Ruth wonders whether the change in the weather was caused by moving her Mediterranean shrubs to their summer home
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise profusely for the abrupt slump in the weather towards the end of last week. It’s all my fault you see, for moving our olive and lemon trees out of the greenhouse and into their summer residency on the patio.
I think they enjoyed their winter undercover but now they need fresh rain, sunshine and a breeze to continue to grow strongly.
Both are young trees but growing well – touch wood. The lemon has a few small fruits and lots of deliciously scented flowers. I fed it with a summer citrus feed added to a can of rainwater, then pinched out a few wayward and tattered shoot (known as ‘water shoots’) and removed a handful of suckers sprouting around the base of the trunk.
Pinching out over-long top growth keeps the plant looking neat and removing unwanted trunk growths stops energy being syphoned away from the main plant.
The olive tree was also fed and watered, this time with a new organic all-round feed called BioPower, which is a by-product from a family-run farm in Cumbria.
It’s a pungent brew but promises to deliver all the necessary ingredients for healthy, robust plants. You can find out more and buy it a https://ecogro.co.uk/
Olives are under threat across Europe from a deadly disease spread by sap-sucking spittle bugs. Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterium that results in the disease and death of many popular garden plants.
It is established in areas of Italy, France and Spain and has resulted in the death of millions of olive trees in southern Italy. It affects more than 500 different plant species including garden favourites such as lavender, oleander, rosemary and flowering cherry.
So far it hasn’t been found in the UK to date and we want to keep it that way, so the RHS is calling on people to report sightings of spittlebugs – also known as froghoppers – that are found in gardens, meadows, grasslands and woodlands from April to late June.
There are ten species of spittlebug in the UK and the young, called nymphs, produce whitish, frothy blobs of spittle (often called cuckoo spit) on leaves and branches.
If you find any in your garden, you can report it online only at surveymonkey.co.uk/r/spittle2020
Other shrubby jobs completed this week included tying our container-growing ‘Countess of Wessex’ clematis to a trellis.
This gorgeous compact climber with large white and pink blooms cost less than a fiver in the garden centre bargain bin last summer. This summer it is putting on an amazing show and with any luck will have a second flowering in late summer and early autumn, providing it is fed and watered well.
My final task was the re-potting (and hopefully saving) of a small, neglected bottlebrush tree that seemed to outgrow its pot and compost in the time it took me to make a cup of tea.
Once it was out of its container I teased out the roots as best I could. Sometimes it’s easier to do this in bowl of water as it washes away the old compost and makes it easier for you to get fingers and thumbs into the roots to untangle them.
This is also an excellent opportunity to check for other problems such as vine weevil grubs or small slugs feeding on and among the roots. If you find any, wash the roots in clean water and re-pot in new compost.
Slug eggs are easy to spot as they are large, white or creamy and translucent. Crush them or put them on the bird table. Vine weevil eggs are too small to see, though the grubs are plump and cream-coloured, around 1/2in (1cm) long with brown heads.
Treat any grubs you find the same as the snail eggs then water the replanted shrub with a nematode of chemical drench.
My bottlebrush is now replanted in a larger pot of John Innes No 3 compost and I’m watching its progress carefully, keeping fingers crossed that I didn’t leave it too late.
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