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Your Gardening queries - 19


Colour for Adventurous Gardeners 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.


A selection of this month`s gardening problems  - November  2004    

Due to the amount of post I am receiving from readers, I am choosing for this page mainly those problems that haven`t been printed before..


Do please keep writing in with your problems.  


* Debra Ryan, I answered your query but your email was returned to me as undeliverable!

Q:  Chris asks:-  I am looking at installing a 15 foot stream in my garden, but I have no idea where to start. Could you give me any pointers as to design etc.
A:  Go to your local library, or buy yourself a book with garden pool and stream projects. This will give you an idea of a suitable design and building instructions. Then ask at your local builders merchant or DIY store about materials..

You would probably need some professional advice regarding the plumbing and


Q:  Angela says:-  I am pretty new to gardening and have grown some blue trailing lobelia and some red Salvia plants. They are starting to go off a bit now. Can I save the seeds for next year, and when is the best time to start them off, and do I need a heated greenhouse, or can I grow them indoors?

A:   You can save seeds of almost any plant that produces them, but you will often get a poorer specimen the next year, because the flowers were probably pollinated randomly by the bees. Buying new each year ensures F1 hybrid seeds, which produce big healthy uniform plants..

I save seeds from certain flowers for a few years, then find the flowers are weak with poor colours, and at that stage I go back to buying new stock.

Back to your salvias and lobelia...

Harvest the seed during a dry spell and store them overwinter, in paper envelopes kept in a cool dry place..

Start them off next spring, in seed trays on a window sill.. If you are unsure how to sow them, take a peek at the instructions on the back of similar seed packets in your local supermarket

Q: Ruth and David want to know: We have a laurel hedge that we are trying to grow. How long do the roots grow and can they cause poblems.

A:   I don`t know the answer to your query!

But I have recently moved three smallish (6ft) laurel bushes while we erected some fencing, and they had fibrous root balls rather than roots, so I assumed their roots would not be a long-term problem..

Looking around my immediate area too, I can see established laurel hedges where the pavement has not been distorted by their roots and also the gardens adjoining the laurels have flowers and shrubs growing quite happily, which indicates the laurels are not sapping the goodness and moisture from the soil, and therefore probably have compact root systems.

Laurels make splendid, dense, evergreen hedges that are easy to maintain.  


Q:   From Celia:   I see that you use and recommend the services of . I have e-mailed my local franchise of the business and asked them to make contact with me, so I am awaiting their response. Can I ask you if you found their services to be reasonably priced? My front lawn is about 25 feet by 25 feet and my back garden is about 80 feet by 40 feet. The grass is becoming infested with clover, viola and yarrow and I need it sorted

A:   When I reckoned up the annual cost of weed killer and fertiliser for my lawn, which is about half an acre in size, I thought the treatments at ?40 per time were reasonably priced. Each year I would also spend approximately five whole days in lawn maintenance, apart from the actual mowing. Now I spend 30 minutes a week mowing it with my tractor - it`s wonderful!

The Greenthumb guys are so efficient and polite, and I would say go for it, they`re very reasonable and worth every penny. There is no contract to sign, just tell them if you want to stop the treatment at any time.



Q:  Mrs M.B.Halls asks:  I have had to take premature retirement and my partner has got me a greenhouse to try to stop my boredom. I would like to sow seeds so that we can have colour in our garden all year round. The problem is I have no idea when to start seeds off and when they would become ready to take from the greenhouse and plant out into the garden. I.E. When would I start off sowing petunia seeds so they grow into plants to plant out in spring etc? Is it too late for me to start sowing pansy seeds now so they will be ready to plant out when all our summer bedding plants are ready to take out? I would be grateful for any information you could forward me about the sowing of seeds etc.

A:  If you are a novice gardener it would be wise to get a couple of gardening books from the library to learn the basics of caring for plants and soil etc.

You will find the cultural requirements and growing instructions on the back of all seed packets, which is very useful as different types of seed usually need different care.

If you are in the UK, pansy seed is usually sown in the spring or early summer, so it might be worthwhile to buy some ready grown plants for this winter.

Petunias will be sown about next March, ready to put in the garden at the end of May, after the danger of frost is past. It might be wise to spend this autumn and winter learning the basics so you will be prepared for next spring..

Have a look at  seed specialists, whose website is a mine of information. You can request a seed catalogue which makes lovely reading on a cold winter`s day. Good luck with your new hobby, it`s addictive.



Q:  Jacqueline asks: How old does a wisteria need to be before it flowers? Ours is at least 4 years old, grows well and gets bigger every year, but never flowers. It grows up the supporting rails of a front porch on a west facing wall. Can you please tell me why you think it hasn't flowered. I also have a large
Grass with glossy dark green leaves and seed heads in summer. It had got very large and untidy so I cut it back to about one foot high. Have I done the wrong thing and will it grow again?

A:  I suspect that your Wisteria was a cutting rather than a grafted plant. You
can buy grafted wisteria that will flower when very young and wisteria grown
from cuttings which will flower eventually, but it could take a few years.
Your grass will be fine and will re-grow. You can also dig up the clump and
replant just a portion of it, which will give it a new lease of life.


Q:  Clinton asks:   I have a red cordyline which has been in the ground for 6 years here in London, UK. Now it's about 7 feet tall, the trunk at the bottom half is 10 inches circumference, narrowing to 7 inches in the centre to 5 inches at the top and it flowered for the first time this summer. It seems healthy though the head is not as full as it used to be.

Vigorously growing rather too close to the cordyline is my trachicarpus fortunei and so i would like to move the cordyline and transfer it to a rather large pot.

Do you think this is possible without killing the cordyline? How much root must I transfer over, what size pot, what time of year and what other things must I consider to give the tree a good chance of survival?

A:  I have put some advice for you below, but it is quite a big plant to move, so be prepared for it not to survive the trauma.

If you were transferring it from a pot to the ground it would definitely be OK, but you will be transferring it from a position where the roots have spread freely to a confined place.. You will certainly lose a lot of root when you lift it, as they like to spread out..

  • Wait until the Spring when new growth starts.

  • Water it thoroughly before digging it up.

  • Get as much of the root as possible

  • Re-pot it in the biggest tub you can get, and put a layer of gravel in first.
    Keep it well watered (not waterlogged) until it is established and growing once more.

  • Let it spend next summer in a cool place.


Previous editions of your gardening queries: 

Edition 1

Edition 11

The new complete book of self sufficiency









Edition 2

Edition 12

Edition 3

Edition 13

Edition 4

Edition 14

Edition 5

Edition 15

Edition 6

Edition 16

Edition 7

Edition 17

Edition 8

Edition 18

Edition 9 

Edition 19

Edition 10




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..  


       Alan Titchmarsh - How to be a gardener    Amazon Book - The Healing Garden    Amazon Book - RHS Plant Finder 2001 -2002    Amazon Book - "Home Front" in the Garden

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