Enjoy some of the most popular gardening questions found on the web.
Q. Many of my daffodils failed to produce flowers last spring. Most have been in the garden for many years. Should I feed them and are they likely to bloom again next spring?
A. After a few years daffodil bulbs can become overcrowded, restricting their ability to grow and develop; this reduces or puts a stop to flower production. You could lift, divide, replant and feed, but it is probably more sensible to lift and dispose of the old bulbs and plant new ones. Daffodils and narcissi are an inexpensive commodity so you certainly get value for money if they last a few years. Flower production can also be disappointing if the foliage has been cut down too early, or if it dies back quickly due to drought. The foliage needs last long enough to feed the bulbs ready for next year’s flowers.
Q. I love lavenders and keep planting them in my garden but they rarely survive. Usually they thrive in the first summer and then deteriorate over winter; any suggestions?
A. Some lavenders are excellent long-term plants, and others are not quite as hardy as they might be. The best ones to choose for general planting are selections of Lavandula angustifolia with narrow silver-green leaves. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Imperial Gem’, although they have been around for many years, are still the most reliable dark blue lavenders. If you are on heavy damp soil add plenty of grit and mulch the soil surface with coarse grit.
As soon as the flowers start to fade in late summer trim the plants back to just below the bottom of the flower stalk.
Q. I planted a wisteria several years ago. It is in a sunny spot on the house wall and has grown vigorously but refuses to produce many flowers. How can I encourage a better display?
A. Wisterias fail to flower well for a number of reasons. Grafted plants which are propagated from selected free flowering cultivars are the most reliable. Seed raised plants are variable when it comes to flower production. However pruning has a big influence. You should prune twice a year, summer and winter. In summer shorten back the long new shoots to 6inches. The resulting long, thin shoots are then pruned back in Late Fall.
Q. What’s the difference between climbing and rambler roses?
A.Climbing roses are generally less vigorous and have larger flowers, more like hybrid tea, floribunda or shrub roses. Ramblers are usually stronger growing, larger plants that produce clusters of smaller flowers. Most climbing roses repeat flower, most ramblers bloom only once in early summer, however there are exceptions in both cases. Many climbers are climbing forms of bush roses, or just shrubs that are tall enough to train as a short climber.
Q. What is the best safe method of controlling slugs and snails?
A. There are countless recommendations for controlling slugs and snails; probably the most despised but persistent garden pests. You can of course use nature friendly slug pellets; these are the ones without metaldehyde which should be avoided. To protect individual plants the pellets based on wool waste make an effective barrier. Some recommend beer which attracts the pests and they drown in it. Others say that wheat bran from the health food store is really effective;the pests basically overeat and it kills them. I have more snails than slugs and I find slate tiles in shaded positions, and stacks of old flowerpots are brilliant at attracting the snails. I the collect them and take them up the lane to a hedgerow where I hope the birds find them. I suspect they make their way back, but I feel better about it! See also how to protect hostas from slugs and snails
Q. I grew tulips in pots last year. When they had finished flowering they died down naturally and I have kept them in the pots over the summer. Should I repot them or feed them, and will they flower again next spring?
A. I never recommend that you grow tulips in pots for more than one year; normally they are very disappointing in the second year. It would be better to start with new bulbs. If your tulips are hardy single varieties: Darwin, triumph or single late they may well produce some flowers and can establish well if you transfer them to the open ground.
Q. I was given a lovely Phalaenopsis; it bloomed beautifully and produced side branches with more flower buds. Recently these have been dropping off the plant without opening. What has caused this?
A. Bud drop is nearly always caused by either overwatering or temperature variation. If your plant has been on a windowsill where it gets warm in the day, and then is cold at night when the curtains are drawn, it may drop its buds, especially if the compost is too wet. Either leave the curtains open at night, or move the plant onto a table near a window and keep it there all the time.
Usually the label warns against direct sunlight. This is usually only harmful in scorching weather in summer; you must make sure that your plant has enough light, otherwise it will not flower. The best way to water is to immerse the pot in a bowl of room temperature water once a week until it stops bubbling. Then drain thoroughly before replacing in a pot cover. If the compost is too dry both flowers and leaves tend to wilt; if too wet the roots suffer and the buds drop.
Q: I have a number of Hellebores in the garden. Should I cut off the leaves in winter or leave them alone until the new shoots appear next spring.
A: It is really only Helleborus x hybridus (varieties of Helleborus orientalis) that you remove the leaves from before the plants flower. Personally I leave the leaves in place until late winter, when the buds start to poke through the soil surface. Then I cut back the leaves to ground level and mulch the plants with multi-purpose compost. This gives a nice clean, dark background to show off the flowers. I would remove the leaves earlier if the start to show any signs of spotting on the leaves. This fungal disease can spread to the flowers; removing the leaves prevents this.
If you have any gardening questions please feel free to email me and I will get you the answers.
Cheers, Mark Saidnawey
Pemberton Garden Services