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RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

Eric Robson and the panel are at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. Matthew Wilson, Pippa Greenwood and Matt Biggs answer the horticultural questions.

Eric Robson and the panel are at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. Matthew Wilson, Pippa Greenwood and Matt Biggs answer the horticultural questions.

The panellists offer suggestions to fill a large gap in an old hedge, advise on the best way to take cuttings from a friend's plant and assist with a struggling blueberry bush. They also help to plan a new, small wood and explain how to spot Ash dieback.

Pippa Greenwood visits Rebecca Robinson at the GQT Bloomin' healthy garden featured at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show.

Produced by Dan Cocker
Assistant Producer: Hester Cant

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

43 minutes

Fact Sheet

Q – How can I discourage pheasants from coming in to my vegetable patch?


Pippa – I would use a physical barrier. You can use diamond shaped trellis to hang over the door. You can push it out of the way when you don’t want it there. You could also feed them well in another area but that may encourage more.


Matt – We made a wooden frame in the cold frame and added chicken wire. Pheasants are less attracted to larger sized vegetables, so you could plant them out later.


Q – I have ants that farm aphids on the early glasshouse ranunculus and anemones. I don’t like to use chemicals; how can I stop the ants organically?


Matt – You can use biological control which works indoors and out. You can also use upturned flowerpots, so they come up into the humidity and darkness and make their nests in there. You could cover the ground with black polythene which is warming so they come up and can be disposed of. Make sure the ground is watered thoroughly.


Pippa -  I also recommend drenching the nest with the nematode control. It irritates them out of the area. Do anything you can to encourage ground beetles because they eat them.


Matthew – You can put some petroleum jelly around the stem which should stop them climbing up.


Q – Is it possible to take a cutting from a friend’s ceanothus (California lilac) and if so, when and how?


 Matt – They take from semi-ripe cuttings between July and September. The cutting needs to be about 4-6 inches long, you take the leaves away from the base. Put it in a nice gritty compost with extra soil and organic matter. Make sure it’s kept well-watered.


Q – I have a blueberry shrub which doesn’t get bigger than 1.5ft (45cm) tall, it produces a small crop of blueberries regularly. How can I get it to grow bigger and produce more fruit?


Pippa – They like acidity and a very moist soil environment. If it’s on a slope, it may not be getting enough water. If you can get a second plant, you will be more likely to get a larger crop because of the cross-pollination. I would move it in the autumn into a well-designed pit with plenty of organic, acidic material.


Matt – They like moisture-retentive soil. If you can buy two or more plants that flower at the same time, your crop should be a lot bigger. Move it to the bottom of the slope. Feeding in spring with some general ericaceous food. 


Q – I’ve noticed there are five pollarded mature, chestnut trees near me. Where the new growth is coming some of the leaves are completely white. Why is that?


Pippa – You shouldn’t pollard a Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) tree. I think the leaves won’t last because they don’t contain any chlorophyll if they’re white. I think it will be a stress reaction.

Matt – Similar to clematis flowers going green because they don’t like the cold.


Q – Could you suggest suitable hedging to fill a gap in a 10ft high south-facing hedge? The hedge consists mainly of Holly, Hawthorn and Cotoneaster.


Matthew – You could plant something like Ceanothus such as ‘Italian skies’ or ‘Puget blue’. It should comfortably fill the space within 4 years.

Matt – Make sure you have grubbed out the roots, improve the soil. You could plant Elderberry, Euonymus europaeus (European spindle), Prunus Spinosa (Blackthorn). You could also try Acer campestre (Field maple).

Pippa – I would definitely get someone to look at the dead roots in the gap in case there’s anything there which could damage the new plants.


Q – How does one recognise Ash tree dieback disease?


Matthew – You can see it in the tops of trees in summer time when the trees should be fully in foliage. If there’s a pronounced area of dieback it’s normally in the top of the tree.


Q – I have a steep southwest facing rockery in full sun. How can I improve the condition of the soil and which plants will thrive there?


Matthew – Mediterranean plants will tolerate dry soil. Plants such as Lavenders, Santolinas and Caryopteris will work well. Also, verbena bonariensis or the smaller ‘Lollipop’ and the rock roses. It’s worth improving the soil locally before you plant and plant small. This summer you could still plant escholzias and ‘Love in a mist’.

Pippa – If you can incorporate some good organic matter before you plant, that will help. Make sure it doesn’t have weed seeds in it. Plants like Armerias work well.


Q – We have a large, long garden and we would like to convert some of it to make a small wood. Could the panel suggest trees they would recommend?


Matthew – I would suggest Crabapples such as ‘Evereste’, ‘Golden hornet’, ‘Red jade’ or a compact one such as ‘Sargent’.


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