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Your Gardening queries - 27

July 2005   


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 your gardening queries.


July 2005     

Q: Honeysuckle needs pruning and repotting:

I have a honeysuckle which lives in an old, tall flowerpot and grows up the side of my house – the sun comes on it in the morning (I live in Scotland) I have lived in the house for 3 years so I don’t know how old the honeysuckle is though it must stretch some 20 feet along and up the wall. Each year there is vigorous, good growth until about now when the leaves shrivel/curl over and die off yet remain on the stems. There are no flowers. I haven’t pruned it or anything as I don’t know what’s wrong with it and so don’t know where to start. 



A:  If it were me, I would first prune it right back, then repot it, but into the ground if you possibly can. It sounds as if it has outgrown its present container. While you are looking at the roots check there are no vine weevil grubs causing havoc, or indeed any other pests. Check the leaves too for greenfly as they are often the worst culprits.



Q: Ants in clematis:  


I have recently planted a clematis,
but the flowers are covered in ants. I've heard this is due to them
'milking' the aphids. How can I get rid of the ants, as I'm afraid that
spraying bug killer on the open buds will harm the flower.

A: You could try putting an ant `bait tin` at the foot of the clematis..
Another tip for getting rid of ants, I learnt recently, was to put talcum
powder round the stem of the affected plant. Ants can`t get a grip!




Q: Pruning Camelia:


Can you please tell me if it is ok to prune a camelia bush?


A: Yes it is. I pruned one for my parents last year and it was better than ever this season.. Take care to prune it before the new buds have formed. Immediately after flowering was when I did the pruning.


Q: Squirrels destroying hanging plants:

I'm a teacher and I bring my hanging plants home with me for the summer and they usually florish.. However, I have a ridiculous amount of squirrels who are tearing them up. Is there a spray or something I can sprinkle on the surface to keep the squirrels from burying their nuts or whatever in them. They are getting ruined. They are also gnawing on the stems. Most of these plants are over 5 years and the envy of everyone that sees them.

A:  Squirrels, like foxes, have good memories of where they stored food in previous years. We have a fox that dug up a tub each year looking for a long- gone duck egg he buried many moons ago... This year I moved the tub and he left it alone... You could try moving the plants to another location..

Failing that, the plant containers would need to be totally enclosed in some sort of mesh to keep the squirrels from getting anywhere near the plants..
I am not aware of a spray that will keep squirrels at bay, but you could enquire about this possibility at your local garden centre..



Q: Broad beans wilting:

Suddenly as they are coming into flower several plants of my Broad Beans have wilted. I have dug some up to investigate and find that it is Leather Jackets eating through the roots. We have often had this problem with young lettuce plants in the past but never with fully grown plants like beans before. We dislike using chemicals in the garden but cannot find anything organically apart from reading about some sort of fly or grub to introduce to the garden which apparently not only the wrong time of the year but far too expensive for the amount we would need to cover our large garden aprox 1/3 acre. Is there anything you or your readers can suggest even if it means resorting to chemicals?

A:  I only know of the usual treatment for leatherjackets as follows:
Water plants with pirimiphos-methyl, or treat the affected soil with chlorpyrifos+ diazinon.. Leatherjacket damage usually occurs when virgin land is first cultivated and the problem usually diminishes over a few years.



Q: Neighbour's tree roots

My neighbour has allowed a horse chestnut seedling to grow in a very narrow space between a wall and a garage insisting that he can restrict its growth severely by pruning the branch severely year. Is this possible or will the roots still continue to grow? Also, could you settle another disagreement. Are all birch trees protected thus making it illegal to cut them down?


A: Pruning the branches of the horse chestnut will certainly restrict the top growth, but the roots will probably still continue to spread.. Horse chestnut trees are really meant to be grown in large open spaces..

As far as I know there is no automatic protection for birch trees, but if you live in a conservation area there could be TPOs (tree preservation orders) on all trees!

However there are rules about trees growing a certain distance from buildings, because of the damage their roots might cause and you could consult your local council about that. A recent ruling has also just been passed that helps neighbours with disputes over tall conifers that restrict a householder`s light..

I hope you can sort this out amicably with your neighbour, because long drawn-out disputes often end unhappily. There is also the danger that if you complain to your local council, they will charge you for investigating it!


Q: Creeping Buttercup in lawn:

I have Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) in my lawn. Although it looks nice, I also have pet rabbits, and the buttercups are lethal to them. How do I get rid of the creeping buttercup without harming the rabbits.

A: It spreads by seed and creeping surface runners, which root along their length.. You can dig them out, taking care to remove the crown of the plant and the runners..

Weedkillers to use on creeping buttercup are systemic spot lawn weedkillers containing Glyphosate.. But I don`t know if it is safe to use these with livestock in the vicinity: check the instructions very carefully..


Q: Whitefly destroying plants:


My plants are rampant with white fly, despite continuous spraying with a variety of products. I am not happy using chemicals, and tend to stick to organic solutions. Is there anything else I can do? I even have it on my sage plant this year. Can I make a home made solution of anything? I have heard somewhere about a recipe using garlic...



A:   Until three or four years ago I sprayed all my plants regularly against whitefly/greenfly/blackfly, but like you I wasn`t happy about it. I then heard Alan Titchmarsh on TV suggest that by stopping spraying, eventually a natural balance would occur.. So I decided to give it a try

This year for the very first time I have no garden pests!

It makes sense, because spraying not only kills the bad guys, but the good ones too!



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

Edition 20


Edition 21 Edition 22
Edition 23

Edition 24

Edition 25

Edition 27


Edition 26





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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