Diggers and Dibblers' 'Gardeners Query Time'

Written by Christina Wakeford.

A keen audience for Diggers and Dibblers' 'Gardeners Query Time' absorbed a wealth of information and advice given by our experts for the evening.

(photos by Su Leavesley,
  click photo for slide show)

Our panellists were Charlotte Philcox, garden consultant and designer, broadcaster and teacher; Ben Potterton of Blacksmith's Nursery, with a string of horticultural and ecological titles to his credit, and Ian Roofe, gardener at East Ruston, and well known for his regular spot on Radio Norfolk's 'Garden Party'.

There was plenty of easy banter with witty interjections, (mainly sotto voce from Ben), as well as serious, in-depth discussion of people's gardening dilemmas, which ranged from Brian's invasive Carex taking over his lawn and Fiona's massive attack of ground elder, to lots of non-fruiting blueberries, plums and gooseberries and leaf dropping figs.

We were warned about plants with toxic sap that can burn skin, including parsnip leaf, fig and golden hop, as well as the more well known hazard when euphorbias are cut back.

Gunvar was recommended, by Ben, to get herself cryogenically frozen so that she could be defrosted after the 50 years it would take for her to grow her own pine cones for her fire.

Alison was advised to move her slug-ridden Hostas from shade into the sun, and replace them with ferns which don't have the same mollusc-y appeal. Or keep a couple of ducks.

There was a sad story of Terry's dying tree, which was identified as an unusual variety of elm ( Ulmus 'Jacqueline Hillier'). As it had grown to 3-4 m it was now within range of the devastating Dutch Elm Beetle. If you want to protect any kind of elm from the resultant disease, keep it coppiced or cut back to under 3m. Terry might be able to take cuttings to get a clone of his beautiful tree.

Juliette's rogue marigold seed produced plants up to 6 foot high ( not the 18 inches on the packet). They were obviously mis-labelled and the panel identified them as the desirable species, Tagetes patula, which graces the garden at East Ruston. She was advised to save the seed.

The audience were practically fighting over Margaret's collected berries which the panel identified as a rare Magnolia variety. There were lots of offers to take them off her hands. They are fast growers, once germinated, so look out for them all around the Forncetts in a few years time!

I can pretty much guarantee that even the most experienced gardeners amongst us learnt something new and enlightening during an extremely interesting and enjoyable evening.

Thank you to the many members who helped to organise, bake for and decorate this event. Lovely food and flowers.