Ask the Expert
Love this poppy and how it has lots of flowers on it but not sure what it's called?
Maggs Maher via Facebook
It’s a cultivated form of opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). There are lots of different colour strains that have been given names by various seed companies, and the names differ from company to company. In other words, the names are a bit random. So, all we can positively say is that yours is a pink double (or peony-flowered) opium poppy — and a lovely thing! It is an annual plant, so it will die after it has flowered and set seed. Make sure you let the seed pods form so that it can sow itself again for next year. If you want, you can collect the seed when the pods are completely dry, and scatter them where you want poppies next year.
Do you know when the monkey puzzle seeds should be picked and are they of any importance, there are lots of them on my tree?
Kathleen Butler via Facebook
Monkey puzzles grow very well all over Ireland. There is a famous avenue of them at Woodstock House in Co. Kilkenny. They are notoriously slow to produce seed and may wait until they are 30 years old! The cones then take two years to ripen. The cones naturally disintegrate and the seeds fall to the ground in the autumn. If you want to grow your own monkey puzzles, plant one seed per pot. The seeds are edible and nutritious, and have been eaten for centuries by indigenous people in Chile. The seeds were first brought back to Europe in 1795 by Archibald Menzies, a naval surgeon and plant-hunter.
Any cuttings I have taken have failed. I dipped them in rooting powder and put them in small pots, why is this?
Cuttings can be tricky. Most like a moist atmosphere, but that also gives the right conditions for rot to set in — so it’s a bit of a race sometimes to see whether they will root or rot! Grey-leaved plants like a drier atmosphere.
Here’s how I take cuttings. Fill a small pot (10–12cms in diameter) with Seed & Cutting Compost or John Innes Seed Compost. The John Innes mix is grittier, and is better for grey-leaved plants. Take 7–10cm stem cuttings from the non-flowering tips of the plants you want to propagate and remove the bottom sets of leaves. Poke the cuttings into the compost, near to the edge of the pot. You might want to make a hole with a pencil in the compost first to avoid damaging the cuttings. Firm the compost with the tips of your fingers so that there is good contact with the cuttings material. Only the stem should be below the compost, and the leaves should not touch the surface of the compost, or the other cuttings. Water the compost very gently so that you don't cause any disturbance. Put a polythene bag over the top to retain moisture. If it is a grey-leaved plant, cut holes in the bag so there is some air. You probably won’t need to water again, as the moisture will keep condensing on the inside of the bag. Remove any leaves that go brown.
Autumn flower ideas
I want a show of red flowers for late October early November in an outdoor large pot with no sun and quite damp, any ideas?
That’s a difficult one! If you live in a mild area (near the coast, for example), then begonias might hang on until then, but you’re taking a chance. They will be killed by frost. Dahlias, which are also frost-tender, are another possibility. They prefer sun, but you could move them into the shade for a couple of weeks.
If you want the display for a special occasion, I’d recommend popping into your local garden centre a week before the date to see what they have. You might not get red flowers, but you’ll definitely get a shrub with nice foliage.
Landscape Mini Chip Bark
What tree is your Landscape Mini Chip Bark made from - I can't seem to find that info anywhere? Is it pet safe?
James via Facebook
It's a mixture of spruce and pine bark. It is perfectly pet safe but we wouldn't encourage pets to eat it! Our Landscape Mini Chip Bark product is 100% natural and we do not add any preservatives to it, so if pets do ingest small amounts, they should be fine.