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Double Pure Pink

Anemone Burgundy Blotch

Double White

Anemone Centre Pink

Double Green

Double Apricot

Gold Red Star

Double Purple

Double Water Lily

Clusters of full blooms up to three inches across will glisten in the winter sunshine, dancing in the breeze above a collar of evergreen glossy foliage. In medieval times Helleborus were said to be good for breaking bad spells and curses so were often planted next to the front door, today they are known for their unsurpassed winter beauty and a plant lover’s dream to add cheer throughout the winter. This rare collection of beautiful varieties defy nature by surviving the coldest winters and also grow extremely well in difficult areas of the garden including planting alongside trees and shrubs. Deer and rabbit resistant. Easy to grow and maintain in dappled shade with moist but well-drained soil. Growing to a height of 35cm (14”) making them perfect for flower beds or containers. Fully hardy perennials. Your order will be confirmed and your young plants will be delivered with our no quibble guarantee in early May – the perfect time for planting.





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10 FEBRUARY 2018

Jobs for this week


“Cut back trees and shrubs to aid spring growth,” says Ruth

4 5 7 8 13 15

LAST CALL TO WINTER PRUNE Cut back trees and shrubs for spring growth, says Ruth FIVE ESSENTIAL PRUNING TASKS TO DO NOW Key tasks for hedges, deciduous shrubs and more TROUBLE-SHOOTING TIME! How to resolve problems before they take over LOAD UP YOUR BEDS WITH LOVELY LILIES If you want to inject glamour, then lilies are the answer FREE SEEDS: BLACK-EYED SUSAN Ruth explains how to grow this sizzling summer climber CLEAR PERENNIALS OF TANGLED WEED ROOTS It can be a tricky business, but Ruth shows the way


Great garden ideas


”Why bleeding hearts are the perfect Valentine plant,” says Val

22 26 28 32 54

PICK OF THE VERY BEST With great scent and easy to grow, Graham picks six daphnes UP THE GARDEN PATH Martyn Cox offers six plants that work great along paths EASY WAYS TO GET MORE FLOWERS FOR LESS Tamsin suggests 16 annuals for long-lasting colour CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY WITH BLEEDING HEARTS Val Bourne on why she loves these unique-looking plants GET THE LOOK Change and experiment is the key to this seaside garden


Gardening wisdom


“How you can get more flowers for less,” explains Tamsin

10 16 19 20 36 38 44 46 50 59

PETER SEABROOK Why give cut roses on 14 February when a bush is much better? BOB FLOWERDEW Home-grown salads have never been easier, says Bob VAL BOURNE’S GARDEN WILDLIFE The importance of lichens and the real benefits they bring LUCY CHAMBERLAIN’S FRUIT AND VEG Get an early pea crop, sow celery, plant Jerusalem artichokes ANNE’S MASTERCLASS How to control vine weevil in potted plants YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED Keeping pests from beans, giving spuds a boost and more YOUR LETTERS Interesting opinions, great tips and pictures from AG readers GARDENER’S MISCELLANY Facts, fancies, puzzles and prizes from Graham Clarke HOW TO GROW ACACIA DEALBATA Light up a late winter garden with Australian wattle TOBY BUCKLAND Chusan palms bring a touch of the exotic to your garden

Reader offers and product tests


“My advice for an early pea crop,” says Lucy

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READER OFFER Four amazing European river cruises on offer TRIED AND TESTED Six smart devices to store tools are tested, but which is best? “Has the nation’s favourite flower fallen out of favour with AG readers? Peter Seabrook says that the number of roses grown by amateur gardeners is decreasing (see page 10). Why? I’d like to hear your views, so please write. Garry Coward-Williams, Editor 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AMATEUR GARDENING


Gardening Week with AG’s gardening expert Ruth Hayes

Step by step Cut buddleja back to its base or “stool”

Tools for the job

Use the right equipment


Bow saws or pruning saws (pictured) should be used for removing large branches cleanly and efficiently.

Always follow the saying “look twice and prune once” to ensure you create a well-shaped tree and don’t remove too much growth.

Prune buddleja hard so it flowers well this summer and doesn’t become unkempt

Last call to winter prune Cut back trees and shrubs for spring growth, says Ruth


HE return of longer, lighter days flowers best on new shoots. Varieties and the flowers of spring have of Cornus sanguinea should also be been welcome sights. However, stooled now to keep them manageable this annual resurgence of and deepen the colours of their stems. vigour means there is no time to be lost Late-flowering clematis (Group 3 completing essential winter tasks – and plants) should be cut back to the lowest pruning is one of the most important. pair of strong buds, and ornamental It is already too late to prune vines and climbers should be grapevines, Japanese maple tackled to keep them out of and birch trees as their sap windows, gutters and tiling. rises in late winter and if Spur-prune established cut now they will ‘bleed’ trumpet vines (Campsis) profusely from their to within two or three wounds. If you haven’t buds of the main stem. already pruned these, Remove any reverted wait until next winter. green shoots that have Most other trees and developed on variegated shrubs can be cut back or plants as they may take Cut out reverted stems on variegated plants trimmed now before they over the whole shrub. come back into growth and There is no need to dress become rather unkempt. pruning wounds with wound paint Pruning deciduous plants in winter or a protective covering as they heal encourages robust spring growth and well by themselves. it is easier to shape a shrub well once ■ Certain trees and shrubs should be it has lost all its leaves. You also reduce left alone until later in spring. Hardy the risk of losing a lot of sap as it hasn’t fuchsias should only be cut back after really started to flow and is still dormant the frosts and early flowering shrubs deep down in the trunk. such as forsythia should be left until Buddleja, for example, needs cutting they have bloomed, otherwise you will right back to its base (or “stool”) as it remove the wood they flower on. 4 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018


Loppers are long-handled, meaty secateurs ideal for high-up, hard-to-reach limbs of reasonable thickness.


Use shears to keep smallleaved evergreens such as yew, Leylandii and heather in good shape.


Secateurs are perfect for smaller branches and broadleaved pruning as larger foliage can be bruised and damaged when cut by shears.

Pruning guide

5 essential pruning tasks to do now Healthy and tidy plants will grow back strongly in spring A well-trimmed jasmine will produce lots of flowers

■ Hedges: Tidy hedges before they return to growth in spring. Deciduous varieties can be cut back hard as new growth will soon mask any ugly scars. Evergreens should be trimmed to keep them in shape.

■ Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is cut back once the flowers have faded. Remove dead and damaged shoots and shorten laterals from the main stem to 2in (5cm), stopping at a healthy bud. Tie in new shoots and, as with all newly pruned trees and shrubs, mulch around the base afterwards.

■ Hard pruning helps reshape old and straggly deciduous shrubs. Cut them back to low branches 8-18in (20-45cm) or reduce the stems to 4-8in (10-20cm) above the ground. Mulch well and don’t expect any blossom for a year or two.

■ This is your last chance to prune autumn-fruiting raspberries right back to the ground so they will regrow for this year’s crop. It’s also the final call for pruning standard apple and pear trees back to healthy outward-facing buds.

■ Wisteria needs a winter prune now if it is to flower well in summer. Cut back whippy shoots to two or three buds to tidy up the plant and prevent the foliage from obscuring this summer’s flowers. Tie back any loose shoots.



Gardening Week

with AG’s gardening expert Ruth Hayes

Problems great and small

Make sure houseplants are pest-free as they come back into growth

Prevention is easier than cure Check that snails aren’t hiding in watering cans

Get rid of patio debris

Make sure plants undercover aren’t touching each other. Space and good airflow between them helps reduce the development of fungal problems.


Botrytis and other moulds occur in greenhouses where the air is cold and still. Open their doors, vents and windows on mild days to increase airflow.

Trouble-shooting time!

Deal with problems before they take over, says Ruth


T may still be uninviting outside, but this won’t deter pests and diseases from taking hold where they can. In a few short weeks the garden will surge back to life and you will be busy enough keeping up with seasonal jobs without taking time out to deal with unwanted visitors and failing plants. So get on top of health and hygiene now, to save yourself a lot of bother in the future. The also applies to houseplants. They will be vulnerable after their winter rest and need checking to make sure they aren’t hosting pests lured indoors by the promise of a warm home. I health-check my garden routinely, starting with the greenhouse and cold frame. Opening the doors on milder days helps keep fungal problems at

bay, although do remember to close everything down before the colder evening arrives. Look around plants and under stored pots and equipment, and remove any pests. Cut off diseased and damaged foliage and dispose of entire plants if they are beyond saving. This is especially important if you have seeds germinating nearby, as fungal spores can lay waste to a tray of seedlings. Sweep and clean hard surfaces to get rid of debris and remove frostdamaged perennial shoots as they can create an entry point for disease. Check stored watering cans too – more than once mine have seemed to be blocked, only for me to find a snail hibernating snugly up its spout!

Preparing houseplants for spring Most houseplants are dormant in winter, which makes them vulnerable to pests and unable to fight back. Before they come back into growth as the days get longer and warmer, make sure they are healthy. Check plants over for unwanted guests. Wipe dust off the leaves and look for sooty mould – black residue that forms on the honeydew excreted by sap-sucking pests such as aphids and glasshouse red spider mites. You may need to use a chemical


A greenhouse is the perfect place for pests to overwinter, so keep an eye out for slugs, snails and greenfly and deal with them immediately.


Leaf spot is a fungal disease affecting pansies and violas. Remove, bin or burn affected foliage – don’t compost it.

Keep houseplants pest-free by wiping leaves and using chemicals against infestations

on bad infestations, otherwise wiping them off with a damp cloth should do the trick.


Rabbits and deer eat bark, which will kill the tree if it is stripped all the way around. Protect trees with plastic guards. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AMATEUR GARDENING


Gardening Week with AG’s gardening expert Ruth Hayes

Load up your beds with lovely lilies Ruth adds a touch of exotic glamour to a front-garden border


F you want to inject some glamour into your garden, look no further than lilies. These opulent blooms bring structure, scent and an elegance to borders and containers. And despite their glamorous appearance, they go well with more traditional British garden flowers. This is the final call for planting lilies for blooms this summer, so I am getting mine in the ground this week. I already have some growing extremely well in containers and have decided to add some to a sunny border as well. Lilies like free-draining soil, as bulbs and corms are prone to rotting in heavy, wet conditions. You can lighten your soil by digging in some grit or plenty of well-rotted organic matter (compost or manure) before planting. The easiest and most attractive way to plant lily bulbs is to dig a large hole and set the bulbs around 6in (15cm) apart at three times their own depth. This deep planting gives them some protection against harsh weather. If grown in containers, where they will repeat flower for several years, use a loam-based compost such as John Innes No3 with added grit to boost drainage. Plant them three times as deep as their own height, but slightly closer together for a ‘massed’ effect – 2in (5cm) apart is ideal. Whether in the ground or in pots, water them well after planting. Remember that these plants can get

Lilies are hungry plants, so feed them with a liquid tomato fertiliser every two weeks when they come into bud and start to flower. Lilies bring a touch of the exotic

I am planting pollen-free ‘Easy Samba’ lilies as we have two cats

top-heavy as they grow, so be prepared to stake them, especially in windy areas. Lilies can be fatally toxic to cats – even licking lily pollen off fur while grooming. If you suspect your cat has eaten any part of a lily, contact a vet immediately. Pollen-free varieties such

as ‘Bentley’, ‘Elodie’ or ‘Anne Marie’s Dream’ are widely available from suppliers such as Hart’s Nursery ( 07855 785540, hartsnursery., J Parker’s ( 0161 848 1100, and Suttons Seeds ( 0844 326 2200,

How to tackle the devastating blight of lily beetles Lily beetles are beautiful, but can be deadly to plants

The larvae hide in their own excrement 8 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

IF you are looking for beauty and a beast wrapped up in one package, look no further than lily beetles. Resembling brilliant scarlet jewels, they will strip plants of foliage, and eat flowers, stems and seed pods. To add insult to injury, their larvae protect themselves with a casing made from their own poo. As well as attacking lilies, these voracious pests also eat fritillaries and crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis). Lily beetles start to appear in March, although they may be spotted earlier in very mild and sheltered areas. Their vivid-red colour makes them easy to spot, but they swiftly evade capture by dropping into the heart of the plant

when you go to pick them off. Early infestations cause defoliation, which can lead to undersized bulbs (because the leaves can’t return as much energy to the bulbs when they died back), meaning lilies may not flower the following year. To combat lily beetles, either pick off and squish adults and larvae as soon as you see them, or use pesticides such as Bug Clear Gun for Fruit or Defenders Bug Killer, ecofective Bug Killer or Resolva Bug Killer. Chemicals are more effective on larvae than on adults. An alternative is to buy ‘Defender Pink’, a widely available variety of lily that is said to be the most resistant to lily beetle attacks.

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with Peter Seabrook, AG’s classic gardening expert

Listen to Peter’s free podcast every Thursday. Search for ‘This Week In The Garden with Peter Seabrook’ on iTunes


Peter’s tips for growing roses

Rose ‘Double Delight’, commonly called “The Lipstick Rose” on account of the crimson picotee colouring to the edge of the petals, has very strong scent.

Rosa ‘Lots of Kisses’ is compact-growing, disease resistant, with masses of small, fully double, blood-red flowers

The Valentine enigma

A bush makes more sense than cut roses, says Peter


UNCHES of lovely longstemmed cut roses are the accepted gift for Valentine’s Day, yet February is not the ideal time. Most have to be flown in from warmer countries and the peak in demand lifts prices and drops quality. The gift of a rose bush, providing rich red flowers for many summer months and for years to come, has always looked a better gift to me. Even though we have many lovely cultivars from which to choose this idea has never taken root, and yet, have we at last a breakthrough with this year’s novelty introduction Rosa ‘Lots of Kisses’? It comes from the disease-resistant Flower Carpet Roses Series breeder, is compact growing, with rich, shiny, bright-green leaves and masses of small, fully double, blood-red flowers. The plant I have been growing in a container was still in flower through December and the heart-shaped petals pictured (inset, above) was taken after buds had survived a heavy snow fall. What more can a partner give their loved one than ‘Lots of Kisses’, from 10 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

early June to winter frost? It does not have a strong perfume and the alternative, from the same stable, is Rose ‘Charisma’, with a few blooms cut from this filling a room with its fragrance. While roses are Britain’s favourite flower by far, the number planted in gardens each year is decreasing and it is difficult to understand why. A carefully

“Why are amateur gardeners growing fewer roses?” planted bush will bloom for years, certainly 20 years, and if you choose modern disease-resistant kinds they will not need fungicidal spray protection. What’s not to like? Where space is limited then perpetual flowering climbers can be trained along fences and walls. My choice here is Rosa ‘Compassion’, which is lovely to cut and very fragrant.

Mid-March is the best time to prune all but rambler roses. The harder you prune, the bigger and better the flowers, although there will be fewer of them.



Petals from the rose plant still in flower at the end of December

Lighter pruning on multiflowering cultivars including ‘Charisma’ will yield many more, slightly smaller flowers.

Tie strong young stems of climbing roses down to near horizontal to get them flowering along the length of the stem, rather than just at the top.



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Major anniversary occasions World’s First Colour Gold Quarter Sovereign This year Britain celebrates one hundred years of the defence of our skies. In 1918 - one hundred years ago - the Royal Air Force was formed and since that time it has defended us from the air. Through World War Two and the Battle of Britain, the Cold War, the Falklands War, the Gulf War and right through to today, Britain’s air defence is crucial to our national security.

NEW COIN FIRST BUT FEWER THAN 1 IN EVERY 5,000 UK HOUSEHOLDS CAN OWN ONE It’s not so much the anniversary that has collectors and gold buyers excited, as the announcement of a new gold quarter sovereign coin being struck that is a world first. To mark this nationally significant anniversary, Hattons of London has independently designed a commemorative gold quarter sovereign coin and it features the Union Flag in full colour - never before has a quarter sovereign been struck with full colour in its design. This is why people will be determined to get their hands on one.

FEATURES THE HURRICANE: HERO OF THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN The quarter sovereign coin features the front section of a Hawker Hurricane, with the Union Flag in full colour in the background. The distinctive outline of the nose section, wings and cockpit of the Hawker Hurricane - a ‘hero’ of the Battle of Britain - celebrate its contribution to the defence of our skies.

During World War Two a total of 14,583 Hurricanes were produced. It was a ‘workhorse’ of Fighter Command: it featured a fabric covered fuselage, was quick to repair and withstood considerable punishment. Turn-around time - to re-arm, refuel etc. - was just nine minutes from landing to taking-off again. By comparison a Spitfire took twenty-six minutes.

ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST IMPORTANT COINS It is significant that a gold quarter sovereign be struck for this important national anniversary - the sovereign series is itself one of our greatest national symbols. The gold sovereign was first struck in the modern British era in the year 1817 during the reign of King George III. The new sovereign coins (a full sovereign and half sovereign were issued from 1817, a double sovereign from 1823 and a five sovereign coin from 1887) were the basis of a coinage that lasted Britain until the end of the Gold Standard. The quarter sovereign was first struck in 2009. The sovereign was quite simply the greatest gold coin of its era. During the reign of Queen Victoria, the British sovereign was official legal tender in more than 30 nations and territories around the world, and accepted in many others. That global acceptance was a result of its unparalleled reliability of purity and weight. Even today, just the mention of the word ‘sovereign’ evokes feelings of pride and security in the minds of most of us.

STILL MINTED TODAY Sadly we no longer have sovereign coins in everyday circulation. What many people don’t realise though is that they are still struck for those interested in owning gold. The sovereigns minted today are struck to the same purity they have had since 1817 solid 22 carat gold.

BREXIT UNCERTAINTY FOCUSES MANY ON GOLD Recent uncertainty caused by the Brexit process has caused many people to reconsider gold. It is a truly international ‘currency’ and unlike other assets that must reside within a specific geographic territory, it is portable and also physical.

The world’s-first gold quarter sovereign coin with colour in its design has been independently designed by Hattons of London to celebrate 2018’s one hundred years of the defence of Britain’s skies by the Royal Air Force. Only 4,999 have been minted, meaning that fewer than 1 in every 5,000 UK households will be able to own one. A limited number are available only from Hattons of London with a £100 saving for just £99 plus P&P. Orders placed within 7 days qualify for a copy of the book ‘The Defence of Britain’s Skies’ FREE of charge.

It even has a special status within Britain: it can be bought without paying any VAT. This is a coin that sits beyond the reach of the Chancellor of the Exchequer!

QUARTER SOVEREIGN COIN WITH COLOUR IS WORLD’S FIRST Never before has a quarter sovereign coin featured full colour in its design. It is a fitting tribute to the hundred year anniversary of the defence of Britain’s skies. This first of its kind gold quarter sovereign, minted from solid 22 carat gold, is restricted to just 4,999 coins. This means that fewer than 1 in every 5,000 UK households can own one.

Applications made within 7 days will receive a copy of the 76 page full colour book “The Defence of Britain’s Skies” by award winning documentary maker and author Stewart Binns, FREE of charge with their order. It presents the history of seven iconic British aircraft - including the Hawker

Those interested in owning one at a £100 saving for just £99 (plus £4.99 for P&P) should contact Hattons of London whose contact details appear below. This offer is not available elsewhere.

Hurricane - and their impact on the defence of Britain.

It may also be possible for you to acquire this important gold coin completely free of charge - you should phone Hattons of London and one of their advisors will explain how. The coin may be returned within 60 days for a full refund. There is a strict limit of one coin per household, and this offer is limited to UK mainland households only. All applicants must be aged 18 or over. It’s worth noting too that within Britain sovereign coins have no VAT.




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Major credit cards accepted. Offer valid until 20th Feb 2018. Your order is covered by our no-questions-asked 60 day complete satisfaction guarantee | Technical specifications: Coin; quarter sovereign | Issuing authority: Tristan da Cunha | Diameter: 14mm | Date of coin: 2018 | Weight: 2g | Purity: Solid 22 carat gold | Hattons of London reserves the right to alter or withdraw this offer before the end date | Orders by post: send name, address, cheque, P.O. or credit card details to “FREEPOST Hattons of London” | Hattons of London Ltd, Company 10718280

Gardening Week

with AG’s gardening expert Ruth Hayes Step by step

How to sow your trailing Susans

Thunbergia ‘Susie mixed’ come in sunny shades of yellow and cream


Fill a module tray with fresh, sieved seed and cuttings compost. Modules make it easier to pot-on growing seedlings. You can speed up germination by soaking the seeds in water overnight before sowing or rasping their shells with a nail file.

Wake up, little Susie! Ruth shows you how to sow a sizzling summer climber


HIS week’s free seeds from Mr Fothergill’s are for an extremely versatile plant that can be used as a climber or a trailing plant in hanging baskets. Thunbergia ‘Susie Mixed’ is a robust grower with attractive foliage and myriad black-centred blooms in shades of yellow and cream. Also known as Black Eyed Susan (not to be confused with Rudbeckias of the same name), it grows to 48in (120cm) tall and can even be used as a wall decoration in light conservatories. I’m starting my plants off in modules

of seed compost and will pot them on and harden them off before moving them outside to their final location. I may grow them in a flamboyant border pyramid, or train them against the side of the shed to hide areas that need painting! Another option is to plant them against trees and shrubs, and train them to scramble up and through the branches to create n interesting and unusual effect. Thunbergia are easy to grow and because their seeds are large, they are also easy to sow – great for beginners and less-nimble fingers.

Aubrietia ‘Cascade Mixed’

■ Aubrietia is a cheerful, low-maintenance plant that has a place in most gardens. ■ It grows as low, spreading clumps and is ideal for brightening rockeries, planting between paving stones and spilling down from the top of walls. ■ This is an easy way of growing a carpet of colour, so don’t miss our free seeds next week – Mr Fothergill’s Aubrietia ‘Cascade Mixed’ in a wonderful array of pastel colours.

Next week’s seeds


Sow the seeds, placing one or two in each module. Don’t worry if more fall in – you can thin out weaker plants later.


Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost or a compost/vermiculite mix and dampen with clean tap water using a fine rose.


Label the seeds, cover with a lid or layer of clingfilm to be removed when seeds germinate, and place the tray on a warm, light windowsill. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AMATEUR GARDENING



“Having hearing aids has totally changed my life”


ike Davies will never forget the first time he used his hearing aids. Mike has struggled with his hearing for most of his life but all that changed when he got in touch with Amplifon. Believing he would have to continue to live with deafness in one ear, he was amazed by what happened when he was fitted for his hearing aids. “It was incredible,” says Mike. “Everything was there and crystal clear: voices, birdsong, traffic noise – sounds I hadn’t been able to hear since I was in my teens. The memory of it still overwhelms me. “The first words I spoke after I’d had the hearing aids fitted were ‘you’re not having these back, I’m keeping them’, because it was life changing. Going to Amplifon was probably the best thing I’ve ever done.” After several operations in his younger years, he was told the hearing had completely gone from his right ear, a situation he had lived with for 25 years before seeking Amplifon’s help. “I’d struggle when I went to the pub with friends, and always felt like I wasn’t part of the conversation because I kept missing out on jokes,” says Mike. “My wife, Lin, had to be my ears, even when we were talking she’d have to do two lots of listening to make sure I heard it all correctly. “My young granddaughter was brilliant. She knew I couldn’t hear well and she’d grab my face and turn my left ear to her mouth when she wanted to tell me something. “My right ear was completely dead and I had an aid in the other, and that does affect everybody because they all have to make allowances for you. “It got more frustrating and I didn’t want to accept that I might spend the rest of my life in a world that was becoming increasingly silent. That’s when I decided to go to Amplifon.” When testing confirmed what he knew about his right ear, Mike’s Audiologist recommended the BiCROS system, where a hearing aid in the left ear relays the sound to a transmitter in the right ear. “It was the only real chance I had of hearing from my right ear again, so I said let’s go for it.” Since then, the difference has been life changing for Mike and his family. “I was looking at an old wedding

Mike Davis

“For the first time in decades I can hear the birds sing and the wind blow through the trees.” video and I could see that I kept touching my hearing aid and trying to adjust it, and I don’t do that anymore,” he says. For Mike, hearing well again has quickly become second nature: “The day after I had the hearing aids fitted we went out for dinner. The hotel manager came over to talk to us and the couple at the table behind. When he walked away Lin looked at me in shock. ‘You’ve just had a three way conversation’, she said. The effect of the hearing aids was staggering: a couple of days earlier the conversation just wouldn’t have been possible.” Mike says he can’t believe how long he’d struggled with his hearing, and has found new enjoyment in sitting and relaxing in his garden. “I’ve always liked sitting out

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in the garden, but now I can appreciate it more than ever because for the first time in decades I can hear the birds sing and the wind blow through the trees. “Our water feature was silent, but now it’s just the most beautiful musical accompaniment to my day. “Seeking help with my hearing really has helped me regain my quality of life, and I’m so grateful. It’s never too late and I’d encourage anyone to go and see Amplifon if they’re concerned about hearing loss. “If just one person reads this, books an appointment with Amplifon and regains their quality of life, it will all have been worthwhile. Go and see them. It’s never too late.”


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Hearing. It’s all we do.

Gardening Week

with AG’s gardening expert Ruth Hayes

Remove entwined weeds while the perennial is still dormant

To increase your plant stock, divide the perennial while it is out of the ground and replant the divisions as you would the parent plant.

What’s On

Things to do near you

Snowdrop season is in full flow this week

Clearing perennials of tangled weed roots

Ruth “cleanses” a plant closely entwined with a weed


HEN perennials come and separating the two by hand. Take back into growth the last care you don’t damage the roots of the thing they need is close plant you want to keep – digging wide competition from weeds. of the rootball and keeping some soil Weeding around them is one way attached helps protect the roots. of helping them along, but this Place the rootball on a easy job can become more tarpaulin, newspaper or Weed the border complex if weeds and plastic bag and carefully before replacing couch grass are growing tease apart the two sets your perennial so closely that their roots of roots. I find a hand are tightly entwined with fork ideal for the job. the plant you are trying Keep the plant out to salvage. of the ground for as Removing the top short a time as possible growth is not enough as to prevent the roots from perennial weeds regenerate drying out. from the roots, so you need to When you return the plant to remove the whole plant. the border, firm the soil around it and This involves digging up the water well so the roots can re-establish cultivated plant and the weed together, themselves quickly. When lifting the plants, keep some soil around the roots to protect the perennial

Work off a plastic bag or tarpaulin and use a hand fork to tease the roots apart

10-March 4: Snowdrop Spectacular: Burton Agnes Gardens, Burton Agnes, Driffield, East Yorkshire, YO25 4NB. 01262 490324, 10: So You Want to be a Garden Designer? RHS Wisley, Wisley Lane, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB. 0203 176 5830, 10-11: Snowdrop Walk: Rode Hall, Scholar Green, Cheshire, ST7 3QP. 01270 873237, 10-11: Snowdrops at Colesbourne Park, Colesbourne, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL53 9NP. 01242 870264/870567, 10-28: Snowdrop Days: Evenley Wood Garden, Evenley, Northants, NN13 5SH. 017776 307849, 10-18: Family Fun – Mud and Machines: RHS Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate, North Yorks, HG3 1QB. 0203 176 5830, 10-March 9: Snowdrops: Chippenham Park Gardens, Ely, Cambs, CB7 5PT. 01638 721416, ■ Please send details and images of any events happening in your area to or address them to What’s On, Amateur Gardening, Pinehurst 2, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough Industrial Park, Farnborough GU14 7BF. ■ Listings need to be with us at least six weeks in advance. ■ All details are subject to change without our knowledge, so please always check that the event is still going ahead before leaving home.



with Bob Flowerdew, AG’s organic gardening expert

Bob’s top tips for the week

Microgreens – a modernised mustard and cress


Place hollowed-out half-spud pest ‘traps’ in your propagator and cold frame to catch slugs, snails, millipedes and woodlice – and stop them eating your plants.

You can grow nutritious microgreens in virtually any container

Fresh greens by the tray


Put those silica gel pouches acquired with electrical goods and foods in with your seed packets to help keep them drier.

Home-grown salads have never been easier, says Bob



T’S becoming ever easier to grow a healthier diet. When I started gardening fresh lettuces were just full ‘butter’ heads of soft leaves, and these were almost the only acceptable option available. This type of lettuce needed rich, moist soil to grow and careful nurturing to be succulent and sweet. Then icebergs arrived, lettuces with a crunchy, almost pure-white, heart. But these were yet more demanding and even harder to grow well. The result was that cut-and-comeagain loose-leaf sorts were next introduced. Easier to cultivate and giving several harvests from the one sowing, these made home-grown greens so much simpler. Now there has been another change with the introduction of single-leaf salads and microgreens. Instead of growing a batch of plants each to maturity, the trend has been to sow large numbers of lettuce seeds in trays of compost that are cropped as soon as they have any leaves big enough to pick – a sort of a modernised mustard and cress, and with several pickings from each batch.

And it’s not just lettuces: many edible salads are now offered as a microvarieties for this intensive culture. The advantages are not just lots of fresh greens more easily, but also the speed with which they’re available as they take little growing time to harvest compared to maturity. By sowing a tray each week you get a continuous supply throughout almost all the year (even in

“A modernised mustard and cress” darkest winter if you install a proper growing light). Best of all, though, is the fact that this method eliminates many pest and disease problems that bedevil most growers as each batch is grown, cropped and discarded so rapidly. True, this does use quite a lot of compost, but it need not be wasted as once cutting is over invert the mass of roots into a mulch mat to go under perennial plants. Neat!


Sow broad beans in small pots under cover, or outdoors under cloches, and plant out when they are growing away.


Turn over plants in pots and inspect their drainage holes as these can become blocked. Look for slugs that are hiding, too. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AMATEUR GARDENING


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Gardening Week with Val Bourne, AG’s organic wildlife expert

Clumps of lichens on witch hazels planted ten years ago

Lichens lose their colour in summer sunshine, but provide a rich tapestry in winter

with fluffier lichen that looked almost eau de nil in winter light. A lichen is an extremely successful partnership between a fungus and an alga, and they can survive for centuries. Some found in the Antarctic are thought to be 10,000 years old. There are about 1,700 species in Britain and many thrive in unpolluted areas. The carpet formers, such as those found on my stonewalls, are extremely slow growing. In 2013 a team of experts examined the sarsen stones at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Of the 108 lichens they found, a few were rare and two were very rare. They were puzzled by the presence of 14 species normally found on cliffs by the sea, because the stones are around 30 miles (50km) from the coast. Some of the stones were transported by sea from the Preseli Mountains in Pembrokeshire, so that may be one explanation. However, the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire also have maritime species of lichen. You may be thinking that lichens are found only in rural places away from cities, but when Buckingham Palace Garden, in the centre of London, was surveyed in the 1990s, 39 species were found. However, only two were recorded in the 1960s when the air was less clean. Lichens reduce carbon-dioxide levels, so they’re beneficial. Back home I’m pleased to say that my witch hazels (Hamamelis) planted ten years ago already have some shaggy lichen balls attached. I’ve seen longtailed tits collecting strands in late winter, so I’m leaving it in place.

For the love of lichens

Val looks at the importance of lichens and how these composite organisms benefit the environment ( Here’s hoping it works for me, as I don’t intend to move. My first winter was cold and sunny,

“Lichens can survive for centuries” with 38 frosts in 40 days, and I fell in love with the lichens on the low stonewalls surrounding the cottage. They were a patchwork of red, black, grey and ochre,



Y garden lies close to 700ft (213m) above sea level in a very cold area of the Cotswolds. It’s often bright in winter and garden visitors tend to shiver because spring arrives late here. I once had a garden gathering in March, when hardly anything had struggled from the ground, and shortly afterwards I had a card from one witty attendee. It was addressed “Almost Spring Cottage, Cold Cold Aston!” The bracing air is reputed to be extremely healthy and has been “credited with the longevity of its inhabitants, including several vicars”, according to British History online


Lichens shelter insects, as my granddaughters Ellie and Indie discovered when they saw lots of tiny mites under their microscopes. This explains why wrens (pictured) frisk the walls. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AMATEUR GARDENING


with Lucy Chamberlain, AG’s fruit and veg expert Step by step

How to get an early pea crop


There are plenty of early pea varieties to choose from, such as ‘Early Onward’, ‘Jaguar’, ‘Kelvedon Wonder’. It’s risky to sow too early in the year outside (the peas simply rot off in cold, wet soils) so take the safer option and sow them under cover.

Take the safe option and sow your early peas in pots under cover

Sow early varieties of peas Pot-sown peas will provide an early crop of tender veg


NE of my earliest gardening memories is sneaking down to my grandparents’ veg plot and eating some fresh peas. The sweetness of those juicy peas was divine – perhaps the fact that I’d “stolen” them added to the experience, too! I know there’s been a trend to sow peas in guttering in recent years, but I’m

going back to my favoured method of sowing into pots. For one, peas are deep-rooted plants that don’t appreciate such a shallow container, and two, it’s actually quite tricky to get the peas from the gutter into the soil without disturbing them. I also like the flexibility of transplanting at my preferred spacings, so, here’s what to do (see right).


Fill some 3.5in (9cm) pots with multipurpose compost (larger seeds don’t need the more expensive seed compost), water well and allow to drain. Make two 2in (5cm)-deep holes per pot with a pencil or dibber, and sow one seed in each. Cover over with compost and water

Look after citrus IT was utter decadence at Christmas – vodka and tonic with my very own home-grown slice of lime! Citrus are evocative plants, conjuring up images of sun-drenched Mediterranean courtyards. They lend themselves very well to pot culture, which allows us to grow them in the rather un-Mediterranean UK. We can simply protect them in winter by moving them somewhere well lit and frost-free, ready to adorn our patios in the warmer months. You often get a burst of flowers in late winter – and because fruits can take a year to mature here, a nice 20 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018


harvest, too. Once picked, it pays to give these little evergreen trees a quick prune to shape them up – just snip off any leggy shoots that spoil the shape. A balanced liquid feed now will encourage new growth.

Place the pots in a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory (a heated propagator isn’t necessary) and protect them from mice with some fine wire mesh. Keep them moist, and when the seedlings are 4-5in (1013cm) tall, harden them off ready to plant outside in mid-March.

Next week: Sow glasshouse tomatoes, dig in green manures, sow early carrots under cover, set up your propagator, prune nut trees

Sow celery and celeriac HAVING grown the best celery and celeriac I’ve ever harvested in recent years, my enthusiasm for these two crops has swelled considerably – much like them in all the rain we had last summer. Giving these veg a consistent supply of moisture is one of the secrets to sizeable harvests – they hate to dry out. To that end, I’m digging lots of organic matter into the ground that will ultimately be home to them this spring, because it will help retain soil moisture. The bed is positioned on the shadier side of the veg plot, which will also help keep the soil nice and damp. Another key to success is providing them with a long growing season, because both crops are slow to germinate and bulk up. Early February is the perfect time to get seed out of

the packet. Although both crops are pretty hardy, they must be started off in a propagator for germination to be good. The usual variety of celeriac to be offered is ‘Monarch’, which performs well for me. There’s more variation in celery, and this year I’m growing ‘Lathom Blanching Galaxy’, which is the variety my parents used to grow acres of commercially – it’s tasty stuff! Both crops are sown into a large, shallow pot of wellwatered seed compost. Sow on the surface and cover with a light dusting of vermiculite (they need light to germinate, so don’t use compost). Placed in a well-lit propagator at 15-18°C, they’ll take 2-3 weeks to germinate and be large enough to prick out into individual modules.

Cut back new fruit trees, canes and bushes I’M crossing my fingers here, but I’m hoping that a fair few of you have some new additions to your fruit garden for 2018. Autumn and winter are the prime months for planting woody crops, so raspberries, currants, apples and plums may all be settling themselves in across the land. Cue, then, some tough love. It might seem harsh, but many of these new plants will benefit from hard pruning to get themselves established. New root systems can be put under excess strain if they’ve got too much top-growth to support, and many plants demand a bushy, multi-branched canopy of stems that only develops as the result of a severe snip back. Young currants and gooseberries will, for example, develop into stronger multistemmed bushes if all existing stems are cut back to 3-4in (810cm) above soil level now. In the same boat are tree fruits

Cutting back all the shoots of this newly planted blackcurrant ‘Ben Hope’ will ensure it develops into a strong, multi-stemmed bush

purchased as maiden or feathered whips (very young trees yet to undergo much pruning). Cane fruit, too, will appreciate it, such as raspberries, blackberries and loganberries. Exceptions are where you’ve purchased a partly trained tree, such as an espalier, which has already been hard pruned for you a few years ago. ‘Long-cane’ raspberries and other ‘long’ cane fruit are also exceptions, but this will be mentioned on the label.

Positioning Jerusalem artichokes in a large, clear bed because they’ll ultimately tower well above head height”

Plant Jerusalem artichokes JERUSALEM artichokes – or “sunchokes” as they’re also known – are a tall perennial sunflower grown for their knobbly tubers. These have a variety of uses, as they can be roasted, mashed or fried. In fact, you can treat them just like a potato. Any article that encourages their growth usually runs in conjunction with a disclosure about their effect on our digestion. It’s true that Jerusalem artichokes can cause wind (they contain around 16% inulin which, when fermented in our large intestine, produces a lot of gas). However, cooking them ‘low and slow’, such as in a slow cooker, and introducing them gently into your diet so that your gut gets used to them, will make this side effect barely noticeable. ‘Fuseau’ is the main variety offered by seed catalogues. Plant them 6in (15cm) deep and apart, in a sunny spot where they can merrily romp away unhindered. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AMATEUR GARDENING


Pick of the very best

Graham Rice chooses his six top RHS Award of Garden Merit winners




More subtle than many, our native Daphne laureola is a good option for dry shade

This week it’s

Daphnes One of the best scented shrubs available, daphnes are also easy to grow. Graham Rice reveals six of his fragrant favourites


BOUT this time last year I was driving along a country lane on the edge of the Fens when I spotted some glossy-leaved evergreens growing on a verge beside the road. Stopping to investigate, I could not fail to notice the fragrance emanating from the vivid green flowers hidden beneath the foliage. Closer inspection revealed that the plants in question were one of our two native daphnes, the spurge laurel (Daphne laureola). They had migrated from the copse behind, where they’d spread to form a large patch. In winter, spring or summer, scent 22 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

is a key feature of daphnes. In fact, they include some of the most fragrant shrubs you can grow. Evergreen or deciduous, daphnes are generally neat and well-behaved. Some will reach 6½ft (2m), while many will grow to less than half that and thrive in containers. Alternatively, you can use the smaller sun-loving varieties

as evergreen anchors in raised beds, among alpine plants and dwarf bulbs. Produced at the tips of shoots and at the leaf joints, the clusters of small flowers are reminiscent of a mini lilac. In some varieties these flowers are followed by red or black berries, although these are often taken by birds as soon as they’re ripe. In others,

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The Award of Garden Merit is a mark of quality awarded since 1922 to garden plants (including trees, vegetables and decorative plants) by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

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Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Somerset’ From January to March this upright evergreen has clusters of 12-15 fragrant, pale-pink flowers. These open at the shoot tips and, on thriving plants, in leaf joints. Likes moist, humus-rich soil. HxS: 61⁄2ftx16in (2mx40cm).

Evergreen in milder areas, deciduous in colder regions, the rosy purple fragrant flowers are prolific in May and June, and often later. Enjoys sun and good drainage. Has blackish-purple berries. HxS: 4ftx16in (1.2mx40cm).

Daphne x susannae ‘Cheriton’

Daphne tangutica

This evergreen dome-shaped sunlover with rich glossy foliage is covered in clusters of up to a dozen strongly scented, deep rosy-purple flowers in April and May, with more from July. Enjoys sun and good drainage. HxS: 16x15in (40x37cm).

Easy to grow, this daphne forms an evergreen dome of deep-green foliage covered with fragrant, blushed-white flowers in March and April, followed by summer clusters in the leaf joints. Best if not allowed to dry out. Has orange-red berries. HxS: 3½ftx17in (1mx42cm).

there’s variegated foliage, which can be very dramatic. With its green flowers, our native D. laureola is one of the less flamboyant daphnes. It’s still worth growing and very useful in dry shade, but there are plenty of options that are more colourful and more fragrant – among them some truly excellent dwarf shrubs. These never need pruning, and so long as you select the right variety for the right garden situation, they will start to flower when still young and give you decades of pleasure. In recent years, many fine new

varieties have appeared, and while their names may be unfamiliar it is well worth getting to know them. As shrubs go, daphnes tend to be quite expensive. That’s because some are difficult for nurseries to grow from cuttings. These need to be grafted – a skilled and expensive technique. Daphnes can also be slow growing when they’re young, taking some time to reach saleable size, and this adds to the price tag. But hey, they say you get what you pay for – and with daphnes I believe you get a great deal.

Daphne x rollsdorfii ‘Wilhelm Schacht’ This dwarf evergreen has clusters of strongly scented, reddish-purple blooms through spring and paler flowers later. Very hardy and drought tolerant once established. HxS: 20x16in (50x40cm).

Daphne x transatlantica eternal Fragrance (‘Blafra’) Impresses with its adaptability, rich fragrance and long (April-October) flowering. Blushed buds open to almostwhite flowers. Propagation is fairly easy, so the price is often appealing. Red berries, too. HxS: 21⁄4ftx14in (70x35cm).

What makes a good daphne? n Prolific clusters of flowers that show themselves off well n Powerful fragrance n Flowers opening over a long period of time n Tolerant and adaptable growth n Good vigour n The added attraction of variegated foliage or berries. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


Planting daphnes n Plant at any time in spring or autumn, with mail-order nurseries providing the best choice. Also look for offers in AG. n Check individual soil and site preferences, but most daphnes are best in that elusive combination of a well-drained soil that retains moisture. No daphne enjoys waterlogging. n Many appreciate full sun – in a raised bed, for example. n Some thrive in dappled shade. n They are suitable for container growing: plant in a deep pot, filled with a soil-based compost such as John Innes No3.

Plant in sun or dappled shade

Looking after daphnes Keep an eye out for aphids

Mulch with gravel

n Most daphnes never need pruning; some even resent it and may die back from the pruning cut. n Daphnes also dislike being moved, especially when they mature, so choose your planting site carefully and allow them to develop.

n In raised beds mulch with gravel, or cover roots with thin, flat stones to help retain moisture. In shadier sites mulch with a weed-free soil improver. n Viral diseases can be a problem. Keeping aphids under control will help prevent these from spreading.

In my garden My workspace, where I’m writing this, is in an upgraded summerhouse at the end of the garden. I’ve just planted a Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ near the back door of the house and it is doing well. This area is paved, so I planted it in a large pot. Already, even on the newly planted shrub, the fragrance is intoxicating and I enjoy it every time I pass by with a cuppa on my way to work. 24 AmAteur GArDeNING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

Fragrant Daphne ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Daphne plants are available now

Variegated daphnes In recent years a number of variegated daphnes have been introduced, mostly with foliage edged (rather than splashed) in cream or yellow. These complement the flowers and bring year-round, and often bright and dramatic, colour to the garden. none has so far received an RHS AGM, partly because they’re slower growing than green-leaved types and more difficult to keep growing well, and partly because they occasionally revert and produce a green shoot that strives to take over from the variegated growth. However, both new and well-established variegated forms of the super-scented D. odora are worth considering. Look out for the dramatic, broadly cream-edged D. odora Rebecca (‘Hewreb’) and ‘Mae-jima’ (pictured above), and the less brightly marked (but old favourite ‘Aureomarginata’. If you do opt for one of these variegated varieties of D. odora, bear in mind that they will be unhappy if the soil is too limey.

with Martyn Cox

Up the

Paths have many uses in the garden, including leading the viewer’s eye to a feature

Garden path There’s much more to paths than just a structure to get you from A to B. Martyn Cox explains how a path can enhance your garden or even be a feature in its own right


ONCE lived in a mid-terraced house that overlooked at least a dozen back gardens. The one thing that united all these plots (apart from mine, obviously) was the garden path – a slab or concrete creation that ran as straight as an arrow down the centre of the lawn, from the back of the house to a shed plonked at the very bottom. Yet, a garden path can be so much more than a functional way to get from A to B. It can be used to direct movement, lead the eye to a focal point or to divide gardens into different areas. A path allows access to the garden in poor weather and lets you get up close to plants. Although paths can be temporary (such as a walk through a meadow cut with a mower), a permanent one will add to the structural backbone of your plot. It can also be a highly ornamental feature in its own right, depending on 26 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

the originality of the design and the materials you choose. Paths can be short or long, wide or narrow, straight or curvaceous. Slate chippings, gravel and wood chippings are often used as loose surface materials, while slabs, tiles, bricks, setts, pavers, decking boards and natural stone provide a solid, smooth surface on which to walk. Late winter is probably the best time to add a new path, or alter an existing route around the garden, as beds and borders are full of dormant plants that don’t require our attention. It’s also easier to plot a route when the garden can be seen in its entirety. Building work can cause damage to lawns or other features, but these will quickly recover in spring. I believe paths filled with loose materials are simple enough for anyone to build. Stone, brick and similar paths require greater attention to detail.

Those with good DIY skills will save money by taking on the job, but those with less confidence are better off calling in a qualified specialist, such as a landscape contractor, to ensure the walkway is stable, level and long lasting. The style, materials and direction of a path should be based on the shape, size, look and function of your garden. For example, winding paths are ideal in larger spaces. Use them to cross lawns, bisect beds or drift through a woodlandstyle garden. Due to their curvaceous angles, it’s impossible to see where the path ends, which helps to create a sense of mystery. There are no set rules that prevent the use of sinuous paths in a small garden. A short, gently curved path is certainly more interesting than a completely straight one, and a path that zigzags from side to side will make a space seem larger. However, these only work when planting or other objects

All photographs Alamy unless otherwise credited


Six plants for planting along paths

Alchemilla mollis AGm Mounds of rounded leaves with scalloped edges are almost hidden in early summer by 12in (60cm) tall arching sprays of frothy, lime-green flowers

Buxus sempervirens Common box is the most popular of all topiary plants. Balls, cones, hedges and other shapes look great next to paths. It is perfect in sun or shade, and tolerant of most soils

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ AGm Ideal in a formal setting, this sun-lover boasts silvery-green leaves and deep-violet flowers on 24in (60cm) tall spikes from July until September

Geranium macrorrhizum This hardy geranium forms an 18in (45cm) tall mat of lobed leaves topped by a mass of magenta blooms on slender stems in summer. Ideal for sun or dry shade

Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’ AGm Forming large rosettes of fleshy purple leaves, this bugle will spread to form a dense carpet. Bright-blue flowers on 12in (30cm) spikes are carried in late spring

Stipa tenuissima This deciduous grass has pale-green leaves topped with fluffy, silvery flowers from early summer to autumn. It is a sun-lover that will thrive even in an exposed position

prevent the “walker” from stepping off the designated route in an attempt to reach a destination more quickly. For this reason, it’s important to keep the course of the path fairly simple. I’ve been to gardens where paths set in lawns take a convoluted route to sheds, greenhouses, benches and other destinations, and it is clear to see that this intended route is being ignored when wear and tear from feet have worn out an alternative route through the grass. Choose materials that suit your garden. Reclaimed bricks and gravel are ideal in cottage gardens, while bark chippings are perfect for wildlife or woodland gardens. Concrete slabs, pavers and decking boards are great for new builds, and ceramic tiles are in keeping with a period town garden. Natural stone adds a touch of classical elegance wherever it’s used. Once the path is in place, add some

plants if the setting is appropriate. A row of low-growing architectural evergreens or neat flowering shrubs are great alongside paths in formal situations,

while grasses and perennials with a slightly floppy habit provide a contrast to the rigidity of the path, as they help to soften its edges.

How to make a quick gravel path Mark the path out on the ground using a trail of dry sand trickled from a bottle – paths should be at least 2ft (60cm) wide to accommodate a wheelbarrow. Dig out the marked-off area to a depth of about 2in (5cm). Roughly flatten the bottom of the excavation by chopping out any lumps with a spade and then compacting the base by walking up and down. Edge your path to prevent gravel from escaping. Upended bricks or terracotta rope top tiles are popular and are easily fixed on a bed of

mortar. If a path is in the lawn, consider using flexible steel strips. Cut a piece of weed-suppressing fabric to roughly the size of the path, lay it along the path and trim. This will prevent weeds popping up and stop the contents of the path mixing with the soil. Hammer some tent pegs along the edge of the material to keep it in place. Finish by filling the furrow with a 2in (5cm) layer of gravel. Try not to make it any deeper, otherwise you’ll end up sinking into the surface. Rake it level. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


Whether in a container or a border, colourful annuals such as marigolds, sunflowers and cornflowers have real impact and will bloom for months

e r o m t e g o t s y a w Easy

flowers for less Sowing annuals will ensure a summer of dazzling colour in the garden for very little cost – so why not start choosing your seeds now, says Tamsin Hope Thomson


f you want to bring vibrant colour into the garden with minimum effort and outlay, then sowing annuals is the answer. While perennials can take a few years to establish and reach peak performance, annuals give fast results – they’re off the starting blocks in March and flowering by June/July. And by selecting the right varieties, you can have a spectacular display that lasts right through summer and into autumn. There is a huge range to choose from. In fact, whatever your garden’s style and aspect, you will have no shortage of options, many of which are both prolific and long-flowering. Whether you’re planning to get sowing straight away or are waiting for the 28 AmAteur GArDeNING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

weather to warm up a bit, now is the time to search out your favourites and stock up on some of the best-value plants around. Half-hardy annuals need warmth to germinate, but can be sown under cover in mid to late february, ready for transplanting outdoors once the temperature starts to rise. Or, for a more low-maintenance option, stick to hardy annuals – they are the easiest to grow and can simply be sown direct outdoors or in pots once the danger of frost is over (usually from March to April). While it requires a little more effort, growing from seed is extremely costeffective and gives you a better choice of variety and colour than if you were to buy your annuals as plug plants.

Popular and reliably long-flowering options include cosmos, poppies, marigolds, rudbeckia and nigella, all of which cost just a few pounds for tens – sometimes hundreds – of seeds. from delicate flowers such as Orlaya grandiflora to bold bloomers like zinnias and colourful climbers like Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata), there’s something to appeal to every gardener. How you use them is up to you – individual plants are great for adding impact to your border, or why not plant drifts of flowers to complement shrubs and perennials. Invest in a few packs of seeds now, take the time to plant them and you’ll have a cheap and plentiful supply of annuals that will keep the colour coming all summer long.

Orlaya grandiflora (AGm)


Limnanthes douglas

This lacy beauty is a good pick for its long flowering period, with delicate white blooms that appear from June to the first frosts. A hardy annual, it can be sown under cover from March, or direct from April. H: 18-24in (45-60cm).

Easy and fast-growing, with feathery foliage, love-in-a-mist is a cottagegarden annual that flowers from June to September. Try sky blue ‘Miss Jekyll’ (H: 18in/45cm; above) or ‘Oxford Blue’ (H: 30in/75cm). Sow direct, March to May.

The poached-egg plant is a low grower that attracts pollinating insects. Those vibrant yellow flowers will fill borders with cheery colour throughout summer and into autumn. Sow direct, March to May. H: 6-8in (15-20cm).


Papaver ‘Ladybird’

Californian poppy

This has ample bright summer blooms that fill borders at little cost and make excellent long-lasting cut flowers. Sow in early spring under cover, or direct in late spring. Flowers from June to November. H: 24-40in (60cm-1m).

This eye-catching annual poppy couldn’t be easier – simply scatter the seeds where you want it to appear. The bright colour and bold black spots will enliven border displays from June to August. H: 22in (55cm).

A tall hardy annual that thrives on poor soil, making growing child’s play. Sow direct from March to May (depending on the weather conditions), for flowers through the summer (depending on your chosen variety). H: 18in (45cm).

Centaurea cyanus



Cornflowers will attract bees and butterflies to the garden, and fill your borders with ruffled blue flowers. Seedlings appear in just 2-3 weeks, so I’d recommend sowing every three weeks to keep the flowers coming into September. H: 24in (60cm).

A Mexican native with vibrant daisy-like flowers on sturdy stems, Zinnias come in shades of pink, orange and red. Perfect for a sunny spot in the middle of a border. Sow indoors from February to April, or direct from May to June. H: 30-36in (75-90cm).

Irresistibly cheerful and simple to grow, with long-lasting flowers. There are many varieties beyond the standard yellow sunflower – why not try a red type like ‘Claret’ (H: 1.8m; above) or a more compact option such as the 40in (1m) tall ‘Vanilla Ice’.


Main photo: GAP. All others Alamy, unless otherwise credited

Top 9 annuals for long-lasting colour

10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


3 for fragrance

Stocks (Matthiola)

Sweet pea These hardy annuals will fill your garden with incredible scent – keep picking for more blooms and to enjoy their perfume indoors, too. Sow in root trainers or small pots from now until March, and plant out from April to May. H: 18in-8ft (45cm-2.5m).

Choose a fast-growing annual stock for flowers with an amazing fragrance that appear throughout summer. Sow under cover from February to April, for planting out once the danger of frost has passed. H: 12-16in (30-40cm).

4 picks for pots

Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia)


Grow this vigorous annual climber up an obelisk or support in a pot – it will be smothered with flowers all summer long. There are several colours available, from white through to orange and red. Sow from February to March. H: 70in (1.8m).

Whether climbing, trailing or compact, nasturtiums are endlessly versatile. Perfect for the border or containers, they are free-flowering with vibrant blooms. Sow in early spring under cover, or direct in mid to late spring.


Gypsophila elegans

Tough and fast-growing, these jaunty flowers add easy colour to containers. Perfect for a sunny spot on the patio, with blooms from June to September. There are many varieties, including Calendula officinalis (above).

Create a cloud of flowers with an annual variety of baby’s breath. It will make an attractive and elegant container plant from June to August. Sow under cover in March, or direct from April. H: 18in (45cm).

30 AmAteur GArDeNING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

Nicotiana Tobacco plants are long-flowering, scented, half-hardy annuals. They are pollinated by moths, which is why you’ll notice that wonderful fragrance as dusk falls. Sow under cover from March to April, or direct in May. H: 24in (60cm).

And for foliage fans


Pittosporum ‘tom thumb’

Simple but stylish, clipped box looks good with many flowering plants, adding structure to the border. A box hedge will hide stems and leaves, while box balls add architectural interest.

This striking foliage plant will have impact year-round, and is an excellent partner for annuals with white, purple or pink flowers. It is also low-maintenance, requiring only light pruning.

Sowing and looking after annuals ■ Sow half-hardy annuals like sweet peas under cover – the seedlings can then be planted out when the weather warms up and there is no danger of frost. ■ Sow hardy annuals direct from March to May, depending on variety, once the soil warms up. ■ Look for emerging weeds as a sign that the soil is warm enough to plant out annual seedlings. ■ Prepare the soil in borders well before sowing annual seeds – rake to a fine consistency and remove any stones. ■ Sow thinly, then thin seedlings once they have a true pair of leaves – check instructions on your seed packet for the ideal distance between plants. ■ Water well while plants are establishing, especially during hot weather. ■ Avoid sowing annuals in rich soil as this can result in more foliage than flowers – many annuals thrive in poor soil. ■ Deadhead regularly to keep the flowers coming into autumn. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


Lasting love may be hard to find, but given moist soil, space and shade the heart-shaped flowers of Lamprocapnos spectabilis will return year after year

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with

Bleeding hearts Dicentra and Lamprocapnos light up dappled shady areas with their heart-shaped flowers in pink, white and romantic red. Little wonder Val Bourne loves them


OMANCE is in the air this week and nature’s on the move once again. Prompted into action by lengthening days and warmer sunshine, there’s frog spawn in the pond, the birds are singing loud and long, and my bantams have started to lay after their long winter rest. I’ve also got bleeding hearts racing into growth – Dicentra, Lamprocapnos and their relative Corydalis – just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day. While most of us think of them as dicentras, following the latest reshuffle by botanists the ‘new’ Latin name of the tall bleeding heart is Lamprocapnos spectabilis. Of course, this isn’t actually new at all. As one of the first Asian plants to be introduced into Europe c1810, this bleeding heart was officially named Lamprocapnos spectabilis 32 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

in 1850, and only later became D. spectabilis. Elegant and beautiful at 1 1∕2-3ft (50-100cm) tall, you may still find it sold under its former name today. The most widely grown form has pink and white heart-shaped flowers in April, and looks stunning next to rich pink Triumph tulips such as ‘Barcelona’. I have several of these pink-and-white bleeding hearts under my floribunda roses. Intermingling them with tulips helps to mark their position, because bleeding hearts have fleshy stems that are easily damaged when walked on. They return year after year, even in my cold garden, and there will be plenty in garden centres now. Can’t wait until April? To encourage far earlier flowering, put them under cool glass when you get them home. The clear-white form, L. spectabilis

‘Alba’, is not such a strong grower. However, it looks wonderful in dappled shade, rising above the white-andgreen Viridiflora tulip ‘Spring Green’. It also mingles well with hardy ferns. A late frost can flatten the flowers of L. spectabilis, so when planting avoid any frost pockets – or have a tall bucket handy for covering up your plant if a frost is forecast. In warmer gardens these bleeding hearts will produce seeds, and they should come true to colour. And for those who like yellow and pink together, there is also a golden form, ‘Gold Heart’. Recent years have seen the arrival of the earlier variety L. spectabilis ‘Valentine’. It’s slightly shorter in my garden and the lockets are red and white, rather than pink and white. It also has darker stems and much redder


5 of the best Dicentra

Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’ (AGm)

foliage, and was raised by Canadian couple Lyle and Phyllis Sarrazin, who named it ‘Valentine’ because it flowered on 14 February for them. Hearts and flowers in a single package – what could be more romantic than that.

A very good, longlived, deep-red perennial with ferny green foliage and a taller habit. It always produces seed heads, but can set inferior seedlings – as I know to my cost. H: 4-20in (10-50cm).

Dicentra formosa ‘Langtrees’ (AGm) Very similar to the popular ‘Pearl Drops’, this whiteflowered form has grey-blue foliage so it can be difficult to Dicentra cucullaria place in a From north-eastern USA and Canada, woodland this small woodlander has creamygarden full white flowers and deeply dissected greenish foliage. Very ephemeral, of soft greens. each flower lasts around two weeks. H: 4-20in (10-50cm). H: 4-20in (10-50cm).

All photos Alamy, unless otherwise credited

■ Generally, dicentras and Lamprocapnos prefer to be grown in moist soil, in a sheltered site with dappled shade. ■ They thrive best in their own space, but bear in mind that they will leave a gap in summer. ■ All are responsive to being fertilised with Growmore and so on. ■ If you want to divide your bleeding hearts, do so in March. ■ To help preserve named varieties, trim the seed pods.


Planting and aftercare

Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ (AGm) A shorter option, with grey-tinted ferny foliage and lots of cherry-blossompink slender lockets. May be a hybrid between US dicentras D. formosa and D. eximia. H: 4-20in (10-50cm).

Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’

Due to its D. peregrina genes, this diminutive, sterile Dicentra isn’t long lived, but it will flower for many months before dying. Best treated as a container plant. H: 4-20in (10-50cm). 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


4 cracking Corydalis

Corydalis solida

Corydalis flexuosa (AGm)

A tuberous, small, spring woodlander from Central and Eastern Europe, this should be allowed to self-seed. Named forms include pink ‘Beth Evans’ and the tomato-red ‘George Baker’ (above). H: 4-20in (10-50cm).

This Chinese Corydalis has almost-vertical blue flowers, held above green leaves. Prefers slightly acidic soil, so add ericaceous compost. ‘China Blue’ (above) and ‘Père David’ are among the many named forms. H: 4-20in (10-50cm).

Corydalis ochroleuca

Corydalis malkensis (AGm)

Ferny foliage and green-tipped white flowers during late spring and the first half of summer make this self-seeding Balkan Corydalis useful in cracks and crevices, and on walls. Easy from seed. H: 4-20in (10-50cm).

Good in a dank spot, this white-flowered option is like a touch of snow on bare earth on a March day. It comes and goes because it sets lots of seeds – although thankfully not invasively so. H: 4-20in (10-50cm).

Planting and looking after Corydalis

Where to buy

■ Give Corydalis good soil and dappled shade, away from midday sun. ■ Don’t let them dry out in spring. ■ Plants retreat underground by early summer, so mark their position with pale grit if you need to. ■ To propagate, carefully lift the tubers between June and late August. Separate and then replant.

Beth Chatto 01206 822007

34 AmAteur GArDeNING 10 FEBRUARY 2018


Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants 01256 896533 Avon Bulbs 01460 242177

Anne Swithinbank’s masterclass on: controlling vine weevils Leaf notching on plants like rhododendron are a sign of adult weevils feeding, but it doesn’t always follow that their larvae will cause problems


The pale C-shaped vine weevil larvae are easy to see among dark compost particles

emerge as adults from May onwards. As with all pests, it pays to know your enemy. Adult weevils (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) are small, all-female, brownblack beetles 9mm long with distinctive elbow-shaped antennae. They are nocturnal and cannot fly, but clamber about efficiently and are capable of laying several hundred tiny brown eggs into the roots of plants during spring and summer. Adult weevils feed at night, causing notches around the edges of leaves. Although unsightly, this rarely upsets the vigour of plants. You might assume that spotting leaf notching is a sure sign that damage from larvae will follow, but this is not always the case. I see plenty of notching in our garden, but hardly any larvae in our large and varied collection of potted plants.

Plants like this six-year-old cyclamen are a vine weevil’s favourite, especially after compost is remoistened in summer


I keep spare plants in pots to donate for charity sales, but several (including some hardy cyclamen and a heuchera or two) have wilted and the tops have come away from the roots. Inside were pale grubs. Are these vine weevils and what preventative measures can I take? Clare Sutton, Leicester


This is almost textbook vine weevil larvae damage, especially if the culprits were just under 1∕2in (10mm) long, form a plump C-shape and have creamy bodies with brown heads. They spend the winter months tucked up in rootballs, feeding and hibernating, with damage to the plants becoming more apparent towards the end of winter. You’ve described some of their

favourite plants, as they love anything in the saxifrage family, especially heuchera. They also find the primula tribe delicious, including cyclamen, and are fond of strawberries, succulents such as Aeonium and Sedum, plus mind-yourown-business. Potted plants are often badly affected, whereas plants in the open ground seem to shrug off an attack. By the time a plant shows signs of distress or comes away from its roots, the damage is done. It would be a good plan to check other plants by tugging them gently to make sure they are sound. I used to break up compost, spread it out and call our small flock of bantams over to enjoy the grubs. Otherwise, pick them out and destroy them. You might notice strange-looking pre-pupal larvae with small legs at the front, getting ready to

Vine weevil larvae eat roots and sometimes tubers, so any healthy remaining upper stems can be safely rooted as cuttings. The small rosettes of plants like Saxifraga stolonifera (pure ambrosia to a vine weevil) will grow new roots in clean, welldrained compost. Even damaged cyclamen tubers with larvae picked out are salvageable. Allow them to dry out a little before setting them halfburied in a gritty compost and water sparingly. Never recycle compost for vulnerable plants like primroses, because it may contain eggs. 36 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018


Damage limitation

Vine weevils find primroses irresistible


Vine weevil in potted plants

Vine weevils love heuchera plants in pots

Next week: Anne looks at blueberries, including care during February, pruning, feeding and repotting

of pots with a thick layer of chunky grit to put them off. Lay sticky traps between vulnerable plants to trap adult beetles. Inspect plants by torchlight, but be canny when catching beetles as they fall quickly to the ground and play dead.

Exotic dark-leaved Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ is a favourite of vine weevil grubs (top) Alamy

The easiest way to avoid damage from vine weevil larvae is simply to stop growing their favourite plants in pots. The longer I garden, the more I find myself taking this easy route to happiness. However, this won’t help those of you with groups of trendy dark-leaved Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ destined for an exotic border, a frame full of cyclamen or a collection of unusual primroses. Vine weevils cannot fly or swim and I’ve known desperate gardeners take advantage of this by standing the legs of their plant staging in bowls of water, balancing containers on pot feet in a wide tray of water, or standing their pots on upturned bowls in water, like a castle on an island surrounded by a moat. Proprietary barrier glues applied around containers are another way of stopping the adults from climbing up, although I wouldn’t put it past them to gain entry through drainage holes. Vine weevils lay their eggs in the rootballs of plants, so dress the tops


How to control vine weevils

Nematode control

garden, but remember these are living creatures and must be kept fresh, used according to instructions by the expiry date and need the right soil or compost conditions in order to be effective.

Green Gardener

Fortunately, the microscopic nematode Steinernema kraussei found naturally in soil is available from biological control suppliers. These arrive in a powder which, when mixed with water, makes a solution for drenching pots or open ground where you suspect weevil larvae may be feeding. The best time for application is August or September when soil temperatures (a minimum of 41°F/5°C is necessary for them to work effectively) enable the nematodes to kill the larvae before they cause too much damage. However, if you suspect batches of plants are infested now and want to reduce the vine weevil population, apply in spring before they hatch into adults. Gel traps (see right) containing nematodes can be placed under plants in summer. Adult weevils hide under them by day and are killed. The nematodes work by entering the larvae before releasing a bacterium that stops the grub from feeding and kills it fairly promptly. The nematodes multiply and eventually burst out of the disintegrating larva, ready to infest more. They remain effective for around four weeks so long as the soil stays moist. Fortunately, they are safe to use in the



Anna Toeman, Dr Jane Bingham, John Negus Mimosas respond well to pruning

Sweet peas grow well in large pots

Viral sweet peas


How can I prevent my sweet peas succumbing to a virus? I tend to grow them in the same place as my garden is small. Margaret Jinks, via email

How do I prune my mimosa into shape?


How should I prune my little mimosa Acacia dealbata? Lindsay Griffin, via email


Mimosa can be grown either as a single-stemmed tree, or some species can be hard-pruned when young to encourage them to grow as multi-stemmed shrubs. Only the most vigorous growers can cope with this treatment, but as your mimosa is Acacia dealbata this should be all right. To grow your plant as a singlestemmed specimen all that is required is light pruning after flowering in spring. Remove any frost-damaged growth back to a healthy shoot.   Dead-head, cutting back flowered

shoots to a side shoot to encourage compact branching growth. If you would like a multi-stemmed shrub then this will involve cutting the whole trunk back, nearly to ground level. The pruning should be done when the plant is a year or two old.   Cut the stem off about 3in (7cm) above soil level. Make the cut straight across the stem, and if you can identify any dormant buds then make sure there is a bud just below the cut.   During the spring, dormant buds at the base of the stem will grow to give a multi-stemmed effect, and these can then be pruned as described for a single-stemmed shrub above. After pruning, feed with a general-purpose fertiliser for strong, healthy, leafy growth.


Your sweet peas are succumbing to a virus because you are unable to grow them on a fresh site each year. The sweet pea area at Wisley is rotated annually, which helps to keep the soil free from diseases. As you cannot change the site, you could either replace the soil with fresh from another part of the garden, or grow your plants in half-barrels or large pots.

Bear’s breeches is a robust grower

Tips to keep beans pest-free

Time Inc/Alamy/Wikimedia HuBoro


How can I control blackfly on my beans? Sue Man, via email

Blackfly, also known as black bean aphids, are sap-sucking insects, similar to greenfly. They excrete sugary honeydew that in turn encourages the growth of mould. Be vigilant and check the shoot tips of your plants regularly, squashing any blackflies as Black bean aphids are soon as they are seen. a nuisance on beans This can help to prevent the build up of a heavy infestation. There are organic sprays based on pyrethrum, fatty acids or plant oils, that you can choose. Repeated applications will be needed and you will have to cover the leaves thoroughly for these sprays to be effective. Choose from BugClear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer or Vitax Organic 2 in 1 Pest & Disease Control. Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.


A grizzly plant?


I have allowed this plant to establish itself unbidden. Is it a friend or foe? Mayo Marriott, via email


This is a species of bear’s breeches (acanthus). Yielding spikes of hooded purple and white flowers in summer, above architectural foliage, it is a magnificent herbaceous perennial. It likes full sun or light shade. The only problem is that if you move it, any roots left behind will produce invasive growth. Set it to create a 6ft (1.8m) feature well away from neighbouring plants, which it is liable to engulf.

Write to us: Ask The AG Experts, Amateur Gardening magazine, Pinehurst 2, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough Business Park, Farnborough, Hants, GU14 7BF. Email us:

Give pot-grown spuds a boost


Would putting organic manure and pelleted vegetable feed at the bottom of containers where I grow potatoes help their growth? I have found in previous years that using Slug Gone wool pellets on top has also helped. Christine Feltham, via email I suggest that you mix Westland Organic Farmyard Manure with an equal part of loam or free-draining garden soil. Place your potato tubers on top of it, covering them with 3-4in (8-10cm) of the same mix. When shoots are approaching the top of the container and you have filled in with more of this mix, work in the pelleted vegetable feed. Alternatively, use Vitax Potato fertiliser. I am pleased to learn that the Slug

Quick Questions & Answers


Something has damaged the leaves on my bay tree – what is it? Brenda George, Bishops Castle, Shropshire


Manure and wool will boost potato crops

Gone pellets you applied increased the tuber weight and yield. The pellets are excellent for deterring slugs and, when semi-rotted, nourish growth.

Pyracantha is good for covering unsightly walls and fences


The damage was done by bay suckers last year, and not helped by the current cold weather. Feed the tree with Vitax Conifer and Shrub to give it a boost. Sprinkle it over the root area monthly from April to August.


Will a ‘Braeburn’ apple crosspollinate a ‘Bramley’? Colin Mace, via email


They are in different pollination groups so not an ideal combination. However, they are in adjacent groups (D and E), so flowering could overlap and cross-pollination might occur. For further details, visit 

Q What can I grow to hide an unsightly wall?


I need to hide/cover an unsightly piece of wall in my garden, approx 5x4ft (1.5x1.2m). What sort of plants could I use for this? Cyril Jones-Evans, via email


Choose an evergreen shrub to provide interest and cover all year. There are lots to choose from, many of which have colourful variegated leaves. A few examples include: Euonymus fortunei (will grow upright close to the wall), Pyracantha (will grow upright close to the wall), Cotoneaster conspicuus ‘Decorus’, Aucuba (spotted laurel), Photinia, Ceanothus, Brachyglottis,

Viburnum tinus, Viburnum davidii, Fatsia japonica and small conifers. The larger garden centres have shrubs that are trained on trellis panels. These are very useful for providing instant and moveable screening. Alternatively, choose from many of the beautifully variegated and compact small-leaved ivies (Hedera helix), such as ‘Eva’, Goldchild’, ‘Golden Ingot’ or ‘Midas Touch’. Plant these close to the wall so they climb rather than trail. When you choose your screening plant, check the label to make sure it suits the growing conditions (sun/shade, soil, and so on) in your garden.

What is this plant, please? I bought it for a tenner! Mel Dewe, Aston, Oxon


This is devil’s Scindapsus ivy (Scindapsus aureus also called Epipremnum aureum) from tropical Asia, northern Australia and the Pacific islands. It is best trained on a trellis or pyramid of canes. Happiest in a temperature of 15°C/59°F, it is best positioned on 2in (5cm) of gravel in a generous drip tray. Feed weekly with a highpotash tomato fertiliser. Repot it every two years in a slightly larger container of John Innes No3. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AMATEUR GARDENING


Anna Toeman, Dr Jane Bingham, John Negus

Visitors have me foxed

Moth orchids can be dormant for years


How can I keep foxes out of my garden? Michael Cawston, via email

Noise will repel foxes


What is this fleshy plant?


What is this plant? It has large fleshy leaves, but doesn’t seem to flower. Harry Standaloft, Liverpool


This is a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) and has not had its flower stem cut back. Dormancy can be induced by not removing the racemes of faded flowers and, if dormant, the plant may not bloom again for up to two years. They can be induced to flower by cutting off the flower stem just above a

healthy node lower down the stem. If the plant isn’t dormant a new flowering shoot may emerge in a few weeks. Once in flower, the blooms may last for several months and the plant can flower almost constantly with only a short resting period. Allow the compost to dry until it is barely moist before each watering, and don’t let the plant stand in water. Phalaenopsis are not heavy feeders and need only a half-strength liquid feed every 2-4 weeks during the summer.

I’m perplexed by my pineapple!


Last year I cut the top off a pineapple, planted it in compost – and it started to grow into a plant! How big will it get? Joan Kenure, Porthcawl, Mid-Glamorgan


Crocus bulbs are vulnerable in pots

What’s been digging up my crocuses?


I planted some crocuses in pots last autumn, but they are being dug up and eaten by something. What is it likely to be and how can I protect them? Cheryl Anderson, Warminster, Wilts


The plant you have is botanically Ananas comosus, a terrestrial bromeliad from South America. With luck, within a year or so it will produce an interesting fat cone of violet-toblue flowers on a 24in (60cm) stem, which will develop into a fruit. To thrive, it needs a temperature above 59°F/15°C. Ideally, position it in a good light, feed it fortnightly with a high-potash fertiliser such as Tomorite and water freely throughout spring and summer, less in winter when growth is slower.

Apart from erecting a strong fence around your garden to exclude foxes, I urge you implement the following: Position an ultrasound sonic device, such as the Primrose PestBye. A hyper-resonance gadget, it is powered by three AA batteries that cause it to emit irregular bursts of high-frequency ultrasound. An animal-sensitive beam of sound carries over a 32ft (10m) area. Costing £24, it is available from Berkshire-based Primrose (✆ 0118 903 5210,  From the same company, you can also buy Scoot Fox Repellent (£8.99) which is safe for plants and animals.


Pineapple flowers are attractive and unusual

The best time to plant crocus is from September to October. Set corms to three times their depth in organically rich soil in full sun. I suspect that squirrels or foxes are digging up and eating the corms. The best way to counter this problem is to plant them in wire-mesh containers where they should be safe from any animal that tries to unearth them.

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10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


Write to us: Letters, Amateur Gardening magazine, Pinehurst 2, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough Business Park, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 7BF. Email us:

with Wendy Humphries

Talking We want to hear your stories. Angela Ness from points Perth shares her ideas for keeping the birds off


Versatile crop protection

N the spring and summer, tender young crops are irresistible to birds. Then in autumn and winter when food becomes scarce, your late and overwintering crops can become decimated by an onslaught of the hungry creatures. But for a small financial outlay you can create semipermanent structures to protect your crops all year round. Buy a roll of 20mm diameter Qualplast (MDPE) pipe from a plumbers’ merchant. This costs around £25 for a 50m length. Unravel the piping and make an arch shape to the height and width you need. Cut the arches with a hacksaw. Then, use 2ft (60cm) sections of bamboo cane to secure them, placing half the cane in the ground and fit the end of the arch over the protruding cane. Continue along the length of the ground you want to protect. Cover the arches with suitable netting and you have instant protection. This can be moved around each year as you rotate your crops. The arches can be made to any height, even quite small to cover strawberries. In the early season you can cover with fleece to protect

This inexpensive fruit cage was made using a gazebo and netting


Angela and her allotment neighbours use water pipes to support protective netting, making sure the sides are taut without any gaps

seedlings or to warm the ground for planting. Or make an enclosure high enough to walk through. To do this, use longer lengths of bamboo and secure both ends with wooden stakes. For taller crops such as raspberries and dwarf fruit trees, scour the web for a cheap gazebo to make a fruit cage. At this time of year you can pick them up at bargain prices. Remove the canvas cover and fix the whole frame to the ground using tent pegs. Cover the frame with netting and thoroughly pin down with stones or pegs. Make sure there are no gaps as birds can get caught inside. If you want to use

“The methods can also be used in a garden and moved from year to year if rotating crops”

it on an allotment, check with the committee in case there are any height restrictions on structures. Angela Ness, Perth Wendy says: Great ideas for beating the birds to those vulnerable crops!

“I’ve seen some creative bird scarers that my allotment neighbours have used, but this one is the best. I don’t know about the birds, but it definitely frightened the life out of me first time I saw it!” says Angela.

Share your stories, tips and photos with us and if your letter is published you will receive a new book. When you write, please indicate your area of interest!

Photo of the week

“Begonias are brilliant in my pyramid planter as they do not get leggy”

Any takers? PLEASE help! i have a dilemma in the name of an avocado. Like many people i have tried many times to grow an avocado from the stone. Just over two years ago i was successful. However, i now have a problem – it is now more than 2ft high. i cannot nip the growing point as it will then start putting on side branches. i cannot pot it on as it will get even bigger. i cannot put it outside as it will die. i have asked around, looking for someone either with a heated greenhouse or conservatory. i’ve asked at local National Trust places – the ones who have answered said “No”. Any takers, as i want to give it away to a good home! Catriona Kerr, East Renfrewshire

the feel of summer to come SEEiNg Peter Seabrook among the amazing colourful trials of begonias from last year (AG, 20 January) certainly did give us a feel of summer to come. To perfect them by adding some fragrance to the tuber-forming kinds, which was the only thing that was missing – what a success. i use them as the basis of hanging-basket plantings, with fibrous-rooted Begonia

ReadersÕ Quick Tips Avoid using salt to clear paths of slippery ice. it is bad for plants, insects and invertebrates when it gets washed into soil. Use harmless sand or grit instead. Ray Gibson, Knutsford, Cheshire

Wendy says: i’ve raised a lychee from a pip, which has made a slow-growing house plant – no luck yet with avocado!


Meet the team!

8 Editorial offices: Amateur Gardening, Time Inc (UK), Pinehurst 2, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 7BF ✆ 01252 555213 Email: amateurgardening Subscriptions: ✆ 020 3148 6340

Editor: Garry Coward-Williams Gardening editor: Ruth Hayes Designers: Al Rigger plus Emily Secrett and ‘The Studio’ Picture research and Letters editor: Wendy Humphries Marketing: Samantha Blakey

semperflorens along with pendula types to make wonderful displays. But the bigger the better, especially using fully double showstoppers for pots. i save and store them in the bottom of the wardrobe, which is quite a handy place for overwintering tubers. it’s a good job i am more gardening mad than shoe mad and have the space! Sylvia Monk, Hayling Island, Hants

Features: Kathryn Wilson and Julian Peckham Classified advertising ✆ 020 3148 2858 Advertising director: Kate Barnfield ✆ 020 3148 2575 Content director: Mark Hedges Group managing director: Oswin Grady

Subscription rates (51 issues, all prices shown include postage) UK: £107.53; Europe/Eire: ¤195.99; USA: $254.99; All other regions Middle East, Africa, Asia, Far East and ROW £166.99. Cheques payable to Time Inc. (UK) Ltd. Write to: Time Inc. (UK) Ltd, PO BOX 272, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 3FS ✆ (0330) 333 1133. Overseas +44 330 333 1113 (Lines are open 7 days, 8am-9pm, UK time). Published every Tuesday. Time Inc. (UK) Ltd, 161 Marsh Wall, London, England E14 9AP. Conditions of sale: this periodical shall not, without the consent of the publishers first given, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade at more than the recommended selling price shown on the cover (selling price in Eire subject to VAT). Printed and bound in England by the Wyndeham Group. Distributed by Marketforce (UK), 5 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 5HU. Registered as a newspaper at the post office. Amateur Gardening (inc. Popular Gardening) AMATEUR GARDENING, Time Inc (UK), Pinehurst 2, Pinehurst Road, Hampshire, GU14 7BF, ✆ 01252 555138. Amateur Gardening® is a registered trade mark © Time Inc. (UK) Ltd. ISSN 0954-8513 Time Inc. (UK) Ltd, 161 Marsh Wall, London, England E14 9AP ✆ 0870 444 5000. Email: ipcsubs@ Website:8

10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


A Gardener’s Miscellany

■ 11 February 1897 Roger Crompton Notcutt purchased a nursery in Woodbridge, Suffolk, which was later named Notcutts. Today the company operates 18 garden centres and is currently in its fourth generation of family ownership – Roger’s great-granddaughter Caroline Notcutt is vice-chairman. Notcutts is the exclusive supplier of Mattocks Roses.

Julia Margaret Cameron/Wikimedia

■ 10 February 1855 The first winter meeting of the Horticultural Society was held in Regent Street, London. The society became the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 1861. ■ 12 February 1809 Charles Darwin, naturalist, was born. He died in 1882. 46 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

Botanic romantic for St Valentine’s St Valentine’s Day is next Wednesday, 14 February, and there are some amazing facts and crazy off-thewall humour about plants and their relationships to love. For instance, in 1913 French botanist Prof Raymond Hamet expressed his love for a colleague in the bestowing of specific names to three forms of kalanchoe (most often grown as houseplants in the UK). They were Kalanchoe aliciae, K. leblanciae and

K. mitejea. The girl’s name was Alice Leblanc, and mitejea is an anagram of je tÕaime (French for “I love you”).

The language of flowers Over the last 1,000 years, and especially during the Ottoman Empire, it wasn’t always possible for young people of opposite sexes to talk to each other. So a suitor learnt that if they carried, say, a grape hyacinth flower around with them, they were giving out a distinctive “yes” message; an iris flower meant “no!” The so-called “language of flowers” developed. Here are some of the interpretations relating to love: Alyssum – Worth beyond beauty Honeysuckle – Generous and devoted affection Hyacinth – Play Lilac – First love China rose – Grace and beauty, ever fresh Wreath of roses – Beauty and virtue rewarded Moss rose – Voluptuous love White rose bud – Too young to love Faded rose – Beauty is fleeting Snowdrop – Hope Stock – Lasting beauty Tulip (red) – I love you Veronica – Fidelity

Love apples The tomato is by far the most common fruit grown by home gardeners. Until the early years of the 20th century they were generally referred to as ‘love apples’, rather than tomatoes. It was thought that, because of their heart shape, tomatoes were an aphrodisiac.

Time Inc/Alamy

■ 6 February 1783 Sir Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, landscaper and ‘England’s greatest gardener’, died at the age of 67.



THIS Gardening WEEK history IN 6-12 February

Nathanial Dance/Wikimedia

Gardening’s king of trivia and brain-teasers, Graham Clarke


Prize Draw

SERIES 5 romantic plant anagrams Rearrange the letters of these anagrams to find the common names of five plants that have “love”-ly names! (Answers below)

Gro-Sure Seed & Cutting Compost has been specifically developed to ensure perfect growing conditions for seed germination as well as seedling and cutting establishment. It contains Vermiculite for drainage and aeration, and plant extracts to stimulate young seeds and cuttings. We have three 10-litre packs to give away, each worth £5.99. See below for details of how to enter the prize draw.

How to enter Kenpei/Wikimedia

Send your name and address on the back of a postcard to Gro-Sure Seed & Cutting Compost Draw, Amateur Gardening, 2 Pinehurst, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 7BF. Or you can email your details to, heading the email Gro-Sure Seed & Cutting Compost Draw. The closing date is 15 February 2018.

WIN £30

Set Weather Vein


This word search contains the genus names of plants that have ‘love’ in either their common or varietal names. They are listed below; in the grid they may be read across, backwards, up, down or diagonally. Letters may be shared between words. Erroneous or duplicate words may appear in the grid, but there is only one correct solution. After the listed words are found there are eight letters remaining; arrange these to make this week’s KEYWORD.

Didier Biville/Wikimedia

Heritage Blends

Loving Edible Eels

She Aerates

Word Search

Snail Motive








No: 402





HOW TO ENTER: Enter this week’s keyword on the entry form, and send it to AG Word Search No 402, Amateur Gardening, 2 Pinehurst, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 7BF, to arrive by Wednesday 21 February, 2018. The first correct entry chosen at random will win our £30 cash prize. This week’s Keyword is .................................................................................... Name .................................................................................................................. Address .............................................................................................................. ............................................................................................................................. Postcode ............................................................................................................ Email ................................................................................................................... Tel no .................................................................................................................. Time Inc. (UK) Ltd, publisher of Amateur Gardening will collect your personal information solely to process your competition entry.



Set Weather Vein – Sweetheart Vines Heritage Blends – Bleeding Hearts Loving Edible Eels – Love Lies Bleeding She Aerates – Heartsease Snail Motive – Love In A Mist.


A Gardener’s Miscellany Where do our cut red roses come from?


...just for fun!





5 6



9 10 12

11 Alamy

13 14


The herb lovage (Levisticum officinale) does not, despite its name, have anything to do with ‘love’. Now, prepare to be confused! The name comes from ‘loveache’, ache (pronounced ‘itch’) being a medieval name for parsley. ‘Love-ache’ is a corruption of the old French name levesche, which came from the Latin genus name levisticum. This, in turn, is thought to be a corruption of the earlier Latin name ligusticum, meaning ‘of Liguria’ – a region of northwest Italy where the herb was grown extensively. Phew! 48 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018


of heaven, while Hypericum calycinum is the ____ of Sharon (5) 3 Chimonanthus praecox is better known as this (11) 4 Ranunculus sceleratus is also known as this (5,6) 5 Servant in a royal or noble household, ranking between a sergeant and a groom, as in the variety of tall bearded iris (6) 6 Resentful desire of something possessed by another, as in the Primula auricula cultivar, and Hemerocallis ‘____ Me’ (4) 10 Person of mixed European and African-American descent, especially living in the southern US and Caribbean, as in Heuchera ‘______ Nights’ (6) 11 Nertera granadensis is DOWN 1 The hindmost parts of animals, the ____ plant (4) 12 This small trinket on a especially when prolonged beyond the rest of the body, as bracelet is also a smallflowered chrysanthemum (5) in Hosta ‘Dragon _____’ and 13 Phaseolus lunatus is known Pennisetum ‘Fairy _____’ (5) as the butter or ____ bean (4) 2 Silene coeli-rosa is the ____ 1 Awry ash! Two words spoken in a casual way with conscious under-emphasis! (10) (anag) 7 Norwegian playwright (1828-1906), and an old nerine cultivar name (5) 8 Spike, and there is a famous Glastonbury one (5) 9 This month marks the names of two popular forms of narcissus: ‘______ Silver’ and ‘______ Gold’ (8) 11 South Yorkshire town, and a variety of Geranium sanguineum (8) 14 Love found in an avocado recipe! (5) 15 The heath or ling genus (5) 16 The flat palm (Howea forsteriana) is also known as this (6,4)


Loveless lovage!


ACROSS 1 Throwaways 7 Ibsen 8 Thorn 9 February 11 Barnsley 14 Adore 15 Erica 16 Sentry palm DOWN 1 Tails 2 Rose 3 Wintersweet 4 Water celery 5 Yeoman 6 Envy 10 Creole 11 Bead 12 Charm 13 Lima

■ The red roses we buy for our Valentines, from florists and online, are not the same as garden rose varieties. Florists’ roses have been specially bred to grow on long, straight stems, and the flower shapes are longer and tighter (for easier packing and posting). They usually lack scent, too. ■ Very few florists’ red roses are grown in the UK – most come from Kenya. In the past 20 years cut flowers have joined tourism and tea as the biggest of Kenya’s exports. ■ One of the largest Kenyan flower farms, Oserian, cuts and packs a million stems a day, using fast and long conveyor belts. The roses are then transported by refrigerated truck, to avoid spoilage, and loaded on to a plane, probably to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Here they are sold at auction to wholesalers, from where they are distributed to independent florists and retailers. Three days from field to vase – and at each stage the roses must be kept cold. If not, they’ll almost certainly spoil before they get to our loved ones!




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Acacia pataczekii is said to be very hardy and tolerate light shade but there’s only one way to find out

Plant Acacia dealbata in a sheltered site on well-drained, neutral-to-acidic soil in full sun for the best results. If it’s happy you can then sit back and watch as this fast-growing tree puts on amazing growth.

How to grow

Acacia dealbata

Light up the late winter garden with the Australian wattle, says Anne Swithinbank


REATHED with tiny pompoms of fuzzy, fragrant yellow blossom, Acacia dealbata, the florist’s mimosa or silver wattle, will light up a garden in February or March. These trees with evergreen, fernlike foliage are usually in bloom for Valentine’s Day, and in the language of flowers send a message of ‘secret love’. Their nectar is a welcome energy source for bees coming out of hibernation. Although silver wattle is not reliably hardy in all parts of the British Isles, it will withstand temperatures down to around 19°F (-7°C) and is more frost-proof on a light soil than on a heavy one. The secret weapon of this Australian native is speed of growth. Capable of putting on several feet a year, a plant will grow rapidly into a small tree of around 30ft (9m), although in the wild it will easily double that. In the warmer microclimates of 50 AmAteur GArDeNING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

some towns and cities, or mild coastal areas, there should be several years of blossom before an exceptionally hard winter comes along and damages growth. But even after a severe frosting, trees often bounce back and, once the damaged stems are removed, successfully renew themselves. In colder regions, grow your silver wattle in a pot to put under cover for winter. Potted on to a slightly larger container after flowering every year, they’ll stay healthy. Once a maximum pot size is reached, rely on top dressing or root pruning to enrich the compost and allow new roots to grow. I’d use a 50:50 mix of John Innes No2 and a soilless multipurpose potting compost. Water well and, once established, add a balanced liquid feed fortnightly until the end of July before letting the plant toughen up for winter. Make sure plants don’t go dry in autumn when flower buds are setting.

Acacia will grow quickly into a colourful, flowering, evergreen tree

Should pruning be necessary, do so after flowering. There is a purple-leaved A. baileyana ‘Purpurea’ (Cootamundra wattle), but I find the dark foliage seems to disappear in a border and needs careful siting. More interesting for colder gardens are A. d. subsp. subalpina and, from the cool Tasmanian highlands, Acacia pataczekii or Wally’s wattle.

There are around 1,000 species of wattle, and growing a few different ones from seed in a greenhouse or conservatory is fun. To hasten germination, damage the hard seed coat by abrading it slightly prior to sowing. Alternatively, place seeds in a cup of hot (just boiled) water and leave to stand for 24 hours. seeds germinate best in warmth (21°c) and young plants should be given cool, bright, frost-free winters for a couple of years prior to being planted out.

TimeInc/Alamy/Toby Buckland

4 wonderful wattles to plant and grow

Reader offer

The best shrub for spring colour SAVe


Pompom yellow mimosa flowers are produced on this evergreen tree against a backdrop of feathery foliage. In spring the scented, nectar-rich blooms provide a valuable source of food for bees and other insects. A brilliant specimen plant for sheltered borders. In frost-prone areas grow acacia in containers, and move them to a frost-free position in winter. Height: up to 26ft (8m). spread: up to 16ft (5m). supplied as a 31⁄2in (9cm) potted plant.


Anne’s tip for growing acacia from seed


■ Buy 1 for £12.99 ■ Buy 2 for £19.99 Ð Saving £5.99 To order, call direct on & 0844 573 2021 quoting TM_AG3.

Lines are open 9am-8pm (weekdays) and 9am-6pm (weekends). OR order online today 8 OR complete the coupon below in BLOCK CAPITALS. All orders will be acknowledged by letter or email, advising you of the expected despatch date. This offer is subject to availability. only one application per reader. offer enquiry line 0844 573 2021. order lines open seven days a week, 9am-8pm (weekdays), 9am-6pm (weekends). All correspondence concerning this offer should be sent to: Amateur Gardening Acacia offer, Dept TM_AG3, Po Box 162, Ipswich, IP8 3BX. Please note that your contract for supply of goods is with Thompson & Morgan (terms and conditions available on request). offer available to readers on the uk mainland only. Please note that we cannot deliver this product to the following postcode areas: GY, Hs, IV41-IV56, kW15-kW17, PA34, PA41-48, PA60-PA78, PA80, PH40-PH44, TR21-TR24, Ze1-Ze3. offer closes 14 March 2018. Plants despatched from March 2018.

Acacia pravissima (Oven’s wattle) Native to Victoria, this bushy acacia reaches 10ft (3m). Distinctive triangular grey-green “leaves” are in fact adapted leaf stalks or phyllodes. Fragrant flower heads are bright yellow.

Acacia suaveolens (sweet-scented wattle) Medium-sized, bearing long, narrow, blue-grey phyllodes and deliciously scented flowers the colour of lemon cheesecake. These are followed by impressive seed pods.

order form Send to: AG Acacia Offer, Dept TM_AG3, PO Box 162, Ipswich, IP8 3BX. Code






Acacia Dealbata x 1




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large Patio Pot & saucer x 2




Incredibloom Fertiliser 1 x 100g Pack




Incredibloom Fertiliser 1 x 750g Pack


£ £4.95




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Acacia retinodes (swamp wattle or wirilda) Narrow, willow-like phyllodes and a generous show of pretty canaryyellow blooms. A pretty, slightly weeping, small tree that is tolerant of lime.

Acacia verticillata (prickly moses, star acacia) This acacia bears darkgreen, needle-like phyllodes and will form a prickly barrier. cylindrical flower spikes open to a pale, creamy yellow.

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10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


Tried & tested We try before you buy

Tool storage

A couple of nails can hold your tools, but a proper system is better. Sally Drury looks at six systems for handy storage


All photographs Sally Drury

PLAce for everything, and everything in its place: we may know the saying but do we live by it? When winter comes it is all too easy to throw everything in the shed, lock it and forget about it for another day. Then spring arrives and you need your tools. You can see them propped up in the corner, but you can’t reach them without first moving the mower, evicting the patio chairs and climbing over the wheelbarrow. It’s time to get organised! It is best to keep regularly used tools close to the door. Of course, you could just bash a few long nails into the woodwork and hang up your spades and forks. But a number of companies offer designed systems as solutions to keeping tools in order so they are at your fingertips and ready for use. Designs vary from simple pegs to gripping devices. In this review we look at six ideas for organising your tools because, you know, there really should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place.







Keter wall-mounted tool rack £7.45 Garland Tool Tidy £18.25 + £4.95 delivery Homebase stores 0345 0778888

Garland Products 01384 278256



Plastic rack with grips, some with rubber inserts, and eight hangers for holding up to 20 tools. A nice touch is the builtin spirit level so the unit can be mounted precisely – but no screws supplied. Length: 25in (62.2cm).

Made of plastic, this two-shelf unit is suited to holding longhandled tools such as spades and rakes. Recommends securing to wall, but screws not supplied. Length: 24in (60cm). Width: 12in (30cm). Height: 21in (54cm).



Tools had to be organised carefully according to size and weight. The lower deck of hangers proved useful for storing all the tools with straps, while the upper level held rakes and hoes upright. The rubber inserts provided grip for spades and forks.

The simple push-together self-assembly took less than a minute to give a compact unit where eight tools can be held in indentations and holes ready for quick and easy removal. Smaller tools fitted nicely onto the shelving.

Value Offering various ways of securing tools, this is a low-cost solution to organising your gardening equipment. 52 AmAteur GArDeNING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

Value Well designed and strong, the Tool Tidy provides a good alternative to conventional racking and ensures you can grab a tool and go.

Next week: Best foot forward – we test six boot and shoe scrapers

Toolflex RRP £9.99


Best buy


EP Barrus 01869 363636 for dealer locator



All prices correct at time of going to press and may vary at garden centres

Part of a range of Swedish-made solutions for the easy storage of handled tools, this 36in (90cm) rail is fitted with three standard and two wide sliding holders made of plastic with a flexible gripping surface to grab and hold tools 0.5in (15mm) to 1.6in (40mm) in diameter. Comes complete with four screws and Rawlplugs.

Performance With the rail secured to a wall, only one hand was needed to push tools into the grippers or to pull them out again. Rakes, trowels, forks and even heavy spades conveniently and firmly stored. Looks neat and tidy too.

Value A strong, ingenious and versatile system that can be built up with accessories. Extra holders cost £4.99 for


a pack of two and there are hooks – ideal for hanging strapped tools such as secateurs – costing £3.49 for a pack of three.









Burgon & Ball Tool Rack Posh Shed Tool Rack £16.99 + £4.95 delivery £34 + £10 delivery

Smith & Locke threetool hanger £5.99

Burgon & Ball online shop 0114 233 8262

The Posh Shed Co 01544 387101

Screwfix outlets 03330 112 112




Heavy-duty system comprising 30in (75cm) metal tracking with two standard and three wide sliding clips that pivot to grip tools 0.75in (2cm) to 1.6in (4cm) in diameter. Each clip will hold up to 3kg. Supplied with three screws and Rawlplugs.

Simple high-quality rack comprising solid-pine back plate measuring 3ft 11in (1.2m) long and fitted with ten 4in (10cm) dowelling pegs. Nicely planed, and sanded with rounded corners.

Short metal track, 20in (50cm) long, carrying three blue plastic holders, each with rubber grips to take tools up to 1.6in (4cm) in diameter. Holders slide within the track and the system is capable of carrying up to 30kg in total, but no screws supplied for wall fixing.

Performance The blood-blistering firm grip made securing and removing tools more difficult than the Toolflex system (above), but still enabled a lump hammer to be stored with confidence.

Value Good. Can be expanded with six extra clips, costing £4.49 for a pack of two.

Performance With no holes or screws, fixing to a wall took longer than other systems and required a drill and screwdriver, but it provided a solution to hanging spades, forks and strapped tools.

Value Good quality and feel. Originally only for those who bought their sheds, now available to all. Website not updated at time of press, so call or email.

Performance This system gripped large and heavy tools such as spades and forks with ease, but slender shafts of rakes and hoes just slid through holders. There’s nowhere for knives and weeding tools.

Value Good value, but each holds three tools. Extra grippers are £1.49 each. 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


the look Get Ideas for gorgeous gardens

A gardening voyage Peter and Angela Arnold’s garden on the shore of Portsmouth harbour has plants from around the world


E’VE both always been interested in gardening – a bit obsessed really,” says Peter Arnold. “We’ve been here 17 years, but had a lot to do on the house so didn’t start the garden until 12 years ago. We’re not afraid to take out a whole border and rearrange it. We’ve changed it so many times!” A path winds through the modestly sized garden taking you on a journey across the world. To start your trek there’s an arch smothered with clematis and roses, three standard hawthorns ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ with colourful bedding of zinnia and poppies beneath (“our homage to Percy Thrower”, says Angela). The path crosses a small lawn leading to bamboos and grasses with a statement Phyllostachys nigra. 54 AMATEUR GARDENING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

Reaching the back of the garden you encounter standard euonymus and pittosporum, acers and a big tree fern leading into a New Zealand plants area. “It just happened,” says Angela. “We didn’t really plan it, but they all go so well together, and they all seem to come through winter safely.” Feature plants abound. There’s variegated Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’, a paulownia or foxglove tree, castor oil plants… this garden manages to use dramatic plants in a very harmonious way. “We’re great admirers of Christopher Lloyd,” says Peter. Another themed area follows the path up the side of the house. “It’s our bog garden,” says Angela. There are astilbes and ligularia, bamboos, tree ferns in pots and both tender, red-

leaved Ensete ventricosum bananas and green-leaved Musa basjoo. Even more colour comes from snail-leaved begonias and hostas. “The ensete is grown in a pot because it has to come indoors every winter,” says Peter. “When it gets too big to come in we sell it on eBay and buy a smaller one.” Angela adds: “We have evergreens including hellebores and pittosporum for year-round interest, but also feature plants. There are 30 odd roses and I come out and plead with them regularly – please don’t get black spot!” The couple compete to remember every rose variety, and succeed, trading names like ‘Lady of Shalott’, ‘Westerland’ and ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ (the flowers go on for ages) with ‘Cinco de Mayo’, ‘Joie de Vivre’ and ‘Malvern Hills’. Detail and good health are hallmarks of the garden. There’s honey-scented

Create topiary shapes for additional interest. This cloud-pruned box is a real eye-catcher

Pack plants in. The Arnolds have used every inch of space to indulge their love of plants, and in doing so have turned a modest suburban back garden into a jungle of flowers and foliage

Words by Tim Rumball/photographs by Peter Chatteron

Plants thrive in this shady side alley. There’s also a tool store, a water butt and even a hospital bed over a log

Euphorbia mellifera in flower, and a striking cloud-pruned box. On the left of the plot there’s a magnificent tetrapanax with a gunnera nestling at its feet. “Our neighbour installed a big industrial shed, and it’s taken 17 years to obliterate it with these plants,” laughs Peter. But the neighbouring plots are not all bad news, there’s borrowed landscape and shelter provided at the bottom of the garden from another neighbour’s trees. “Salt spray does a lot of damage,” he adds. “Locals call this area Windy Lee.” In winter, the couple move around 150 plants into the conservatory for protection. The Arnolds love gardening and are always looking for new projects. “There’s one bed we’ve changed every year for the past 10 years,” says Angela. “We do like a project!” It sounds like their horticultural journey will never end.

Be bold with colour. Rich red coleus foliage teamed with lime-green and variegated-leaved pelargoniums, pink and white-flowered chrysanths and dramatic black Zea mays will look good well into autumn

meet the owners OWNERS Peter and Angela Arnold ADDRESS 24 Wooton Road, Lee-onthe-Solent, Portsmouth PO13 9HB GARDEN SIZE 60x30ft (20x10m) ASPECT East SOIL Heavy, but well improved with composted bark VISITED August SPECIAL FEATURES Small plantaholic’s garden three minutes from the beach, packed with beautifully grown perennials and shrubs from the familiar to the exotic 10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING


the look Get Ideas for gorgeous gardens Put in plenty of seats to enjoy the garden views. The dense, clipped griselinia behind the bench offers shelter to resting gardeners and frames a small mirror, adding intrigue

Put in a pergola to frame a space. This one turns an unprepossessing spot in the corner by the side alley into a cosy seating area defined by the beams and enclosed by countless container plants

Pick paving materials carefully. Lightcoloured and harmonious, the coarse gravel and wood design stepping stones make a feature of the path, leading the visitor on invitingly

Use foliage for long-lasting impact in containers. These purple and lime-green heuchera leaves pierced by a dark, brooding ornamental Zea mays will look good from early summer to autumn

Add highlights with baskets. This weathered pergola straddling a path radiates warmth thanks to a froth of petunia flowers overflowing from a basket 56 AmAteur GArDeNING 10 FEBRUARY 2018

Brighten shady corners with colourful furniture. A table painted in turquoise and white makes a great plant stand

Add surprise and interest with the subtle use of ornaments. Here, ‘swimming’ among the grasses are three small and very classy glass fish made by the artist Karen Ongley-Snook

Do something different with plants to create a real conversation piece. Peter painstakingly plaited the main stems of this bay tree over many years

Don’t be snooty about bedding plants. Here colourful geums, gazanias and French marigolds crowd around the base of an ornamental hawthorn, setting off the mottled bark nicely

Colour co-ordinate plants and garden furniture. The carefully chosen potted coleus plants pick up the lime-green cushions beautifully

Plant up vertical spaces. Trellis attached to a fence offers a secure mount for hanging pots – these petunias and fuchsias clearly love it

10 FEBRUARY 2018 AmAteur GArDeNING




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STREPTOCARPUS, SAINTPAULIAS AND UNUSUAL HOUSEPLANTS For your FREE colour catalogue which includes new Streptocarpus varieties for 2016, Achimenes, Begonias, Primulina, Coleus and exotic houseplants. Please telephone or write to: Dibleys Nurseries, Dept AG, Llanelidan, Ruthin, Denbighshire LL15 2LG Tel: 01978790677

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In China, the fur from Chusan trunks was used as a home-grown insulator to line winter coats.

While Chusan palms are fairly robust, grow them in a sheltered spot away from the wind

In the palm of your handÉ Toby picks up an exotic Chusan palm for free Popemobile would have left us for dust! I needn’t have been so careful, though, as Chusan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) are quite robust. When first imported from China they were believed to be tender, but when a greenhouse grove survived after snow had caved in the roof the possibility of growing them outdoors was realised. While they will chill down to -15°C and survive, cold-tattered leaves take an absolute age to be replaced. So, my plan is to excavate and improve the poor soil near the house where the brickwork will


Although the Chusan is hardy, for windier sites choose its smaller and stiffer cousin Trachycarpus wagnerianus.

both block the wind and hold extra warmth right throughout the year. Keeping tender or large-leaved plants cosy and protected in winter is good advice, but that’s only half the story. They also require clement growing conditions through spring and summer so that should they be battered by bad weather, they’ll quickly grow to hide their bruises.

Using architectural plants My definition of an architectural plant is one that casts an attractive shadow. With this in mind, space around the leaves is essential to show off the interesting outline. Use smaller-leaved neighbours for contrast and to frame the foliage, but avoid placing big leaves among the bustle and spill of cottage garden schemes as they can look like ‘cuckoos’. Better to cluster them near walls and

brickwork where striking foliage always looks good and receives some protection from bad weather.



HE ‘hush’ of the gravel tipping from the lorry was so loud I couldn’t resist taking a peek at what was going on. The stones were being spread to create parking spaces on what had once been a beautiful front garden. Even the shrubs around the edge had gone, and out of kindness – or maybe guilt – the builders had wrapped up the roots of the larger leafy outcasts in dumpy bags and were offering them to passers-by. One plant caught my eye – a 9ft (2.7m) tall Chusan palm with a full crown of fan-shaped leaves and a hefty muscular trunk as hairy as an orangutan’s arm. I’ve always wanted one of these exotic palms, but until now I’ve lacked a spot open enough to do justice to the striking silhouette that, at the same time, offers the wind protection needed to stop the large leaves from shredding. Never one to look a gift horse, let alone a Chusan, in the chops, I dashed back for my truck and, with the help of my teenage boys, lashed the palm upright to the back of the cab. The plant waved its fronds on the way home like a pontiff giving a blessing – a trip I took so slowly that even the





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