As well as fresh ideas and inspiration, the Gardeners' Question Time podcast offers solutions to…
Listen now 43 mins
Peter Gibbs and the GQT team visit local gardeners in Batley, West Yorkshire. Anne Swithinbank, Chris Beardshaw and Matthew Biggs are on the panel.
Produced by Howard Shannon.
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Q: The weight of recent snow has caused our old lavender bush to split. Is it advisable to plant a new one in the same place or do I need to replenish the strength of the soil first?
A: Lavender likes fairly impoverished soil so there's no need to fill it with compost or organic matter as a nice mix of sand, grit and existing topsoil should work nicely. If you haven't already dug out the old plant you could try piling a large mound of soil over the top which will encourage new growth even from an old or split plant. After a while you'll see new shoots coming through which you can re-plant.
Q: I love the colour purple, could the panel suggest their favourite purple flowers and shrubs?
A: Try Heuchera "Palace Purple" which is a lovely herbaceous perennial with striking purple leaves, or the Pewter variety which has silvery leaves and purple veins. Cotinus Grace (also known as the Smoke Bush) is another easy-to-grow shrub with rounded leaves and flowers which look like little plumes of smoke. Of course Clematis Jackmanii Superba is amongst the best 'velvety' flowers and climbs up very well between roses. For something more exotic you could try the Brazilian Spider Flower Tibouchina Urvilleana which produces large purple flowers with interesting stamen that look spiders legs.
Q: I have a 32 by 8 foot area at front house that I want to bring back into cultivation. It's spent around 40 years under concrete slabs, and the rest of the garden has a heavy clay soil, any tips?
A: The soil is certainly going to need some attention as the worms will have long gone. You should dig the soil in trenches, allowing it to properly aerate and add some rotted compost or manure. Be careful to pick out any brick ends or mortar that the slabs may have been laid on as these can turn the soil very alkaline. You could always get a pH testing kit from the garden centre if you're worried. A mini digger may also be handy!
Q: We're encouraging local gardeners and growers to supply the local greengrocer. What vegetables would the panel suggest we grow to tempt customers into the shop?
A: Try and grow things that customers wouldn't be able to find in the supermarkets. Perhaps grow a range of unusual potatoes like Edzell Blue for it's colour and salad potatoes such as the Charlotte, and in the shop label them with their best uses (baking/boiling/roasting, etc). Gooseberries and Squashes such as Crown Prince and Uchiki Kuri would look tempting with their bright colours as would Rouge Vif D'etampes Pumpkins with their 'Cinderella carriage' shape. Go for local and heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables too, such as rare Yorkshire apple varieties Dog Snout and Acklam Russet. Oriental vegetables are also hard to find in supermarkets so you could try growing things such as Minuba Pak Choi.
Q: Could you suggest a non-clinging climber to run up a south east corner of our house that wont damage our newly pointed brickwork? We'd prefer something that's of use to bees and/or birds and that we can grow in a large container.
A: Try Lonicera which has a unusual floral display and spear shaped leaves, or Pileostegia viburnoides which has small tubular flowers and lush green leaves. You'll need to create a wire framework for them to climb. You can also get Pyracantha trained nicely in a diamond trellis form which would still allow you to see the brickwork through the gaps.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for flowers for growing and arranging in a stately home which wont drop pollen or sap onto the priceless furniture?
A: Herbaceous perennials such as Phlox Paniculata, Delphiniums and Dahlias will work well and double forms such as Double Dahlias, Double Chrysanthemum and Astas would be very impressive with their big blooms. Also try Viburnum Opulus Snowball Tree, which has impressive round white heads good sturdy stems. Avoid Lillies, Bullrushes and Cortaderias.
Q: Have the panel any top tips for getting young people and children into gardening?
A: Continuing a tradition of sharing knowledge and passing down information is important. There's also a certain lack of awareness about what sort of career steps you can take in horticulture - there are many fantastic horticultural colleges - and young people need to know that they can make a career out of their gardening passions.
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