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Planning Retirement Online

Your Garden Queries      May 2003


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.



From Mr D. Peacock:-

Q:   Please could you advise of the recommended method for pruning Phygellius?

A:   Phygelius are one type of shrub that I have in abundance at home here in the Midlands. They seem to thrive here. I have four different colours: red, dusky pink, yellow and a yellow leaved one with purple flowers..

You can really treat them in several different ways, but you asked for the recommended method of pruning which is to cut back to just about ground level in spring, or, if plants have woody bases, prune to live wood..

I leave mine to grow to about five feet in height, just cutting out the dead wood and any straggly tips annually. They also have new stems which creep along the ground which I pull out with some new root and replant, thereby dividing my stock.

I have successfully collected their seed and grown new plants that way and also taken stem tip cuttings in the spring.

It really is a versatile and amenable plant.


From John:

Q:  I wonder if you can help me... I am a beginner to the world of "home grown" vegetables, and as such do not have any experience in growing vegetables from seedlings.... I currently live in Norway where the climate is less than favourable, although we do have plenty of sun and is, needless to say, warm inside. I have planted the following vegetables into ice cream cartons, and have placed them on a windowsill in the bathroom, which is (I'm told) ideal growing conditions... cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts and runner beans. The problem I have now is that the seedlings are tall and thin (leggy), and I'm, not too sure what to do...The seedlings are about 2 weeks old now... and I hope that I haven't left it to late to save them, or at least make them hardy for when I transplant them outside...  I have read so many different stories as to how to make them stronger (fanning them with a newspaper, pricking them out and sowing them deeper.... etc etc) all of which sound fine, but I'm not too sure which one I should do....    

A:   It`s funny that I should write in  April`s column about the very problem that you appear to have... The seedlings desperately need LOTS of natural daylight and some warmth. There are electric light bulbs available from specialists that give the effects of daylight. April is a very difficult time of year for seedlings, we currently have night frosts again..



Dorothy from Scotland says:-

Q: The very old roses growing up the back of the house are really looking very  neglected and may not have been pruned for some years. There is a bit of new growth showing but it is very high up probably about the second floor. Some of the wood is I think dead. Should I wait to see what happens this year or give it a drastic chop back to ground level to hopefully encourage it to start growing from the bottom.

A:  Some remedial work can be done now.. If you can see any obviously dead wood, you can cut this out to give the living stems more space. Give the whole plant(s) a good feed of rose fertiliser and mulch round the base of the stems to build up strength ready for the `big prune` next season.. Also check that none of the stems are being strangled by wire ties that are too tight..


Next season:- Occasional renewal pruning may be necessary if the base of a climbing rose becomes bare. Cut back one or two of the older, main shoots to within 30cm (12 in) above ground level to encourage vigorous new shoots to develop and  replace the older growths. Repeat this with the remaining branches as required in subsequent years.


Prune roses when they are dormant or semi-dormant, that is between autumn leaf fall and when the buds are just beginning to break in the spring.



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



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