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Ask the Gardener - English Country Gardener
English Country Gardener

Ask the Gardener

Ask the Gardener

Everyone at some point has a gardening related question, whether it be when can I prune my clematis, or what plants are good for attracting butterflies, or for avoiding cats, even why is my plant poorly. Sometimes even the best most experienced gardeners have questions. Every day in the garden we all learn something new, now i’m sure like me you’ve learnt some tricks as a result of making some mistakes, but we can then go on and teach other people these tricks and so expanding everyone’s knowledge.

Please leave a your questions as a comment on this page and i’ll reply, we all might learn something new.


13 CommentsLeave a comment

    • Hi Dan thanks for your question. Does it look a bit like cotton wool? If so I believe it is a mealybug. They are sap sucking pests, which eventually causes the leaves to wilt. They thrive in warm, moist conditions such as greenhouses or your home. Mealybugs tend to be attracted to succulents, ferns and palms. The best treatment, non chemically is to remove the effected branches and destroy, do not place in compost bin. Sometimes if the mealy bug has taken over and you don’t want to use chemicals then its bin the plant, sorry. You can use a biological control called Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, but this is more for large commercial greenhouses. A good link is the RHS page on Mealybugs. Its a good idea to check on the RHS website to see if I’ve identified the correct pest. I hope this helps. Many thanks

  • Hi, Im looking to get a plant for my house. It needs to be something pretty hardy as im forgetful when it comes to watering. Can you recommend any plants that don’t require much maintenance. Thanks.

    • Hi Archibald, thanks for your question. This balls down to do you want flowers or foliage also do you have a hot or cold house. Is the plant going to be in a conservatory or kitchen or lounge? If you want a plant that’s easy i would say go for foliage as it will stay green all year around and will be easier to look after. With that in mind i have a couple of options for you, my personal favorite is called Hearts on a String, or Ceropegia linearis subsp ‘Woodii’ this is a very delicate plant that’s made up of little hearts on a string. Alternatively if you prefer something bigger with a splash of foliage colour then a Tradescantia with its shinny silver, purple and green leaves is very easy to look after as long as it gets sunlight. If you would like to see photos of these and information on how to look after them please see my page on my favorite house plants. http://english-country-gardener.co.uk/favourite-house-plant/

      Another alternative which is worth looking at is Ficus benjamina a beautiful large shrub like plant that has variegated leaves making them more interesting to look at rather than the plain green leaves. Again a very tolerant plant and one that doesn’t need much watering.

      I hope I’ve given you some ideas, there are so many different houseplants to choose, but these are some of the best for what your looking for. Many thanks.

    • Hi Zoe, thanks for your question. The best time to cut your Holly, Ilex aquifolium is mid to late summer. If you are shaping your hedge or tree then late summer is better as if you prune it before you might get a second flurry of regrowth which will ruin your neat lines. I hope this helps. Happy pruning.

  • Is it best to plant calla lilies in the sun or the shade?

    Also, I have grown some calla lilies from bulbs inside and wondered if I can plant them outside and if so, when is the best time to do that?

    • Hello Catherine,

      Thanks for your question. Calla lilies or Peace Lilies prefer sun, but avoiding direct light. They are ideally house plants however if you have a sheltered spot in your garden then I don’t see why you can’t plant them outside. I would put them in a pot so if we do have a harsh winter you can bring them inside to protect them. I hope that this answers your question. Many thanks.

    • Hello James

      I’m very sorry to hear you have mare’s tail, unfortunately ultimately there is no real solution to the mare’s tale problem simply because their roots go so far and it can grow from the tiniest root. If you keep digging them up every time you see a new shoot this will help to keep your problem down and possibly slow the spread. Unfortunately even chemicals can not reach Mares tail so you will have to physically dig it out. Good luck.

    • Dear Ben

      Thank you for your question. Orchids are great when you first get one, as they are already flowering however getting them to re flower is a bit more tricky for some Orchid species. In general Orchids or Phalaenopsis produce flowers throughout the year, the best thing to do first is once the flowers have faded cut the flowering stalk back to above the second joint or (node, hortic term) beneath the spent flowers. This should encourage a new flowering shoot to grow. However some orchids are a bit more difficult, so if they haven’t produced flowers for quite a few months then try reducing the temperate to 5°C for four weeks then a flower spike should develop.

      Orchids need good light in winter, but they will need protecting from direct sunlight in summer.

      It is important to dust your orchids leaves but don’t get water on them. Don’t let the roots dry out completely but be careful not to over water as this is so easily done. Less is more for an Orchid. In summer its a good idea to mist the plant.

      Try to feed your orchid every time you water on a three time rotation, so feed for three times then stop for the fourth, this helps the plant to leach out any harmful salts. However, do try to feed sparingly in winter. You can easily buy orchid food in a liquid form which goes into the same water.

      As a tropical plant Orchids like a nice warm environment, they don’t like droughts and fluctuating temperatures, not that they are at all fussy. Ideal temperatures for night are around 16-19°C and 19-30°C during the day.

      I hope this information has helped and your orchid continues to flower.

      Many thanks

  • Hi

    we are having a garden office built in our garden. the base of the building has quite a harsh wooden look. We would like to soften the edges around the building. Most of the area around the building will be in shade, we want it to be virtually self maintaining, bright and cheerful.

    Are there any plants you can recommend

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