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Sheffield Botanical Gardens: Correspondence Edition

Peter Gibbs and the team are at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens for a correspondence edition.

Peter Gibbs is at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens for a correspondence edition. Bob Flowerdew, Anne Swithinbank and Matt Biggs are on hand to answer questions sent in by listeners via post, email and social media.

This week, the panellists take shelter from the rain while offering suggestions for plants in a boggy garden, advising on how to re-pot cacti and considering whether deciduous or evergreen trees are best for CO2 absorption. They also discuss how to prune by touch for a blind listener.

In between the questions, the team wander the Sheffield Botanical Gardens, led by Ian Turner.

Producer: Dan Cocker
Assistant Producer: Rosie Merotra

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4

Available now

42 minutes

Plant List

Questions and time codes are below. Where applicable plant names are listed.


Q - Please could you give me some advice on growing Umbrella bamboo (Fargesia murielae) indoors?

(3 minutes 31 seconds)


Q – We have 3 Himalayan birch ‘Snow queen’ (Betula utilis jacquemontii) which are 3-4 years old. We have staked them using rubber blocks and while they have been stable in the wind, the blocks have rubbed the bark causing damage. Should we take the ties off? We are in a windy spot, so we feel the trees need supporting.

(6 minutes)


Q – I planted a Christmas tree last November and it looked great until about two months ago when it started to turn brown with needles falling off. Is there anything I can do to reverse this?

(8 minutes 20 seconds)


Anne – Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana)


Q – I live in a newly built house on old rugby pitches in South Gloucestershire. When it rains, the water doesn’t drain evenly leaving very muddy and slippery conditions.  Can the panel advise some suitable bog-loving plants which could intermingle with our lawn grasses to provide space to walk on? Something colourful and attractive that would be great as well.

(11 minutes 40 seconds)


Anne – Water iris (Iris ensata)

Iris pseudacorus (yellow iris)

Marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris)


Q – Will a Yucca plant grow if I saw off one of its trunks and repot it into new soil? If so, when should I do it?

(16 seconds 46 seconds)


Q – How do you prune a Swiss cheese plant?

(19 minutes 3 seconds)


Q – I have grown cacti from seed and now want to pot them on – can the panel give me some advice?

(21 minutes 38 seconds)


Q – I have two Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum); one has just started to flower, the other was flowering through spring and early summer, then stopped but has now started flowering again. Is this the right seasonal behaviour?

(23 minutes 51 seconds)


Q – Are deciduous trees better than evergreen trees for CO2 absorption?

(26 minutes 50 seconds)


Q – I was pleased to find a tomato plant growing in a buried stash of compost but noticed Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) growing next to it. Are they likely to have cross pollinated, and do I now have deadly tomatoes?

(32 minutes 3 seconds)


Q – I have a ‘Livingstone’ rhubarb plant which I put in 3 years ago and gave a healthy dose of horse manure to start it off. Since then, it has produced lots of shoots throughout the year – does it matter than it’s not had a rest period, and is there a time of year I shouldn’t pick the stems?

(33 minutes 39 seconds)


Q – How do I control my Phormium (New Zealand flax)?

(36 minutes 31 seconds)


Q – I am trying to prune my Mock orange (Philadelphus), but I am blind so need pruning advice by touch only, not by sight.

(38 minutes 6 seconds)




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