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Planning Retirement Online

Your Gardening queries - 4


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  

Q:  Dee Doyle asks:- I have a honeysuckle which lives in a container on my roof garden. It is around 12/15 years old. For the past 5 years I have not had the pleasure of seeing it flower, and it is a total mystery why this is the case. The buds form prolifically in May, but as they swell and start to get larger, they virtually all disappear over a period of around a couple of weeks.  The buds are pulled out whole as opposed to nibbled. I have established that the birds are not to blame, by netting the whole thing from tip to ground.  Also, although I do suffer with slugs, there has never been a trace of these on the shrub.  Someone suggested mice, and another person earwigs.  Whatever it is, there is never a trace of the stolen buds either on the ground or on the top of the container.  The shrub is otherwise healthy, with good foliage. If anyone can help me to find a solution to this problem I would be grateful. How I miss it's delightful fragrance and blossom. 

 A:  I am really unsure of the reason for your buds dropping and am making a guess at the cause.. I have two identical honeysuckles in different aspects of my garden and the one that has cool, moist roots, flowers it`s socks off, whilst the other one with it`s roots in dry, sandy soil has spindly new growth, doesn`t flower and is covered in aphids year upon year. I have seen the dropped buds from the dry honeysuckle carried off by ants, possibly looking for aphids.

Another problem could be that your honeysuckle has become pot-bound

I think you may need to turn detective with a magnifying glass looking for hidden insects or diseases! I am curious to know the answer to your problem and sorry I cannot be more positive! If any reader can help Dee, please e-mail me  

Q: Yvonne Goold says: I have been trying to purchase 2 gadgets called Hi-Lo's. They are used to raise and lower hanging baskets, I have two in use but they are showing signs of wear.  My local garden centres have heard of them but no longer stock them, can you tell me if they are still about.  Incidentally they are invaluable for us senior citizens.

A: I haven`t seen them for sale in quite a while, but agree with you that these pulleys are invaluable, making watering and deadheading an easy task.. However, I have searched on the internet and come across this website address which gives fairly simple instructions for making them. Not much equipment needed either.

Q: Sylvia Wright asks: Is there anything I can do this month to eradicate the clover on my lawn without using a week killer which will leave black patches?

A: Funnily enough I have just written that I have had to treat some stubborn patches of clover that weren`t killed by the spring application of `weed and feed`.. I did use a weedkiller though - Verdone, but find that it does the trick without leaving those horrid black patches you mention.  I`m afraid I don`t have any ideas for non-chemical treatments though, other than physically ripping all the clover out..



Q: Nigel Gostelow says: I was interested to read your article on seed collection.  I am interested in collecting Busy Lizzie seeds in order to make attractive different colour displays - such as a George Cross.  Are the seeds in the small pod in the centre of the flower or is it just one seed?  Does the pod need drying out? 

A: The first thing I need to tell you is that collected seeds will be random colours due to cross pollination and the plants themselves won`t be F1 hybrids.You will have no way of knowing what colours to expect from your seedlings, so for making colour displays you would need to buy packets of seeds in your required colours. (There are not many seeds per packet, so shop around different brands.)The seeds are indeed the small ridged pod in the centre, that swells and eventually explodes. You will need to be quick to catch them at the right time; too soon and they won`t be ripe enough, too late and they will explode! Keep seeds in a paper bag in a dry cupboard over winter and when it is time to sow them, make sure they have a very warm place such as an airing cupboard with a constant temperature, to aid germination.. Put the seed trays inside polythene bags to maintain a humid atmosphere necessary for germination.

Even if you won`t be able to make the colour displays due to random colours, you will get nice healthy plants.



Q: Ann from Belize (formerly British Honduras), Central America says: I have a type of Jasmine in my garden which I am unable to identify. I think it is jasmine. I have searched on the web but cannot find a web site with pictures. Could you give me the address of a botanical; or other site where I may have better luck..  

 A: I have put two website links below for you to use in your search. I have just been trying the RHS link myself to do a search on your behalf and it came up with 42 results for jasmine and the addresses of nurseries selling them. A case of back tracking perhaps. The other address has eight Jasminums all with images. Failing this, I would go to my local library, find a quiet corner and plough through some gardening books. There are also quite a few garden enthusiast forums on the internet, where, if you could place a photo of your jasmine, a kind soul would surely have the answer.. 

Q:  Elly from New Zealand writes:  My teenage daughter has bought herself a yukka plant. How does one care for it. We live in New Zealand, Christchurch (South Island) and get frost but no snow. My daughter has the plant in her bedroom. The bedroom is on the cold side of the house.

  • Where does the plant originate from to mimic conditions.

  • How much/little water? 

  • Does it benefit from a thorough soaking once a month? (ie place in a bucket of water for a couple of hours.) 

  • Does it mind 'wet feet?

  • It is in a smallish pot. Does it need to be transplanted into a larger pot.

  •  How much shade can it stand?

  • Is it an indoor or outdoor plant? etc. etc. 

A: Yukka is a genus of about 40 species of rosette-forming or woody-based perennials, evergreen shrubs, and erect, eventually spreading, evergreen trees from hot, dry places, such as desert, sand dunes, and plains, in North and Central America and the West Indies. A mature Yukka is a False Palm. It will need a deep, well-drained container which can be moved outdoors in summer. In winter it will require an unheated and well-lit spot. 

Temperature: Average warmth in summer - minimum 55F in winter. Brightly lit spot. Provide as much light as possible.

Water: Keep compost moist at all times but never waterlogged. Reduce watering in winter. Use soft, tepid water. Misting is not necessary.

Propagation: Remove and pot up offsets, or root cane cuttings in winter. 

Pruning: If your plant gets too tall you may cut it down or just cut out some of the stems and new shoots will appear. 

I hope this has answered your questions and the yukka will thrive. 



Previous editions of your gardening queries:


Edition 1

Edition 2

Edition 3

Edition 4




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



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