plant outside then go for the variety 'Brown Turkey'.

Q: We are looking for a large (about 5' high) evergreen shrub to go in a partial shaded bed. We want the birds to be able to use it freely, so the branches should be open, not tight together. We were thinking of a Camellia or an Ilex, but are open to suggestions - can you help at all please?
A: If you are putting feeders in it you will get far more birds if you have something with spikes - Hawthorne and Blackthorn are ideal because the birds feel safer from bigger birds and rats. Magpies can easily lurk in Ilex and Camelia. We get far more birds using the thorned bushes, and moreover the squirrels cant get the food so easily. Drawback, these are not evergreen, but you get a wonderful display of flowers in the spring.

Q: What would be the best Magnolia tree for a partially sunny garden that would flower roughly in May. I would like a Magnolia tree with creamy flowers.
A: You are right, magnolias are so beautiful, and are amongst the most ancient of flowering plants. The magnolias, related to roses and buttercups, are all fine in dappled shade. However, most of them flower a little earlier than May, usually around April. The archetypal magnolia flower is the stellata type. Even the cream ones can sometimes become a little pink in the flower. You might want to compliment it with a Clematis Wilsonii, which looks similar but is a climber.

Q: I have just received my Eucalyptus from Primrose and have tried to dig a hole for it, but have come across layers of slate or shale about a foot down. I tried another place, but exactly the same thing happened. We only moved in recently, so did not realise the problem in the garden. Do you have any suggestions?
A: That's quite a problem. Is it a new build? If so it could be builder's rubble, and you can ask for it to be removed. You can grow it in a pot, but it does get very large, and consequently has to be sheltered, and you would need a 40 - 45 litre pot. I suggest that you but a large pot, 12 inch at least diameter for this season, then during the year work at getting through the material, and filling the hole you have made with fresh soil.

Q: Would a President plum tree work as an espalier against a South East wall and trim it so that it is does not stand proud more than 3-4 ft? Or can you recommend a plum tree that would do the job and taste as close to a president as possible?
A: The President Plum should be fine for espalier, which is probably the best thing to do to it in your case. If not that, choose Victoria, just because it is a little easier to work with, but President should be fine. Plug the wall and screw in some hoops, on which you mount very taught wires, about 6 inches from the wall, and train the tree on this foundation.

Q: Will Laurel 'Laurocerasus Rotundifolia' grow successfully under Leylandii trees?
A: I am sorry to say there isn\'t much of a chance of getting anything to grow in that soil so near those big trees. You could try a large container, but even then I doubt it very much. Sorry to bear bad news!

Q: I am looking into buying the Prunus ''Amanogawa'' cherry tree but I would like to know how far away from the building it needs to be planted. The only area that receives a considerable amount of sun in our garden is behind our carport so I would like to plant it there, but would like to know how big the tree would get eventually so I could leave the right amount of distance from the wall.
A: The Lombardy Cherry will grow to about 20 ft, and about 6 ft diameter. It therefore needs to be about 8- 10 ft at least from a wall. It needs full sun. They are hungry plants, needs a big hole with lots of good quality compost back filled into the hole. It will take 20 years to get to full height, though.

Q: Can you advise on the most suitable fig tree for a polytunnel in central Scotland?
A: The most popular (and reliable) fig for the northern UK is Brown Turkey, which is supposed to be hardy outdoors in Northern Scotland, but I think you have the right idea growing it in a polytunnel - the young overwintering fruits can be susceptible to frost. Figs fruit better if their roots are restricted, so keep it in a pot, or use concrete slabs to form a planting hole to curb the root run if planting in a bed. Figs grown in polytunnels can suffer from red spider mite, so regular misting with water is recommended - the pests thrive in dry conditions. Another variety for the British climate is Dalmatie - the fruit has green skin. There are several other varieties including the Tiger Fig, which you would probably be OK with growing in a polytunnel, but the other two are tried and tested.

Q: I recently burnt a lot of wood and foliage in an old dustbin. It was about half full, of ash when I had finished, so that is quite a nice lot of useful stuff. I have kept the lid on since I finished burning so the ash is still dry. I would like to make best use of it and need to dustbin free now for the next burn up. How much of a layer can I safely put in the compost, and where at the time of the year can I put the rest, or should I bag it up?
A: I have a tin box into which I put excess ashes - with a lid on it to keep them together. I then use it with spent compost as a mulch. When putting it on the compost heap, I tend to have no more than an inch as a layer, and cover it with a sheet of newspaper or two, and then soak this with water. It stops the ashes blowing away, and the trickles of water dissolve some of the alkali into the compost beneath. You always get a lot of worms in wood ash treated compost heaps.

Q: What hedge trimmings are suitable for composting? Are the remaining clippings best left elsewhere to to breakdown, or best burnt. I have enough land to do either.
A: Anything wood takes time to compost, but it can be done. Privet is soft enough to break down fairly quickly, though it helps if you can cut the clippings into small pieces. Laurel is very slow, and I tend to treat this plant as though it was leaves for leaf mould - lots of air, a wire net, for example. While we’re on the subject, never use electric clippers on laurel, it makes a mess of the leaves - only use a pair of secateurs.

Blackthorn and other ‘thorns’ are a bit of a pain to compost. I use them differently - some pieces I simply stick in the ground like cuttings, and generally they grow off to thicken the hedge. But you can’t carry on doing that forever, so I resort to burning them, and put the ashes into the compost heap. By the way, I do this with all perennial weeds to stop them from growing in the compost.

Like all woody trimmings, the smaller the pieces, and the more air you can get round them, the better they break down. I know it doesn’t seem right, but leaves are full of wood cells, and so if you treat woody compost like leaf mould, it will break down - but it takes a good year to do so.

Q: How long will it take to get compost and what's the best way to do it?
A: The best way to make compost is to do it hot! In a container that allows air into the material, simply pile up vegetable material. If you use grass clippings, add a layer of newspaper to soak up the juice.
Don’t use any form of animal waste.
Keep it warm and moist - you can buy compost starters to get the whole lot going. Cover the compost with old carpets to keep the heat in.
After 4 - 6 months, turn the heap over with a fork, unless you have bought a rotary compostor, which needs turning once a day.
It will take 8 - 12 months depending on the temperature.
You can use worms to make compost like material too, and this takes about a month to six weeks. You can buy special wormeries for this job.

Q: What should I add to the compost that I make each year from leaf mould, when I use it for starting off my seeds?
A: I sometimes add vermiculite, about 5% of the total volume, and a similar amount of sand - but I have to confess I don't add any fertiliser at all. You could add a trowel full of general purpose fertiliser to a wheelbarrow full of leaf mold to give young seedlings a bit of a boost.

Q: I purchased from Primrose willow screening 2 years ago – very pleased with service and product Can you advise me on maintenance/treatment. Do I need to treat the screening with a wood preserve i.e. cuprinal ducksback or similar?
A: To be honest, I have simply left mine for many years and it has been fine, but it is in a sheltered position. You can use any of the wood preservatives on the screen. Personally I prefer using a brush rather than the spray on types, because run off dribbles onto the ground, and I don't like that too much.

Q: I want to buy a large raised bed that will have to be put onto paving slabs as I don't have any bare earth anywhere in the garden - if I buy more than one of them and stack them together (as the products on your website seem to suggest) what is the recommended minimum depth if I would like to grow a range of vegetables in it e.g. pumpkin tomato carrot? I assume that putting a polyliner in it and punching holes will provide enough drainage or should I put pebbles/gravel at the bottom as well because it will be sitting on slabs ?
A: I would say that 30 cm is fine for most things except potatoes and carrots. They can be easily grown in deeper containers, which you can easily buy / scrounge / make / adapt. You don't need stones or gravel in it, it will only get on your nerves anyway. To be honest, unless you have a real reason for doing it - like you need to keep the paving slabs reasonably clean, you don't need a poly bottom either, and you really can't guarantee that the holes will be where the water naturally settles. I would simply build directly on the slabs. But of course, that's up to you.

Q: I would like a garden full of flowers in bloom ready for March 7th, 2015 - starting from scratch! What would your recommend? Budget is £100-£200.
A: Given it's now February, I am afraid there is little enough time to get anything in the garden for March that will be established in time. You could try some shrubs in pots, such as Cornus - red and golden varieties. You could try a Camelia that was in flower, but it would need to stay in it\'s tub. There are lots of Primroses available at this time of the year. I suggest you buy masses of them. You might be able to get a flowering Cherry, though again, it would need to stay in it\'s tub for a year. For the rest of the year, and to develop your garden a little further, I suggest you fill it with summer bedding, which you can buy as plug plants and transplant into either pots of compost or directly in the soil. You will need to do some work on the soil fist, give it a good digging over and add some compost. Geraniums, Begonias, Antirrhinums, Lobelias, Petunias, Rudbeckias, Californian poppies, Cosmos, Dalhlias, Sweet peas, Love in a mist, Grandma’s bonnets, Stocks. Bulbs: Lilies, Alliums, Agapanthus, Red hot pokers. Then some herbs: Chives, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender. Your garden will be full of insects and wildlife too.

Q: This year the most successful growth at my allotment has been ants. They are vicious red ants and this year have bitten my grandchildren so badly that they no longer want to join me there. I do not want to use a pesticide where I am growing my vegetables, but the ants have really got out of hand. They are everywhere on the plot and would take a week to kill with boiling water from my little kettle and Gaz heater. I need to do something drastic.
A: Red ants can be a real pain, literally! They are full of formic acid, which they spray and they have mandibles like car cutters, which they bite into the area they have sprayed, giving you a double whammy. The best way of dealing with them without using chemicals is to make them want to live somewhere else, and if they are ‘all over’ the plot, this can be quite difficult - you might have many colonies.

Running a rotavator over them every couple of weeks helps, though you need to make sure you are well protected around the ankles and legs. Eventually they get fed up of moving their nursery, and they move on - 'en masse'.

If you know where a colony is, place a large piece of clear plastic over the area and this will increase the temperature of the soil, which will also encourage them to move on.

Q: What would be the most effective hedging plants I can put in to prevent cats from entering my garden? It is enclosed on three sides - one side has a two metre wooden fence, and the other two have a 1m wall with a 1m fence panel above. There also three tree trunks they use to scale the fence. My thinking is to use pyracantha or hawthorn, but I already have a pyracantha in another garden, and the cats come underneath that quite happily. I need something fast growing and bushy especially at ground level. Due to the fences, one side will be quite shaded.
A: I have the same problem and we made a hedge of climbing roses and mahonia, both as prickly as anything, but pretty. The roses were trained in and out of the mahonia plants - in the same way as a blackthorn hedge - a process known as layering.

Q: I live at the end of a semi-detached cul-de-sac and my rear garden is adjacent to a lot of foliage and high Asher trees and because the garden doesn't get a lot of sun it's often quite damp (especially areas that get little or no sun). At the moment we have grass in the garden. Our problem is that in the evening we get slugs/snails on the ground, on the fences and even inside the dustbin. My husband wants to have wood/plastic decking put down. Apart from the damp and bird droppings(passing over from the adjacent trees) I'm concerned about the presence of the slugs/snails and wanted to find out what long term deterrents we can use now and in the future (on the decking).
A: First of all there are millions and millions of slugs and snails in everyone's garden. There are more of them in the soil than you could possibly count - literally millions. You won't ever get rid of them, they reproduce and are really everywhere. The trick is to keep them off your best plants and out of sight. There is no one real answer to this problem, but I will share what has worked for me. Salt is a good deterrent, an inch line around the plants you want to keep, or indeed around the area you want to keep free of slugs, but it's not cheap, and you have to replace it often. Copper tape works well, you can even buy it with little battery packs that gives the animal a little shock, and it wanders off. Eggshell works for a day or two, but I couldn't eat enough eggs to give me enough shells - they don't like crawling over the rough edges. Wool - you can buy a product that is wool based, and it works for a few weeks, but then needs replenishing. Slug pellets work OK but keep them away from your pets. But you never get rid of the slugs. In late Spring, you can treat the soil with nematodes, the soil needs to be warm, so don't do it now. These kill off about half the slugs in the ground, but not all by any means. The best thing I have found to remove slugs are ducks and chickens - and turn the slugs into eggs. But this is a very high maintenance option.

Q: I am getting small maggots eating the roots of my primroses (or they may be polyanthes). My primroses/polyanthes then die. This year I am repotting them and trying to save them but so far they are looking very ill.
A: They are most likely to be Vine Weevil maggots. All the wet we have had has caused a lot of them. When you pick them up do they fold into a tight 'C' shape? Use a Vine Weevil Killer. Be vigilent with all your pots and beds.

Q: I wonder if you can help us. We have bought two Velda Pond Floating Planting Islands for our small pond. We have bought two 35cm square ones to give some protection to our goldfish in the pond.
The question is can you tell us what plants we can put into these planting islands. We want some idea of the plants to use. We don't want any high raised plants as we have a net over the pond to protect the goldfish from the heron which flies across our garden. We would like some plants which do not grown any higher than 6 inches and do not overgrow in the pond itself just something which just grows very slow and does not have a large root system due to the pond been small. The pond is about 6 ft long and is about 4 ft wide and about 4ft deep. It would be nice to have a plant which has small green leaves and some small flowers in season but don't want anything too invasive and grows quickly what do you recommend.
A: You will have difficulty with the six inches, but the following will take being trimmed from time to time to keep them low.
Marsh marigolds are super in one of those floaters, they don't grow too high and make a lovely display. I suggest just filling one alone with it.

Golden buttons will grow twice the height you need, but will stand clipping. You can mix them with marsh marigolds too.

If you line the floater with cling film, you can then grow all kinds of summer bedding in it, from lobelia to cuzco's which will meet your height requirements.

Q: I'm putting a small pond in - what plants can I grow around it? (Not in the pond.)
A: These are called Marginal Plants, and do well in a little water or the damp soil around the pond.
Flowering rush
Tillia - the reedmace (looks like a bullrush)
Water plantain
The arrowhead

And don't forget plenty of irises.
Marsh marigold
Water mint

And the other plant that does really well in these conditions are hostas

Hope this helps - why not send us a picture when you’re done.

Q: We have recently completely cleared our pond of lilies and now need something to replace them, hopefully oxegenated plants. Can you recommend something for a small pond that would flower in the summer and stay fairly green in the winter months. We are hoping to establish some fish in the pond (we only found a couple when cleaning it out), so we would need cover for them over the winter months. Also frogs spawn in our pond February/March so we would hope to establish some suitable plants now in readiness for them.
A: A small pond should be found in everyone’s garden - they are such a wonderful help for wildlife and packed with wonderful things to see. If you plant it properly you should have all year round interest. For the damp edge of the pond try the following:

Alisma plantago-aquatica
A British plant with interesting oval leaves and many small white flowers.

Anagalis tenella
The Bog pimpernel has pink flowers and is very attractive through the summer. It’s a small plant that covers the ground and flowers from June to September.

Caltha paulustris
Well, you really should plant the marsh marigold, a member of the rose family, with it’s vivid yellow flowers. Actually, it comes in about a dozen forms from pinkish to white to yellow.

Rushes (Carex)
There are many rushes, all of which are suitable for pond edges. Try C. riparia, with its lime green leaves.

Equisetum hyemale
This elegant member of the mare’s tail family is a brilliant architectural plant, well worth growing, and many is the time I have seen emerging damsel flies climbing from the water on them.

Irises of all kinds, the native yellow flag is my favourite, make a brilliant sentinel at the water’s edge.

My favourite remains Elodea canadensis. Only the female version exists in the UK, and the reason for this choice is twofold. It is really easy to control, just hook out the excess as it grows and it is a home for freshwater hydras, like small jellyfish, but attached to the plant. Really interesting to see and watch.

Always remember to leave pond debris on the side of the pond for a few days before composting it. It gives the wildlife a chance to crawl back into the water.

Q: I am getting a pond built, which I intend to fill with water and have the Apollo Fountain in, so just water no fish. Do I need a pump? As the water gets grubby, would this break the fountain? Also is there any way around using a pump, for example chemicals to put in the water, or adding salt, or are there any plants that clean the water organically?
A: I take it you don't want fish in the water at all.
If that's the case, then you can use a filter on a pump which will not affect the apollo fountain at all. You can also put some Elodea canadensis in the water, if you want plants the pond which will tend to keep the water clearer, but not completely.
Alternatively, think about adding dye to the water so you can have a black surface - this was all the rage in show gardens a few years ago, and you get a wonderful reflection of pond side plants. I wouldn't use salt, it might eventually rot the fountain mechanism.
Barley straw flakes work to clear a pond, but if it is silty, try one of the pond clearers that work like a vacuum.

Q: We have recently had to empty a fairly large pond to repair a leak, this has resulted in the loss of most of our surrounding iris' and we are now suffering severe erosion on the edges of the pond, despite putting chicken wire on the banks (we have ducks!). Also in the pond there are some fish and a current from a pumped waterfall – so worst of all worlds!. Can you recommend some edging pond plants that would help keep the bank in place whilst not being likely to take over the pond?
A: Your pond sounds idyllic.

Furthest away try loosetrife, more iris (you can’t beat them because their rhizomes knit the soil together.
Closer in try marsh marigold, again, clump forming, and since you have a flow of water, keep on sowing watercress and water mint - the ducks will eat it, but they will form great clumps at the water’s edge, and in the water itself. A few carefully placed rocks will break up the flow at the edge, and provide resting places for damsel flies etc.
Also try if you can to put a wooden walkway for the ducks, it is probably them that are causing the major problem, compacting the bank.

Q: I have a water feature that I purchased from primrose My problem is that the pump keeps getting blocked with snail poo. Is there any way I can get rid of the snails without harming the birds that use the feature as a bath? I have to frequently empty and wash out the feature but it's difficult to get my hose into all the internal nooks and crannies
A: Changing the water won't help that much, because there are so many of them hiding, and being hermaphrodite, they can reproduce all the time too.
Not sure how big your water feature is, but the best thing is to get some fish in there if you can - even a few goldfish will help, minnows are better, and large koi are the best.
But then you might have to watch the bird population pick out some of the fish! Also, a couple of aquatic plants will help a little too, and give the fish somewhere to hide.

Q: Hi, I am currently building a Raised Pond, 2000mm wide x 2600mm long & 600 mm deep.
What plants & how many will I require to keep it oxygenated, second what plants would be good for presentation, I don't intend to keep any fish but will be running two small fountains.
A: Since you are not keeping fish, and have two fountains, the pond should be fine for oxygen. Fill it and leave it a week before planting.
For oxygenation buy a couple of packets of Elodea, it floats in the water and grows quickly, so every few months inspect it and then remove as necessary.
Around the water’s edge try some Mazus, blue and white, Monkey Musk and Penny Royal, and of course a couple of irises.
A couple of water lily plants, no more. My favourite is ‘Barbara Dobbins’ and that should keep your pond in good order all the year through.

Q: I have a small pond for frogs. I have just relined it and put pond compost in. It is only about 4 feet by 3 at its widest and just over a foot deep. Is there a non invasive water lily I can put in to give the little buggers some cover? Would they need a basket, and do I use soil or compost for it? Pink flower with yellow inner would be nice.
A: There isn't really a problem with lilies so long as you grow them in a basket. Pink Opal is as good as any. Use compost which has been washed, so there aren't too many nutrients in it, thus avoiding algal blooms in the summer. You'll need a planting basket, and away you go!

Q: We currently have a low brick pond which is rather unsightly, overgrown and partially solid with roots at one end of the water. I'd like to raise the sides of the pond to sitting height and clear the pond and start again. What should I build the sides with as I don't want to dismantle the original pond? I'd like it to look quite modern. Would I need to add extra liner? Is it best to completely clear the existing plants as they're all intermingled with one another and start again?
A: I would consider concrete blocks, which can be rendered, or cladded or simply left as they are. I would get rid of the old plants, keeping as many as possible. You will find you can divide them and cut them back to replant later. I also would suggest that you have a new liner - in effect, just build up the walls and use the old liner as a base for the new one on top. Where the new walls are made, put sand between the brick / concrete blocks to protect the new liner. The old liner will get frequently pierced when you are doing building work on the pond.

Q: I have just bought several pond plants from Primrise, including a water lily, lychnis flos-cuculi, water crowfoot ranunculous and mimulus cardinalis. They look good, sturdy plants. They were delivered in baskets, but I'm wondering if it would be a good idea to transfer them to bigger baskets before I plant them in the pond. Also, what soil would you recommend for them?
A: I would grow them in the pots they are in already for a year and then repot them next spring. Use pond compost to plant into, water well out of the water, leave for 8 hours and then pop them in the pond.

Q: We have small pond in the front garden. It has enough pond plants in it and is already beginning to develop a natural greenish surface on the black plastic below the water line. However, from the water line to the large, flat but irregular stones fringing the pond, it is still black and exposed to sunlight. Can you suggest plants to plant by the stones that would hang down and help to protect the plastic, knit the stones together and also give a less unnatural look to the waterline?
A: You could try something really simple such as lobelia in pots that will hang down, but this is not always possible. Rushes and sedges can be encouraged to grow at an angle, partly disguising the plastic. Ferns also provide a good spread. It's also a must to grow a King Cup (like an aquatic buttercup) and cotton grasses will also disguise the water edge. Alternatively this problem is often eased by an overhang of decking.

Q: Can you please recommend the best pond plants for the edge of the pond that will grow down into the water to cover the liner?
A: So long as they are out of the water, and I presume planted behind the membrane, then any bedding will do - especially as they are usually pulled up at the end of the year. However, for a more naturalised effect try the rushes, sedges, the Cotulas and the Mimulus. Water mint goes mad, and it certainly will cover, but I'd grow it in a pot to keep it under control, buried behind the pond.

Q: I note from the Primrose website that they recommend planting pond plants in the Spring. As it is now mid June, do I have to wait so long (we have just constructed our pond) or what can be planted now?
A: Generally speaking, Spring is the best time to be planting pond plants. However, so long as you make sure that pond edge plants are not going to dry out (which sounds silly, but often happens) you should be fine. You might not get any flowering until next year, though. When the pond is full of water, give it a day or two to settle before planting.

Q: I have a formal pond approx 5500 Litres. To protect from the sun and add some colour, I propose to buy some floating plants and would like some advice. I am considering water hyacinths and either frogbit (preferably) or water butterfly wings. Will these be suitable as there is some movement in the water, and if so how many would I need to cover one square metre?
A: First of all these plants are ideal for covering the pond, and won't be troubled by the movement of water. I wouldn't try to cover the whole of the surface, aim for half or a little more. The reason for this is these plants are more or less deciduous and you will have to clear away the debris in the winter to allow the water to clear and reduce the amount of nitrates in the water. It is also best to allow the plants to grow into their space rather than buying enough for the space, so I would suggest you buy one or two of each and then let them divide up, which they will, especially the hyacinth - a very vigorous grower - it will grow quickly.

Q: I have a small garden pond and would like to know if I can get a plant that will help to keep it clean?
A: To stop it from going green? This is partly down to oxygen, and any of the water plants, floating or submerged, will help with that. The other problem is stuff getting in the pond, like leaves etc, so at least twice a year it needs raking out with a plastic rake. Get all the stuff out and then leave it on the side of the pond for a while, so the wildlife can get out and back into the water, and fish out any pond plants you might have removed too. To get a quick clearing buy some barley straw flakes, scatter them in the water and the pond will clear fairly quickly, but you will still have to do the above too. Water snails will eat algae too, and having some movement in the water with a solar powered fountain pump will help circulate and oxygenate the water further.

Q: I have bought a preformed pond - a blagdon dragonfly. It holds 55 gallons and has 4 levels for pond plants, also it measures 103cm x 130cm x 44cm. I would be most grateful if you could advise me on plants to use - native ones if possible. It is just for wildlife (no fish).
A: Have a go at Frogbit, Water Hyacinth, red water lily. Around the edge go for irises and tufted loosestrife. Don\'t over fill the pond with plants at first, you\'ll get a feel for how they grow out, and remember you will have to clean the silt out (goodness knows where it comes from) each year. You will get frogs and newts, so some elodea to oxygenate the water is good (though it came to the UK from Canada by accident and is now naturalised.)

Q: Could you please tell me how many oxygenating plants I would need for a pond approx 7ft x 5ft x 3ft deep (approx 2500lts/546 gallons) ?
A: In a way it depends on what is in the pond. If the pond is filled with fallen leaves for example, no mount of oxygenating plants will help. Lots of fish - you need more plants. It is important to keep on top of the maintenance of the pond, not just relying on the oxygenating plants. About ten plants will be fine, and you can considerably help things with a filtered fountain, if for example, you want to grow fat large carp.

Q: Could you advise me on when to plant in my pond please? The pond is Octagonal 6ft x 6ft x 3ft, I would like to have a couple of Lillies, I also have several floating planters that I would like to plant marginal plants such as Flag Iris etc. When would be the best time to plant these? I will also have fish in the pond, Shubunkins, Comets, Tench etc
A: I would tend to wait until late Spring. There are a number of reasons for this, most importantly being the plants are not going to grow much - or at all - now, and any damage to them might well result in more problems down the line. Leaving it until the Spring will mean the plants get off to a better start, more quickly. It's also worth noting that some fish do eat pond plants, so best to start off with a few in Spring and see how they go. If they do eat the plants, it might be becasue they are underfed, so try giving them some pellet food - a little at a time so you don't pollute your pond. If you can see uneaten food after a couple of hours you're overfeeding them.

Q: I would like to put in a water lily to my pond. Can you recommend one from the Primrose stock which would be suitable for this time of year please? I was looking at the double petal white water lily as a possibility. If none is suitable can you recommend any oxygenating plants which would give some protection to my fish? The pond is approximately 3 metres diameter x 75 cms deep and there are currently only 2 koi carp approximately 50 cms long.
A: I would wait until the Spring before buying anything exotic for the pond. However, I would buy some oxygenating plants - not that your plants need them, there is plenty of oxygen in your pond for those two brilliant fish. I would order a few bunches of Elodea - sometimes called Crispa Elodea. These will keep the nitrates low in the water. If you want some shade for the fish, use a piece of wood over a corner of the pond. The reason for waiting before buying the lilies (any of the Primrose ones will do) is that to install them now might just be a waste - they won't grow, and the fish might have a go at them, and they will not repair themselves until the spring anyway.

Q: What quantity of oxygenating plants are required per m2 of a large existing pond - the circumference is 74m?
A: That would make the pond pretty large, and as such needs no oxygenating plants. But I would try to give some marginal plants such as iris, sedge etc. and some shelter plants for cover. Choose almost any plants you like really, particularly from the lilies. The idea being that you are giving any fish or wildlife you have in the pond a place to avoid other fish and birds. But a pond of the area you suggest has enough oxygen dissolving from the surface.

Q: I want to buy a water lilly as a present to be kept in a container. Which Lilly do you suggest and do you stock suitable containers for them?
A: Any lily - try Pole Star, will go well in a 45 cm pot. Carefully remove some of the compost each year and replace and feed like a house plant in the summer. Remove the dead stalk each Autumn and after three years pour the lot out and divide the bulbs up - you'll get 4 times the lilies for your money.