Peter Gibbs presents the horticultural panel show from Shropshire. Answering questions from the local audience are Chris Beardshaw, Bob Flowerdew and Anne Swithinbank.

Chris explores the pioneering history of the Shropshire Horticultural Society and the early days of the longest running flower show. Anne Swithinbank visits The Quarry in Shrewsbury to share her passion for one of the stars of the winter garden.

Producer: Howard Shannon.
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

This week's questions:

Q. Does the panel have any suggestions for a temporary screen to hide an unsightly area of my garden? It needs to be 4-5ft(1.5m) high by August next year.

A. Michaelmas Daisies would provide a good cover. Give them a chop in May so that they become bushy rather than too tall. Try the small perennial Rudbeckias, the upright grass Calamagrostis, or even Popping Corn with its vibrant red cobs.

Q. Could the panel tell me what would happen if I pollarded a Silver Birch to about 8ft (2.4m)?

A. Pollarding would ruin the appearance of such a tree. The best way to reduce the size of a Birch tree is to coppice it. Coppicing is rejuvenating from ground level whereas pollarding is cutting the head off.

As this is a single stem specimen and the bark is fully developed, coppicing may not be effective and it may remain as a stump. Wait until spring and cut into the bark with a pruning saw, penetrating only a few millimetres. Imagine it as a clock face, cutting from the twelve point around to two. This generates dormant buds from below the cut and throws up a new shoot. The following year do it on the opposite side a little further up, forming a second shoot. Let these shoots mature to about a thumb-size in thickness and then cut off the tree head. Go into a 5-8 to eight year rotation, taking out any old wood.

Q. What would the panel suggest using to underplant a traditional laid hedge?

A. If it is a naturalistic setting, you can't beat Sweet Cicely. It is a Cow Parsley-like plant with a ferny leaf and white flowers. Mix in early flowering specimens such as Trachystemon Orientalis. It is a member of the Borage family with blue flowers and broad, bristly foliage. Also try adding Lamiums, such as the Florentinum with its yellow flowers.

Q. What could I plant into a south-facing window box for a splash of colour this spring? Incidentally, I usually forget to water anything I plant!

A. The best survivors are Pinks. You could add Rosemary and Sage in-between. Try adding structure with some small Euonymus such as the Emerald 'n' Gold or Emerald Gaiety. Add spring flowering plants and bulbs that can be taken out and added to the garden.

Q. How can I control the rampaging Nasturtium that is taking over my allotment?

A. You can eat all parts of the annual form of Nasturtium. It will prolifically produce seeds in hot, impoverished soil. It is best to dig it in a good 30cm (11inches), burying the seeds too deep to allow them back through. When you see the seeds germinating, pluck them out and eat them in a salad.

Q. Does the panel have any suggestions for low growing planting to stabilize a steep, 8ft high riverbank? It is prone to flooding but is well drained the rest of the time.

A. Iris Pseudacorus or Yellow Flag is robust and could be planted in clumps during spring. Once it has developed you could add some smaller boggy plants. You might need to introduce some mechanical stability, such as gabions, to support the bank and allow you to place plants behind the barrier. Another structural solution is to take staffs of alder and willow. Trim out sections of the fresh wood and knock them into the ground. Place these at regular intervals with the willow weaved in between. You will end up with living verticals, connected by a basket-like structure where sediment collects. The plants will root into the ground and can be pruned over winter.

Release date:

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Sun 5 Jan 2014 14:00

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