Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Your Gardening Queries - 12


Mary Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?         

With silver bells and cockle shells,                    

And pretty maids all in a row....                     


If only gardening were as simple as that little nursery rhyme. But it isn`t, so we are putting some of the solutions here to problems you have written to us about, so everyone can have the benefit.


Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife.  Click here for previous editions of Gardener`s Diary.



This month`s gardening problems  - April 2004


Q:  Debbie has a query about Portugese Laurels:

Can you grow Portugese Laurel trees in large containers? I believe you would have to keep them pruned. Do they need sun or shade and are they relatively hardy?

A:    I suppose you could grow them in large containers, but bearing in mind their eventual heightis about 20m, they might outgrow them too quickly. Having said that, if they were pruned regularly, the roots and stem would stay restricted - sort of bonsai`d!  

As to aspect, I have them in sunny spots and shady corners and they all do equally well. Just take care that they are a bit protected against weather extremes.

Q:  Judy wants to know what to feed her Gunnera and peonies:

Our gunnera plants are starting to pop up and, so our peonies. What do I feed them.  I heard the gunnera's are heavy eaters. 

A: Generally, the soil should be rich in nutrients and organic material. If you make your own compost, adding some of this annually will do the trick. Gunneras like to grow near water and are very thirsty plants.. Peonies are not particularly fussy as to the type of soil, but they will benefit from the addition of organic material and compost into the planting hole when they are planted out. Other than that, they need good drainage and a soil pH which is neutral (pH 7.0) or at the most, only slightly acidic.

Q: Traci wants to know what is wrong with her Yukka:

We have a very large yukka (8 feet or so high) in our lounge.  It was
repotted last spring and has been doing well and looking healthy until a
couple of months ago when the lower leaves turned yellow.  I removed the yellow leaves and almost straight away the same thing happened with the next ones up?

A: I shouldn`t worry about it too much as evergreens do shed their lower leaves periodically. I have a Dracaena which is about seven feet tall and lives in
the unheated conservatory. It bakes in the summer and freezes in the winter
when, incidentally, many of it`s lower leaves go yellow and drop off.. It
grows really well though.

(I also enclosed some cultural information which has been on other yukka queries..)

Q: Audrey wants some help:

Could you point me in the direction of buying materials for raised flower beds?

A: If you have a local DIY store near you, they will be able to supply everything you need, including compost and plants. Otherwise try a local builders` merchant, who will have catalogues of the latest resin type blocks and planks for building tough but lightweight raised flower beds.. You could search in "Google", the search engine, for garden building products, to get an idea of the type of material you fancy building it from.  Perhaps your local library has garden design books that you can look at for ideas.


Q: Christine has a problem with plants that don`t flower

I planted a couple of clematis and honeysuckles 3 years ago.  They arrived as "mature plants".  They look healthy and have plenty of leaves.  I have pruned them, but not too viciously.  However, I have not had a single flower on any of them.  What am I doing wrong? 

A: I wonder if you are pruning the honeysuckles in the autumn, which is the correct time for most of them...Honeysuckles that flower early in the season, on short laterals from the previous year's growth, should be pruned back by about one-third in late summer immediately after flowering.  Another reason for non- flowering could be that you are being too kind to them, with soil that is too rich and peaty.. They thrive on neglect.  You might also be pruning your clematis at the wrong time of year.. There are many types of clematis and three basic times to prune clematis with different growth habits..  

Without knowing where you live, what type of soil you have, the aspect of your plants, or their type, I could not give you an honest answer. The best I can suggest is that you search "Google" for cultivation requirements for these two plants, or borrow a gardening book from your local library..


Q:  Mel wants to plant a Pyracantha hedge:

I am considering planting a Pyracantha hedge and would like some info on the type of soil, time to plant, best type of plant and any other useful info you could muster up.  The hedge will be about 15ft  x 20ft.  Is this a good hedge and how long will it take to reach about 21/2 ft in heightif I plant it from small plants about 15cm high?

A:  A Pyracantha hedge will certainly deter burglars as they are very prickly plants! Pyracanthas are tough plants that don`t need much in the way of water or care, other than an annual pruning.. They grow about 12 inches a year.. When planting them, (preferably in the spring) mix some compost in the soil and sprinkle some slow release fertiliser granules around the roots. Keep moist until established.

I must admit to not having seen a hedge of these shrubs and they would not be my first choice as they are usually grown up against walls as espaliers.


Q: Denise has a problem with her yukka:

I seem to have what seems like a fungus of some kind growing on my Yukka plant, this is the second one I have got that has this problem, even the baby new leaves are affected, I have just tried some organic anti-fungal spray, but to no avail.  Is this a common problem with the Yukka plant? And what would you suggest before my baby goes belly up?

Without knowing the conditions in which your yukka is growing, it is very difficult to make a diagnosis. I have put some cultural information below in the hopes that you will be able to see if anything is not quite right for it.

Very often though, there is no apparent reason for a plant failing to thrive and you will need to start again by re-potting your plant and perhaps moving it to a different position....

(I  enclosed some cultural information which has been on other yukka queries..)

Previous editions of your gardening queries: 

Edition 1

Edition 2

Edition 3

Edition 4

Edition 5

Edition 6

Edition 7

Edition 8

Edition 9 

Edition 10

Edition 11

Edition 12




Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife.

Click here for previous editions of Gardener`s Diary..  



Back to laterlife today

Site map and site search


Advertise on