The Sunday Post (Inverness)

Welcome to my potting shed! This is the column where I’ll share all my gardening hints and tips – and I’ll try to answer any queries you may have.


Q How can I keep my Poinsettia healthy? Most years mine has dropped its leaves before Christmas. – Majorie Cooke, Moffat.

A Poinsettia­s hate drafts, so keep them away from doors and off windowsill­s. They like a warm room and only need watering when the compost starts to feel dry, but you must let them drain thoroughly.

The elegant branches of the Stag’s Horn

Sumach (Rhus typhina) make it a good choice for the garden in winter.

Q Every year I plant Christmas roses but few ever survive. – Craig Wilson, Anstruther.

A Christmas roses like cool soil that doesn’t dry out in summer but winter wet can see them off and the flowers can be spoiled if splashed with soil. Try growing in pots, using gritty compost, and repotting each spring.

Keep off grass during spells of frosty

weather to avoid damaging growth and causing compaction.

Q We built our house 35 years ago in what was then an empty field. Now the garden has become congested and plants are failing because of lack of light. Can we improve things? – Morag Mcallister, Crieff.

A Raising the canopy of trees and shrubs is an effective way of letting in more light. Do this and all sorts of bulbs and small plants you may have thought had been lost could start to grow again. Carry out the pruning during the winter while the shrubs are dormant.

Feed Amaryllis bulbs fortnightl­y with a

low-nitrogen liquid feed, allowing the compost to dry out between watering.

Q Is there any way of improving the appearance of my garden in winter? – Nicole Simpson, by email.

A Scrub paths, sweep up fallen leaves and edge the lawn then remove any dead foliage that has collapsed, leaving only stalks and stems that remain upright.

Check the ties and stakes on trees,

tightening them if necessary. Heel down any plants lifted by frost.

Q Is it true that laurel leaves contain cyanide? I’ve got a very large hedge that needs to be cut back but I don’t want to poison myself. – Peter Clark, Uddingston.

A Laurel leaves do contain cyanide but you should be safe as long as you don’t chew them and don’t let family pets eat them either. I would also avoid mulching the leaves or adding them to the compost heap.

Pick a few stems of winterswee­t

(Chimonanth­us praecox ) and bring indoors and they’ll fill your home with scent.

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