HELEN YEMM THORNY PROBLEMS
This week: how to look after a gaura through winter, filling the gaps in hedges, and exciting news for next spring
I have a Gaura lindheimeri growing on its own in an extremely large pot. It is one of my favourite plants and has looked beautiful for months. What would you advise for winter/ spring care? KAY LLOYD – VIA EMAIL
Beautiful, long-flowering gaura is often sold as a herbaceous perennial but rarely behaves like one, except in southern counties of the UK, and even there it is dependent on our having a relatively mild winter. When grown in the ground, the top growth should be left intact to provide the base with a tiny bit of protection. Those plants that do “get through” will be frustratingly late to put out tiny shoots from around their bases.
By all means have a go at keeping your plant going in its pot if you can offer it a frost-free home (unheated greenhouse or porch would do), but don’t expect it to look good. Keep the roots fairly dry until February or March, and if/when it makes those low-down shoots, cut it back, give it a feed, but don’t reintroduce it outdoors until late May at the earliest.
This is a perennial that can be propagated via stem cuttings in late summer. But I think it is often easier to start afresh in June, with a new, vigorous, tunnel-nurtured bushy plant raised in a good nursery.
In the spring I noticed I had box blight in the hedge that surrounds my roses and I dug out the offending bushes (about half a dozen), leaving me a rather gap-toothed-looking hedge. I have some spare box plants in pots. Can I use them to fill gaps in my hedge or is the blight still in the soil?
JOYCE MUIR – VIA EMAIL
TIP OF THE WEEK
Whether the spores of the blight are lingering in and around the hedge depends largely on how well you managed to clean up the mess after you last clipped the hedge and when you then removed the afflicted plants, but I think, on balance, it would be a good idea to use your potted plants to fill the gaps.
Plant them with a slow-acting, long-lasting fertiliser (bonemeal) in order to give them the best possible start and keep your fingers crossed. Take the opportunity, before you plant, to have a go at grubbing out any fallen leaves around the base of the hedge, since it is on dropped clippings and debris that the spores tend to linger.
On my various visits to gardens around the country, I have found
that there seems now to be a far less defeatist attitude to box blight than there used to be, as gardeners discover that the practice of radically cutting out affected plants (or parts of plants) as you have done, plus really good garden hygiene and the regular use of systemic fungicides together, all help in the battle against it.
Now that their growth has virtually come to a halt, smarten up evergreens: small-leaved hedges and topiary (including, importantly, vigorous semievergreen privet) can be given a final cut that will ensure their sharp lines look good for the next six months.
TRANQUIL A courtyard in Marrakech, where next spring’s tour takes place