AG Editor Tim Rumball loses patience with snail-riddled knophifias

THEY’VE BEEN performing magnificently for over five years, but the red hot pokers in my front garden side border have to go. I was given them by one of my wife’s work colleagues. They loved the free draining soil and sunny, sheltered spot and quickly filled out the space… and more. Every June from the magnificent spiky foliage rise huge five foot tall spikes topped with tight red and yellow flowers – flaming gorgeous.
But they’re too vigorous, swamping adjacent shrubs, and snails overwinter in the foliage ready to rampage through the borders come spring.

The rhizomes and roots are thick and run deep. the best way to tackle them is with a sharp spade, chopping off chunke and levering them away from the main body of the plant. I’m saving a few to pot up and grow on… just in case I change my mind about getting rid of them!

I’ve been growing 0n this tree heather, originally bought for a winter pot display last year, and it’ll be perfect to replace the red hot pokers. Here I’m just getting an idea of the best position…

Then it’s just a matter of digging a hole, adding some bonemeal, and popping the plant in.

Firming it in so soil makes good contact with the roots is really important. Some gardeners use a boot, but I prefer to thump the earth down with my fist – it gives better control and is a little less violent.

To finish I’m adding a couple of canes to give the flexible branches some support – we’ve had strong winds recently. The soil is saturated, so I won’t bother watering the plant in – but in dryer weather it would be essential.

Disposing of the huge amount of debris can be challenging. I have a nifty trick of laying large pieces of stem and leaves across a dust sheet…

… then drawing the whole lot together, rolling it up…

…and binding it around with string, making a bundle I can get in the car boot, and unroll easily at the tip for disposal.

To finish the job, I potted up a couple of big chunks of rhizome I’d saved. each with a good strong shoot on the top.