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If you have a gardening problem then email it to vivienne@ or write to us at Gardening Experts, Country Gardener, Mount House, Halse, Somerset TA4 3AD. We regret there is no service for personally replying to questions but most will be carried in the magazine.

Ask our experts Our Country Gardener experts can solve your gardening problems ANY QUESTIONS

Mark Hinsley is an arboricultural consultant whose company is based in Dorset and offers a professional tree consultancy service. Mark is a member of the Arboricultural Association and has a Master’s degree in Resource Management (Arboriculture & Forestry).

Vivienne Lewis is Features Editor of Country Gardener, has a Master’s degree in garden history from Bristol University, and has lectured on the subject for several years in Somerset and Devon.

Tanya Campbell is an experienced osteopath, and member of the British Association of Osteopaths based at Campden and Broadway Osteopaths, in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire.

Dawn Ireland is a medical herbalist with a practice in Torquay, Devon. www. She also holds regular talks, workshops and events on herbalism, natural product making and herb and foraging walks. Part of her time is given to creating natural and herbal cosmetics

Q. ‘After the winter break from gardening, how can I best prepare to start regular gardening sessions again, without damaging my back?’

A. The best thing you can do to prepare is to go out for a walk! If you haven’t been walking through the winter then it’s not too late to start now. Push yourself a little further and a little faster each day. As you walk you strengthen the muscles around the spine which then act like a protective belt (like a weight lifter’s belt!). If you walk on the spot and put your hands on the back of your waist you will see what I mean as you will feel the muscles working. People talk about strengthening their ‘core muscles’; this is what you are doing.

After the walk try to do some gentle stretches while your muscles are warm. An important muscle group which is often a culprit in causing bad backs, because they can shorten from too much sitting around, are the hamstrings. Stretch your hamstrings by putting one straightened leg up on a chair; keep your head up and your back straight; your knee of the leg on the chair should not be fully extended but ‘soft’. Then complete the stretch by bending the supporting leg and you will feel the stretch in the back of the thigh of the leg on the chair. Hold this position for thirty seconds and swap legs to do the other side. To increase the stretch, bend the supporting leg more. Tanya Campbell

Q. ‘Is it possible to grow ornamental trees such as Japanese cherry, or acer, from seed? Can you tell me what is the easiest garden tree of medium height to grow from seed collected, and how many years I would have to wait for it to become a sapling, let alone a small tree?’

Walking is a great way to prepare yourself for the new gardening season

38 Country Gardener

A. The short answer is no, but we don’t do short answers here! With most of the Japanese flowering cherries the reproductive parts of the flowers have mutated into extra petals, thereby rendering the trees sterile. With many of the acers, whilst you may get an acer, it will not be the ornamental variety you seek because,

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