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Ness Botanic Gardens

43 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 21 September 2012

Peter Gibbs chairs a horticultural debate with Anne Swithinbank, Matthew Wilson and Bunny Guinness at Ness Botanic Gardens, South Wirral. In addition, Toby Buckland explores the plant-hunting history of Ness Botanic Gardens.

Produced by Howard Shannon.
A Somethin' Else Production for BBC Radio 4

Questions answered in the programme:
Q. What prize produce would the panel be proud enough to enter in a horticultural show?
A. The panel's kale, runner beans and asparagus have all done well despite the bad weather.

Q. Should my dad give up his garden and grow crops, and how much would he need to be self-sufficient?
A. John Seymour suggested that in 12sq metres of raised beds, you could feed one person for a whole year. A greenhouse would be recommended.

Q. We have found ground-nesting bees in the border. Are they friends or foes?
A. Give them a wide berth, and watch out for the vibrations from a lawnmower or a strimmer.

Q. Could the panel recommended flowering herbaceous plants that remain upright, with unblemished petals, even after a period of wet weather?
A. Mid-late summer flowering perennials, such as Echinacea, Rudbeckia or Agapanthus. Physostegia, Chelone and Phlox are also recommended.

Q. Can the panel recommend plants and containers suitable for my life travelling around the country in my motor home.
A. Keep some houseplants such as Lilies in pots, Streptocarpus or Begonias (Begonia Corallina). Geranium Rozanne also does well in a container. Alternatively you have a trailer transporting a portable cold frame!

Q. Is it a good idea to scarify the lawn in autumn as well as spring?
A. Autumn is the best time to scarify.

Q. How long can you keep dahlia tubers going for? Mine are losing their vigor after seven years.
A. They can lose their vigor as a result of the weather when planted out in the wet. However, seven years is a good innings!

Q. When should I prune my mature fruit trees?
A. You shouldn't prune plums after august, as there is a higher chance of them getting silver leaf. They should be pruned in the summer. You can prune pears and apples in the winter, and that is the best time to do them.

Q. Will the nut of a curly hazel become a curly hazel if planted?
A. No. The tree is grafted and the nut will revert to type.

Q. What is the planning distance of edible plants in a raised bed?
A. Intercropping and catch cropping can be employed in a small bed. You can use things like the 'three sisters', with sweet corn, runner beans and courgette in the same area. Variable growth should be expected.

Q. What would the panel recommend as an autumnal plant for a community-planting project using Wellington boots?
A. Small Christmas trees. Stipa Tenuissima could be used to create an illusion of hair coming out of the boot. Sempervivum, the house leek, can be use to stud the Wellington down the sides.



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