Date: 25 January 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
In our village we have a series of concrete tubs about 1m high, central to our winning entry for Britain in Bloom. Geese live on our pond all year, though, and in spring and summer they reduce the plants to stubble. Any solutions?
Why not use evergreen shrubs, such as viburnums, phormiums, buxus or hebes? They tolerate dry conditions and exposure, and should prove less tempting to the geese. Patio and miniature roses provide a long season of fragrant flowers, and have thorns to make the birds think twice. Plant in John Innes No 3 mixed with water- retaining granules; top dress with gravel.
I cook a lot of Thai food and use kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass. Can these be grown in the UK? If so, where can I buy them?
Lemon grass grows to 90cm, and loves moisture and sunshine. It’s easy to grow from seed, but supermarket-bought lemon grass can be grown by placing it in a jar with 5cm of water until it sprouts (keep the water fresh). Plant outside in spring (after the last frosts) in a sheltered, sunny spot, or in pots that can come inside in winter. Citrus hystrix (Makrut lime) comes from south-east Asia so must be grown indoors; it can go outside in summer. Plant in a free-draining mixture of peat substitute and bark, and feed with a slow-release, high-nitrogen citrus fertiliser (Global Orange Groves, 01202 826244). It will thrive in a bright spot. Water well, but allow the soil to dry out completely. To buy a plant, call The Citrus Centre, in West Sussex (01798 872786, citruscentre.co.uk).
I have a gunnera in a bog garden. I thought it died back in winter, yet it is as flourishing as ever. Is there any danger of burn-out?
Gunnera manicata is awesome, with leaves up to 2m long. This beast is unlikely to die back until it suffers a first frost, so you may have been lucky so far. It’s not fully hardy: protect it by folding leaves over the dormant crown, bolstered with bracken, old branches or straw. Dress in early spring with well- rotted organic matter, and protect early shoots, which can be damaged by frost.