Landscape gardener and Life columnist Justin answers your questions.
I just read your article online about the poolside makeover - I have a pool and am in the process of planting around it. I have a large raised garden plot directly behind the pool and was wondering what are some good plants to put in there - ones that don't drop leaves into the pool. I am in the Christchurch area.
Christchurch is a bit different climatically to Auckland where we did the pool makeover and many of the plants we featured would be marginal at best. If you like that semi-tropical look though there are some striking options which would do the trick. Most pools have very little in the way of garden space around them so I tend to use more linear-type plants in the designs. That means those which grow straight up and down, like palms, flaxes and grasses, which might top 20m in height but which only take up half a metre in the ground. Nikau is always my first pick but kentia could also be an option.Ttrachycarpus or cotton palm would be fine, but I personally don't like their hairy trunks. The bigger plants will give you good bones. For colour use small rhododendrons 2m high as a background and stick to hot colours. In the foreground, try a bed of yellow kniphofia (hot poker) highlighted with astelia silver spear and a herbaceous boarder of rata vine.
Cycas revoluta is also a good option and yuccas mass-planted as a tangle of trunks can look interesting. Otherwise go for natives, grasses, flaxes, pseudopanax, cordyline and some not-so-native mondo grass.
We have a two-year-old small to medium passionfruit vine which last year produced a small but delicious yield of fruits. This year looked set to be its first bumper crop with many flower heads but around three weeks ago the leaves took on yellow spots and started to curl and dry out around the edges - they are eventually dying and falling off. The unopened flowers are not opening and the ones that have opened are withering and dying. It seems to be spreading up the plant to the tips of the vine. I water regularly, fertilised with blood and bone in September and more recently with Manutec fruit and citrus soluble food (with added zinc, iron, maganese and copper) and regularly compost the soil. We've also sprayed the leaves for pests but there doesn't seem to be anything we can see.
- Cindy Carleton
It sounds likely to be one of two things. Firstly it could be poor soil conditions. I know you say you compost your plant but I wonder what the soil was like during planting. Judging by what you've written it sounds like you would have taken great care, but the passionfruit has a spreading, shallow root system and you may need to extend the amount you mulch and compost out to at least a metre from the base of the plant. If the soil around the plant is heavy, over-watering may be an issue The other thing that springs to mind is some sort of fungal infection which could reduce the plant's ability to hold flower. Spray with Yates Copper and try not to water the foliage. Keep going, when you get it right the results are well worth the effort.
I have been growing banana palms for the past three years but every summer the plants dry up and I still don't have any fruit. Can you please help?
Banana is a tropical tree that thrives in damp, humid conditions. Make sure your trees are well-watered and that you have mulched them adequately. If they are exposed to wind they can deteriorate fast so try growing an abyssinian banana nearby. These do not produce bananas but will afford your fruiting varieties protection from the elements.
* Water, water, water. Deep and long around each plant is better than a light sprinkle. Try to avoid watering the foliage as this can promote bacteria and fungi growth
* Keep up a prophylactic spray programme. Include baking soad in your spray as this reduces outbreaks of leaf mould especially in your pumpkins, water melon and other courqubits.
* Keep your avocado well watered and mulched.
* Divide your old rhubarb plants.
* Slow down on watering your garlic but keep your onions well watered.
* To combat slugs and snails keep the garden tidy and weeded.
* It's flower time - sow seeds or plant from punnets: Alyssum, Ageratum, Asters, Balsams, Begonia, Calendula, Candytuft, Carnation, Celosia, Cosmos, Californian poppies, Gazania, Impatiens, Larkspur, Linaria, Linum, Lobelia, Lupin, Marigold, Nasturtium, Nemesia, Petunia, Phlox, Poppies, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Strawflower, Sunflower,Sweetpeas, Sweet william, Verbena, Violas, Viscaria and Zinnias.
* Keep the lawn well watered and mow regularly.
* Turn the clippings into your compost.