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Your Gardening Queries - 6


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:  Landra Richter writes -  I planted the passion flower vine about two years ago and it has taken over my yard. Then I planted a cypress vine and it did the same thing. Any suggestions on how to control these vines? Thanks for your help.

A:  You seem to have perfect growing conditions for these two rampant plants! The Cypress Vine we know in the UK as "Ipomoea" or Morning Glory, having either blue, white or red trumpet like flowers.. There is nothing for it but to prune them back to the size that suits you.. Wait until the Spring and start with the smaller shoots and tendrils, gradually working your way in to the larger stems until you have a reasonable size and shape.. I am assuming both plants are outside in your garden and will need to overwinter in cooler conditions.

Q: From ACmrn  - Could you please tell me how old an outdoor yukka plant has to be before it flowers. My plant is 3 years old. Also what is the best time to move them and the best way to do it

A:  My yukkas didn`t flower for about seven years, which would make them about ten years old. It would depend on your climate also.. Hot and sunny will make them mature sooner. They are tough plants and will move easily. You need to prepare it for the move by first watering it well, then digging as big a hole as possible so as not to break off too many roots,  finally re-planting it deeply enough and making sure it has enough water until established.. It would be a good idea to tie the plant up and put some sacking round it for your protection, as these are dangerous plants to fall onto.

Q:  Steve asks - I have an old plum tree in the garden.I pruned a couple of over hanging twigs in February and some of my plums are now growing with a purple fungal type growth and some appear to be weeping. Any suggestions?

A: It sounds as if your plum tree is suffering from Brown Rot which causes a rapid decay of fruit while it is still on the tree. As to the weeping or gumming, this appears to be a physiological disorder. Established trees benefit from dressings of nitrogen and also applications of bulky organic manures. Take some advice as to chemical treatment from your local garden centre or DIY store and give it some TLC for a few years to see if it can be saved. A good session of pruning will also help and this is the correct time of year to prune established plum trees.  I hope this helps.

Q: P Daniels asks- My wife purchased a potted Wisteria a couple of months back. She transferred it into a bigger pot and the plant seemed OK for a short while. .My wife covered the peat over with some shells we had collected from a short break over to cardiff and now  the Wisteria seems to be looking very drab. Do you think it could have something to do with salt out of the shells? Look forward to your reply. 

A:  The first thing you should do, unless it is a dwarf variety suitable for growing in pots, is to plant it in your garden, up against a wall. Wisterias need to have plenty of root space as they grow to 30 metres or more... I don`t think the shells will have contributed to the condition of your plant, but to be on the safe side, take them off and give them a thorough wash...

Q: From Jean  -  We have a Portugese Laurel Bush in our garden, which, after 19 years, has grown a bit too large. A local tree surgeon has said he could cut it right down and it would gradually grow again over the years but would give us some space for now. Is this an Ok solution? I'd be grateful for any advice. 

A:  Beware of tree surgeons wielding chain saws, because nothing is safe from them.. I have just been out into my garden and looked at my five Portugese laurels which were planted four years ago and now stand about 12ft x 6ft in size. Each one of them has just one main trunk with many smaller branches growing outwards. Without knowing the size of your garden and the size of the laurel, I cannot say in all honesty what you should do. If it were me though I would do what I did recently to a Bay Laurel in my garden, that had reached enormous proportions.. It was multi-stemmed and I cut them all off except the main central stem. I then cut off all the lower branches up to three feet from the ground, resulting in a beautifully shaped tree.. If it had been too tall, I would have taken some off the height. I had looked at it countless times and had to do something with it, so eventually I just got stuck in... Portugese Laurels are very forgiving, so why don`t you have a go at shaping it first, because I fear you may be left with a huge gaping gap and regret any decision to remove it.. If you are not able to do the work yourself, tell the tree surgeon what you want doing, and ask him if he is prepared to do it. If not find a gardener who will.. Of course if you don`t like the laurel anyway, this is an excellent excuse to replace it with a different shrub..

Q: From Byron - I have a number of Cordylines in excess of 8 ft in heightthat are planted in  the ground. I need to move them to rebuild a wall. Can I move them into large pots as a permanent measure?

A: It seems your Cordylines will have to take their chances on survival if they are in the way of a wall that needs rebuilding.. If it is not possible to work round them, you can try moving them temporarily, and replanting them in the ground after the work is complete. They they will have large roots and won`t take kindly to living in pots after being in the ground. They will also be top heavy and get blown over in the wind...
Cordylines are very resilient plants and you may find it easier to dig them up, rebuild your wall then replant them. Make sure you get as much root as possible and keep them moist until you replant them..
I bought a twin stemmed cordyline four years ago and decided that as it had grown to look a bit `squashed` I would remove one of the stems. Like yours it was about 8-10 feet tall. It looks much better with only one straight trunk and the remains of the second stump now has eighteen new shoots!
This of course is another option you have, chop them down and they will regrow..

** Update from Byron... We have decided to move the main one (I have three) that is in the way of the driveway expansion, to an extremely large pot (nearly 4 feet high and 3 1/2 feet wide) and see how we go from there.  I will forward some pictures on completion.  

* I often wonder how you got on with your gardening problem.. Did you take my advice or come up with a different solution? Some of you do reply and I love getting follow-ups, so if you have a moment to spare...

Previous editions of your gardening queries:


Edition 1

Edition 2

Edition 3

Edition 4

Edition 5

Edition 6




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




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