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Facebook Questions and Answers for the 6th January 2012

Hello Facebook fans, thanks for your questions this week, here are Carly's replies:

Karl Hyde

Hi, my garden gets particularly windswept. I would like to put an evergreen shrub in a particular spot to help slow down the wind. I need something which will grow quite rapidly but only to a height of about 3 meters. It is a spot which gets all day sun. Any ideas?

Hi Karl, this is a very appropriate question given the awful weather we've been having this past week! There are quite a few evergreen shrubs which are well suited to exposed locations, many of which are native to the UK, such as Holly (Ilex) and Juniper (Juniperus communis). There are many varieties of Holly available with different heights and foliage colours and they also respond well to pruning should that be necessary. The only drawback is that both Holly and Juniper are fairly slow-growing.

For something which grows a bit faster you could try Eleagnus ebbingei which has a number of cultivars with different coloured foliage. It generally reaches a maximum height of 4m although this can vary between different cultivars, for example 'Limelight' which only reaches 3m height and spread. Griselinia littoralis is another tough shrub and is very vigorous. It has the potential to reach 8m in a warm and sheltered spot but rarely reaches these heights unless grown in mild coastal gardens! It tolerates pruning well so can be restricted if it gets too tall. Euonymus japonicus (Japanese Spindle) is a fast growing, dense, evergreen shrub which reaches an eventual height of 4m although smaller varieties are available. Other wind-tolerant fast growers include Berberis and evergreen Cotoneasters such as Cotoneaster lacteus (4m height). Slightly less vigorous specimens include Pyracantha and evergreen Viburnums. It's also worth considering Yew (Taxus baccata) if you can wait for its slow growth. It becomes a large tree if left to its own devices but is fantastic for topiary and hedging due to its dense growth and ability to regenerate well from old wood. I hope this gives you some ideas. It's worth researching different cultivars of the plants suggested - there are so many varieties available you're sure to find something which suits the location!

Andrew Gillard

Anyone else had problems with Japanese Painted Ferns? I bought 3 from VM and 2 from eBay, which all grew *incredibly* slowly for a couple of months (compared to the speed of everything else in the garden, these barely grew at all...) and now they've all turned brown and either dry or rotten during the course of November & December. They're supposed to be hardy, so the frost shouldn't have killed them, so I'm rather baffled. It's a shame, as everything else I've bought from VM has grown really well, while these just seem to have not bothered.

Hi Andrew, these are beautiful ferns but they do grow quite slowly, particularly as they settle in to their new home! They are also deciduous so there's no need to worry that the leaves have turned brown - the plant has just become naturally dormant. They can be quite late to sprout again in the spring, often appearing as late as May.

For optimum growth do make sure your Japanese Painted Ferns are growing in rich, moist soil in a shady position. Adding well-rotted manure or compost to the soil will help achieve this. You can also add a slow-release balanced fertiliser around the base of the plants in spring if you feel the soil is lacking nutrients. They prefer an acid to neutral soil so it may be worth doing a simple soil pH test - kits are available online and in garden centres. If your soil is slightly alkaline they would be best grown in a container in ericaceous compost (for acid-loving plants). I hope this helps Andrew, let us know how you get on.

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