If you have a gardening question, email Glenys at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where does neem oil come from?
It's manufactured from the olive-like fruit and seeds of a tropical evergreen tree native to India. As well as having cosmetic and medicinal uses, neem oil is a natural insecticide that apparently deters many pests without harming beneficial insects, plus it can help protect crops from rust, mildew and blight. It is a fairly safe spray, but it takes time to work. Some plants don't like it, so start off by applying it to just a few leaves in case of a bad reaction.
What's the secret of getting a strelitzia (bird of paradise) to flower?
Time, for starters. Dense, crowded plants flower best. Full sun and good drainage also help, plus a dose of liquid fertiliser in spring. These South African natives are frost-tender so give them a sheltered spot, and stop watering in the winter. Propagation is usually by division. Plants can be grown from seed but take several years to flower. The strelitzia was named in honour of King George III's wife, Charlotte, whose family name was Mecklenburg-Strelitz.