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“ Japanese knotweed, the peril of many gardeners, a weed which is right up there on the list of seemingly indestructible thugs”.

Gardening Round Up

Good enough to eat . . .

Protecting autumn fruit crops Although the warm start to the year initially raised hopes of a good harvest, frosts in April and cold rainy weather in May and June reduced pollination and led to losses of remaining fruitlets. This will mean poorer plum crops this summer and a dearth of apples and pears later, says the RHS. The charity suggests that to preserve whatever crop is left, it’s important to keep down weeds around trees, so that there is less competition for nutrients, especially in dry spells.

Peony and Tree Peonies

They’re the blousiest blooms on the block, producing huge pom-pom flowers which are hard to beat, even though they are generally shortlived. While many flower in May, some wait until June and they also make good cut flowers if you can bear to snip them off. Herbaceous peonies look their best in borders among other perennials. Many reach around 1m (3ft) in height, their weighty flowers appearing over deep green leaves. Good plant partners include bearded irises, or they can look stunning against a backdrop of climbing clematis.

Tree peonies, which are deciduous but keep their woody stems throughout winter, flower later than the herbaceous varieties and their flowers tend to be larger. Newly planted peonies may not flower in the first year as they hate being moved, but it’ll be worth the wait for the magnificent blooms you’ll get in the years to come. They should be planted in a sunny spot in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. Good varieties include the scented ‘Bowl of Beauty’, which has pink flowers with a creamy centre in June’, and ‘Duchesse de Nemours’, a white variety.

Careful control of pests and diseases will also help and there will be little need to thin out the remaining fruit. Gardeners should summer-prune restricted forms of fruit trees such as cordons and espaliers. With few fruits to support, it’s likely that trees will grow too many branches and leaves.

“Because trees have dropped quite a lot of their developing fruits, gardeners should be wary about thinning fruits - and in many cases not thin out at all this year,” says Guy Barter, RHS chief horticultural adviser. “This current warm, moist weather, in the absence of a heavy fruit crop, will also encourage lush growth, so summer pruning will help direct nutrients to the fruit and promote productivity for 2013. “Adding potassium (high potash) fertiliser to the weed-free area at the base of the tree can help harden growth and promote fruitfulness.”

Apple Tree Life Begins 29

Photos: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.

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