Les’s Patch column

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

Common hazel which can be found growing in the hedgerows has a few relatives that are grown in gardens, none more so that Corylus Contorta, corkscrew hazel, which has unusual twisted branches and yellow catkins in February.

This is usually grown for its twisted branches rather than the beauty of its foliage.

The reason for writing about hazel is that I have had an enquiry from a gardener as to why his hazel is growing straight stems.

The reason for this is that the top of the plant has been grafted on to a common, straight-stemmed hazel. The straight stems (suckers) will be growing direct from this bottom rootstock.

The answer is to twist the suckers and pull them off. If they are cut off they will soon grow again but by pulling them off it will remove the buds that would have grown if cut off. This will then allow the curly ones to continue growing.

Lilacs also have a habit of growing suckers, as do so many plants including roses. The suckers on the lilac do make it untidy around the base so again twist and wrench away from the roots.

If strawberry plants are three years old they will be infected with viruses by now even though they may not show it.

Get rid of the plants and prepare a new bed on a different part of ground.

Never accept gifts of runners (all strawberry plants grow creeping side shoots). Make sure to buy new plants from a good nursery.

Quite often when runners are rooted from what appears to be healthy plants they break down with virus which means a bad crop so a wasted year for fruit.

The answer is to use new plants every three years on fresh ground.

Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out when making a new bed for strawberries by using the ready made bed where potatoes grew because they are not good friends.

This shows how vast a subject gardening is and how easy it is to do the wrong thing. With all the tests that are carried out the reasons for failures in the garden are more apparent rather than what was thought in the past – blaming the season or bad seeds.

Evergreens in decorations, such as holly, need a regular supply of water. The first step to prolonging the life of a Christmas display is to ensure the stems are freshly cut and then crush the bottoms of the stems which will ensure they take up water more easily.

Stand the stems in water overnight so they soak up plenty of liquid then insert into flowering foam (oasis).

Finally don’t position any display too close to a heat source.

A handy tip – when a bottle or container of milk is empty fill it with water and shake well. This produces a very mild liquid manure which can be used on houseplants.