Date: 15 February 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
I’ve planted two rows of raspberry canes: can I grow a crop in between (about 90cm), to harvest before the raspberries start producing?
You’ve planted the rows quite closely (1.5m gives a comfortable gap to walk between rows), so I wouldn’t give your raspberries more competition: maybe radish, which grows quickly (about a month), or a loose-leaf lettuce. Raspberries are thirsty, especially when the fruit is swelling. A mulch of well-rotted manure will keep the soil cool and moist in the summer, and deter weeds: make sure it doesn’t touch the canes.
I have several hippeastrum that used to flower, but have forgotten the rules. Can you remind me?
Hippeastrum ( Amaryllis ) must be watered and fed through summer after flowering, building strength in the bulb until the leaves start to go yellow – then cut them back to 5cm from the top of the bulb. In autumn, put the potted plants in a cool, dark, dry place for six to eight weeks. Revive them eight weeks before you want them to bloom by bringing them out of the dark and replacing the top 5cm of soil with new soil, and water in. Don’t water and feed regularly until new growth appears at the top of the neck; then water weekly by putting the pots in a pan of water, giving the soil a good soak. If no new flower bud appears, pop it in an airing cupboard, checking it every day. Eventually, place it somewhere warm with direct light, to help the stems to develop. But once the blossoms have opened, keep the plant in a cool, shaded room to ensure a lasting display.
I’ve planted spring bulbs under a large magnolia. I want to add ground cover to give summer colour/foliage. It must be sturdy enough to discourage weeds but shouldn’t obstruct the bulbs. The soil is clay.
Ground-cover plants in such positions must be tolerant of dry shade. Add well-rotted organic manure or compost, plus grit, when planting, to give them a good start. Comfrey (Symphytum) is a good choice; check out S. ‘Goldsmith’, with gold-edged leaves. Or Pulmonaria (lungwort): P. ‘Sissinghurst White’ is vigorous. Dicentra formosa has delicate foliage with heart-shaped flowers, while Viola riviniana Purpurea Group seeds itself obligingly. Alchemilla mollis, with silky foliage, is a good bet, as is Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’, with green-edged silver leaves.