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Primula, lavender, aphids and slugs


by Jekka McVicar

This year and last the cowslips have gone into full flower in early April. There are a few buds left, but those won't hold for a further five weeks, so these herbs will definitely miss Chelsea.


Cowslip (Primula vulgaris) flowersFlowering plants come in two forms: those whose flowering we can delay and those that only flower once every season. With five weeks to go in the countdown to the Chelsea Flower Show, it's critical that we get our timings right.

This year and last the cowslips, Primula vulgaris, have gone into full flower in early April. There are a few buds left, but they won't hold for a further five weeks, so these herbs will definitely miss the show. Luckily, they're not required for any of the show gardens we're supplying with plants, only for my own display, so I'll redesign accordingly.

French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) flowersFrench lavender, Lavandula stoechas, is also starting to flower. These flowers can be 'stripped' (cut) off, leaving the tight new buds. We'll continue the 'stripping' for the next few weeks, stopping two weeks prior to the show. In the final week we'll just remove the flower heads that are going over.

As spring advances, so do the pests. We've had our first outbreak of aphids, and have responded by spraying the plants with horticultural soft soap. After the initial spray, with the night temperatures warming up, we'll start our programme of integrated pest management. For aphid control we introduce parasitic wasps, hoverflies and ladybirds - the larvae (especially of the latter two) have a voracious appetite for aphids.

Aphids on leavesThe other leaf-munching pests are slugs. I'm now on night patrol. Night is the easiest and best time to go out with rubber gloves and torch, picking off as many as I can find. They are then disposed of. Not, I hasten to add, by myself - even after all these years I have great difficulty killing anything.



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Gardeners' World Web User 17/07/2010 at 13:50

i wanted to ask a simple question about lavender. cutting the heads - will this encourage more growth or is that it once the heads have been cut ? any replies gratefully received

Gardeners' World Web User 17/07/2010 at 13:51

if there are any links to read about this i would be grateful for as well thank you

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:31

Hi my name Darren this year I have mulched my mixed border with bark, I'm fed up with the weeds that keep coming back how should I feed my plants, with slow release fertilizer granules or soluble in water will it ruin the soil if I keep putting bark on year after year?