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

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - GARDENING -

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

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