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Facebook Q&A with Gareth Richards – 28-03-14

Facebook Q&A image 3
Hydrangea ‘Magical Topaz’

Question 1 – Samantha Carmichael – Hydrangea that never flowers – help! Where do I clip it and when/is there anything I can do? One is three years old and the other is five. Thanks.

Hi Samantha – try giving your hydrangea a feed (universal feed, or a high potash fertiliser such as bonfire ash – have a look at this blog post for more info on feeding plants, and don’t prune it for a year. If you’re pruning at the wrong time (ie in spring or summer), you might be cutting the flower buds off.



Question 2 – Lisa Potter – Hello Gareth, I live in York, Yorkshire. I’ve made a false palm tree and I want a large-leafed fern to plant in the top so it looks like a palm tree, and also acts like a parasol for me to sit under in shade. What fern can I get? There’s so many. I’d like one that will keep its leaves as long as possible but also weather the winter. Can you help and what garden center near me could I get it from?

Hi Lisa, what an interesting idea! I’ve often wondered about doing this myself. You could try the male fern – Dryopteris affinis – which is a native British fern, and a big one at that: its leaves can get to 4ft (1.2m) long. A word of caution though, it will dry out incredibly quickly in a pot on a pole, so consider adding some kind of irrigation. It will need watering every day in the summer, twice a day if it’s hot.



Question 3 –
Yvonne Haynes – Hi, I have a patio magnolia that I was given by my daughter on Mothers’ Day three years ago now. I have yet to see it flower, it gets plenty of green leaves but no flowers.  :-(  Could you please let me know if this is normal or if I have a problem? Thank you.

Hello Yvonne, yes magnolias can sometimes be slow to flower. Make sure your plant is getting plenty of light, and give it a feed (See the Spalding blog for more info on feeding plants). Another tip is to make sure it gets enough water in late summer and early autumn when the flower buds are forming.

Question 4
– Donna Astley – Hi, I have a cherry tree and it’s lovely and I have a lovely crop but the cherries are very sour.  :-(  Do you know why? Thanks x


Cherry Tree

Hiya Donna – by the sound of it, it’s probably a morello cherry – which is a sour cherry bred for culinary use. You can use them in pies, or, my favourite, cherry gin! (make it like you would sloe gin, but with less sugar and drink within 5 months). Or that old favourite, cherry brandy…

Bamboo in pot


Question 5
– Karen Vaudrey – We’re hoping to get some bamboo for screening purposes; could you advise the best ones to buy please? I want them quite established, but don’t want them to go mad! Also, what is the best size pot? One per plant or two in a trough style? Thank you x

Hello Karen, you could try the black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra: it’s not too vigorous and has good looking black canes. Be careful about growing them in pots, they need very regular watering and are prone to blowing over in windy conditions. Better to plant in the ground if you can. This one is a clump former, so tends not to poke up new canes everywhere.


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