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Eric Robson and the panel are in Leicestershire. Matthew Wilson, Christine Walkden and Matt Biggs answer the horticultural questions.

Eric Robson and the panel are in Leicestershire. Matthew Wilson, Christine Walkden and Matt Biggs answer the horticultural questions.

This week the panellists discuss a dying Tree Peony, pruning a Winter Honeysuckle, and rescuing an ailing goosberry bush.

They also help an audience member with a non-flowering Garrya, offer tips on how to get the best out of an olive tree, and advise on what to do with cuttings from a Wedding Cake tree.

Matt Biggs visits the Linneun Society to investigate the intricate world of plant naming conventions.

Producer: Dan Cocker
Assistant Producer: Laurence Bassett

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

43 minutes

Fact Sheet

Q – I grew two Tree Peonies from seed and they survived for years.  Two years ago one was given to a friend and it looks good… mine, however has died.  Why?


Matthew – You might have disturbed it when you removed the other one.  Maybe it just misses its friend!


Matt – They do grow easily from seed – delavayi, ludlowii for example.  Put the seeds in a deep pot, leave them over winter, and then they’ll germinate in the spring. 


Q – I have a winter honeysuckle that needs pruning.  How far can I prune it back?


Matt – Take the old wood out at the base to encourage regrowth.  Cut back to a strong outward-growing stem.  Then give it a feed.


Q – I have a gooseberry bush that isn’t producing any gooseberries.  Something seems to be eating its leaves too.  What can I do?


Christine – Gooseberry Sawfly will be eating the leaves. 


Matthew – The shock of moving it could have encouraged the fruit growth.  It might just be too comfortable now it is settled.


Eric – If you put newspaper around the base, then shake the bush, and the pests will drop onto the paper and you can throw them away.


Q – Why do some seeds from my garden come true but some don’t?  Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ and ‘Lady Stratheden’ are fine but Oriental Poppies, Aquilegias and Hellebores all come up different colours.


Matthew – Some plants are very rarely true type.  Aquilegias are a good example of this. 


Matt – Often it depends what the population is like nearby. 


Q – I have a Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ growing against a shaded fence.  It refuses to produce catkins.  What’s going on?


Christine – If it’s not producing any flowers it could be too well fed and just focussing on producing foliage.  It could be too happy. 


Matt – It will do better in Californian drought conditions


Q – I have a small olive tree in a pot.  How should I care for it?


Christine – Move it onto a new pot between May and September (when it is in growth) and then use a John Innes compost with sharp grit in it.  Keep it in a sheltered position. 


Matthew – Olives are surprisingly robust and they need to be outside to thrive. 


Matt – Make sure the compost doesn’t get waterlogged


Q – We replaced a thorn hedge with a seven-foot (2.1m) high brick wall with Iceberg climbing roses on it.  But we can’t get the roses to train along a wire across the wall.  What should we do?


Christine – Iceberg is a very vigorous variety – my guess would be the soil wasn’t cultivated well enough.  I would take the weak specimens out and then really cultivate the soil and start again.  I would get a Mycorrhiza in there too.


Matthew – Hawthorn and roses are both in the Rosaceae family so the Hawthorn will have knackered the soil for the rose. 


Q – I have a lovely Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ – the Wedding Cake tree – and now have cuttings from it that are about 2ft (0.6m) high.  However, the original tree is grafted onto a rootstock – what will the implications be for the cuttings that have their own roots?


Matt – Rootstocks are often used to boost/restrain the growth of a plant.  Also, they can affect the age at which a plant fruits and, in some cases, it can help with disease resistance.   


Matthew – The cuttings will be unlikely to have the characteristics of that original rootstock. 


Christine – This is a Chimera – where you’ve got different tissue.  The rootstock with a Wedding Cake tree has a big influence on the final tree.  I guess that the cuttings will end up being very weedy. 


Q – If you found yourself stranded on a desert island which plant would you hope to find there?


Chrisitine – Hopefully it will be at altitude! Mine would be Soldanella hungarica.


Matt – Sugar cane


Matthew – Balsa




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