Ask the Expert

I grew up in Roscommon many years ago. Many of the houses back then had a beautiful pink rose growing up the side of them and also across the garden walls. It had a large head, was very scented and from what I remember, flowered in June. Have you any idea what it was?

Posted 11/06/2013 by Teresa in Dublin

This sounds like the Irish native rose, rosa canina or dog rose, which is beautiful! It has a lovely scent and flowers from June - August. You can make tea and marmalade out of it and it is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin c! There are deep pink and white versions but generally they are light pink. They will grow to about 2 metres. 

How do I get rid of snails? I have a good garden but the snails keep eating all my new plants!

Posted 11/06/2013 by Thomas in Tipperary

There are so many ways to control snails, but yet it can be a very frustrating task. I don’t like to recommend chemicals especially in areas where there is food crop. Traps such as upside down grapefruit halves with the flesh scooped out or beer traps can be used. I love the option of copper, which snails and slugs don’t like. It is an expensive option but very effective. You can buy rolls of copper or mats with copper in them which seem to work a treat.

I have been given a present of a peony rose sarah bernhardt. Can you tell me how best to plant it please?

Posted 11/06/2013 by Barbara in Ireland

What a lovely gift! I love these peonies. Peonia lactiflora or sarah bernhardt are a very hardy, herbacious perennial and like a full sun/partial shade spot. Fertile, hummus rich, well drained soil is important for the plants survival. They suit a South, East or West facing bed best. Also, they may need a little support as they are quite delicate.

I've moved into a new house that is near the North West coast. It is very windy and bare all around the house. I love roses, fuchsias, peony roses, blue perennial geraniums, mock orange, dianthus, the wedding cake bush, daffodils and tulips. Can I grow them in the garden? I have some of these in containers. I would like to have a low maintenance garden, with some trees, bushes and some of the plants that I mentioned above. If not possible, can u please suggest a list of trees, plants, perennials and bulbs that would grow well in the area? As I mentioned, it is very windy around the house and cold at times too.

Posted 11/06/2013 by Anne in Dungloe

The NW coast is very tricky one! There are many microclimates where plants such as the ones above thrive and others don’t on the NW coast. In many cases its trial and error! Try a plant and see how it does before investing in larger quantities. I have seen many roses thrive in that climate, such as rosa rugosa as well as hydrangeas and sedum varieties. Peonies may be a bit of a problem as they are generally quite tender and delicate. Tulips and daffodils can also do well funnily enough, though tulips can get a bit wind burned. Grasses are always a good bet, such as anemanthele lessoniana. If you really love the plants above, why not try creating a little shelter bed? Plant taller shrubs such as tamarix and the fuschia that you love, to protect the smaller plants.

Can you prune a peony rose? If so, when is the best time to prune it?

Posted 11/06/2013 by Mary in Laois

Peonies don’t necessarily need to be pruned as they are herbaceous perennials. In late autumn you can cut back the last stems. If you wish to have very showy, large blooms, you can prune the smaller buds before they open when there are numerous buds on one stem. 

Any tips for getting rid of the earwigs that are devouring my dahlias at the moment? I prefer natural methods.

Posted 11/06/2013 by Fiona in Drogheda

There is a simple, old fashioned way to trap earwigs. It is done by placing an upturned pot, stuffed with hay or straw on a stick amongst the flowers. This traps them under the pot. You will have to clean them out every morning from under the pot though. One thing that’s important to note, is that after you get rid of them, you may then have other pests in the garden, as earwigs eat small pests and their eggs. 

I’m looking for info on climbers that will grow in a shady area and also ideas on nice plants for a conservatory.

Posted 06/06/2013 by Sharon via Facebook

Shady areas can be tricky and often creepers such as some clematis varieties can do well but it depends on the level of shade you have. You are probably safer going for something like virginia creeper (parthenocissus quinquefolia) which has a stunning Autumn colour and can take deep shade as well as sun. It’s fast growing and has lovely deep purple berries. Just be sure not to use it if the garden is too small, it can easily grow 15m high! As for the conservatory, it depends if it’s heated or not. I think succulents are amazing especially if different varieties of varying heights are mixed together in a bed. Aloe varieties, sedums such as burro's tail (sedum morganianum) mixed with echeverias and kalanchoes would make a lovely combination. They have wonderful textures and striking shapes. Be sure to use gritty, well draining soil. A mix of Bord na Móna Growise Multipurpose Compost mixed with a grit would be ideal.

I am looking for advice on how to get rockery plants to grown in a shaded area?

Posted 06/06/2013 by Evelyn via Facebook

There are very few plants for the rockery that do well in shade. The problem is that normally rockeries are mainly filled with sun loving alpine plants such as saxifraga longifolia, aubretia and danthus squarrosus. Maybe you could create a rockery style bed based on shade plants such as vinca minor, liriope muscari ‘monroe white’ and geranium varieties such as geranium macrorrhizum ‘white-ness’. You could then dot the stones around them and make it appear like a rockery. Hellebores will also do well in shade and there are some stunning varieties that work really well in well drained soil. It is important to make sure that these plants have a good quality compost under the stone such as Bord na Móna Growise Multipurpose Compost.

I’ve been trying for the past two years to grow morning glory. The seedlings grow to 4 - 5 inches and then flop. What can I do?

Posted 05/06/2013 by Marie via Facebook

Morning glory are stunning annual climbers that are generally very easy to maintain. Perhaps you could add a balanced fertiliser at this stage. The most important thing is to support them as they are a climber and need a bit of a structure to grow over.

How can I get rid of green fly? They are on my mallow and my clematis! I’ve used washing up liquid mixed with water already. I don’t want to use sprays.

Posted 05/06/2013 by Angela, Meath

As yucky as it sounds, the first and easiest thing to do is to squish them between your finger and thumb! Far nicer to try and attract more ladybirds to your garden, many plants such as dill, fennel, and geraniums amongst others are great to attract them. You could also think about making a ladybird hotel. You can even order ladybirds online! Of course there is the option of using a chemical treatment which you can find in any good garden centre.

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