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Jean Genie

We' ve all done it at one time or another. Planted something  in wrong location, wrong soil, too shady, too sunny.

Can anyone beat this ? Years ago I purchased a Viburnum macrocephalum ( Snowball Bush ) by mail order - planted it and everything seemed to be going well until I noticed a sucker appearing so I pruned it off as you do . What I didn't realise was it was a grafted shrub and yes you've guessed it I pruned off the wrong stem !!!

I'm now the proud owner of a 20ft silver birch tree - haha ! Never mind , the birds love it and it's somewhere to hang the fat balls. However don't know what the neighbours think !!!


I am prone to garden gaffes although thankfully plants always try their best to cover up my mistakes.

One example I'm not exactly proud to admit is as recent as last year, when I pruned out some rather offensive growth on a newly planted Spirea Snow-mound as I didn't read the label correctly and actually cut back all its long flower stems.

On the whole I live (or rather my plants live) dangerously in the garden. Because I have sandy soil and a flippant attitude, I'll move shrubs out of season, I'll hack at things and I'll divide plants still in their infancy. Luckily, 99% of plants will do their damndest to survive my errors and hopefully I learn something along the way.

Jean Genie

Any idea how big this silver birch is gonna grow ?


60 80 ft.



Asked for advice on tomato growing by a colleague, I went out to his greenhouse to find some rampant specimens in growbags - very leafy and only one tomato so far. I happily explained about pinching out side growths and broke one off even though it was very long - and yes, it was the one with the tomato on it. Eeek.



I have a very very educated friend - one day I went in to her garden and noticed grow bags with bamboo canes had been set up. "Growing tomatoes", I said. "Yes, but I've been watering them now for three weeks and nothing's happening", she replied. "And where are the tomato plants?", I enquired. "They haven't come up yet". I had to explain to her that she had to plant tomatoes in the growbags and they dont just grow from the bag. She was convinced she had been dupped, "But its got pictures of tomatoes on the bag, look". She never attempted to grow tomatoes again.

II'm like wintersong. I have an attitude of, well i'll shift stuff about willy nilly and hack lumps off things whenever i like and if it dies... well it just wasnt trying, was it? Plants are living things, after all. I also firmly believe in giving things a go. A certain plant might "prefer" a certain place but that doesnt mean it'll turn up its toes just because things are less than absolutely ideal... I "prefer" partial sun, a temperature of 16-21 degrees and a large glass of wine in each hand, and yet i dont actually die in the winter. Just go a bit limp for a bit. The wine's non-negotiable though! I've discovered all sorts of things I never would've got from a book by having this attitude and think I have a more interesting garden because of it. For example, heuchera 'lime rickey' is supposed to like sun. DON'T DO IT! In sun, its a putrid yellow colour and the leaves shrivel even on moist ground. In shade, its a vibrant lime green, and the foliage stays fresh all year. The variagated bamboo, pleioblastus, is used as a pond marginal, but actually copes perfectly well with dry shade. That said, I've had epic failures too, like the fantastic huge clump of paeony molly the witch that finally karked after being moved for the 4th time in one year (SO should've known) and the many, many attempts to get anything at all with purple foliage not to go green or bronze in shade. And the massive phormium I didn't wrap that year we had the mega bad winter which died horribly, with only me to blame. Shame shame on me!


@auntie betty, you are now my favourite auntie!! (besides the fact, I don't have any other aunties)

I bought a Lime Rickey 2litre pot last year and stuck it in the sun where it promptly died, just as you describe. Believing the label was correct, I couldn't work out why, but I did manage to take two tiny tiny divisions before it completely croaked which I have grown on for a year.

They are still puny but not tiny and my intention was to add them to my full sun border, still believing the experts!   Thank You for your invaluable first hand experiences.


Plants don't read the books, watch the telly, listen to the radio or read their labels!!  Most of them have an overwhelming desire to live, and will do their best to do so no matter what we do to them.  It is probaby true that a plant that evolved in the middle of a rain forest might not do well in a dry sunny garden (what is a dry sunny garden?) but it will jolly well try before sucumbing - giving you a chance to realise what is wrong and move it.   I agree re light leaved, and light flowered, plants - they are often better in some shade, not matter what the labels say.

By the by, what makes you think plant labels are written by experts?  I know someone who worked in a printing place, where labels for a very famous provider of plug plants had their work done  They were told to put 'grow in full sun' onto most things, as people found it more positive and were more likely to buy the plant.  Never mind having to buy it again, and again, and again .................

Wintersong, get your gorgeous little heuchs somewhere nice and cool and on the moist side of average and you'll be amazed. I was!  I've got a massive clump now, having salvaged some teeny pieces of my original shrivelled and much abused specimen just like you did. It came back really fast once I shifted it. Done so well I just bought 2 more for elsewhere - havent the heart to start chopping my old one! Seems too cruel. Its one of my favourite guys in the garden now. Super special with a whacking clump of dicentra, or euphorbia robbiae if the thought of bright pink and lime together horrifies you. Truth is, I imagine a healthy Rickey looks pretty tops with almost anything that isn't silver. xx


i killed 2 of my penstemons last year.. i cut them back far to hard.. think i am taking after my mother.. she likes to hack things to an inch of its life.. also a gorgeous ceanothus tree i had.. got woody thought i would give it good hair cut.. htey are very tough..or so i thought it didnt like it and died

i used to move things anywhen and they would i try and wait until out of summer season.. (hands need to be tied really) or at least until they have finished flowering.. and never cut back by more htan a third anymore.


Jean Genie

60- 80 ft ???? ! Think I may need a tree surgeon !! Any wine left Auntie Betty ! had a good chuckle about the tomatoe plants.


The tomato plants made me laugh.. I once went into tidy up a neighbours over grown pot outside her front door (a very large clay pot). This was in my early days of gardening, I was happily pruning away and snip.. I cut the main stem of her clematis,it took me a long time to get over the guilt of that.. little did i know then it probably did it good and it would have grown again.I never found out I moved house shortly after


Loved the tomato story, but I can well imagine it in this day of not having to do anything for ourselves. Maybe one day she will try again with both the bags and the tomato plants.

I was once busily telling a non-gardening friend all about her ceanothus and how they responded well to pruning, when I snapped off a large branch from one side, making it all lopsided!! Talk about feeling awful, and no where near as knowledgeable as she had thought me to be. I will probably remember it for far longer than she, who has probably forgotten all about it now!

Laura Corin

I remember carefully researching shade-loving plants for my small London garden with a big plane tree and choosing some campanulas.  After I had put in the order, my mum had a look at the list and said, 'I think you'll find that those three already make up most of the vegetation in the garden.'  We rented the house out shortly thereafter but are going to be managing it again starting in the autumn.  I look forward to seeing whether the campanulas are approaching complete coverage yet.


Moonlit Hare

as a little girl of maybe 3 or 4 I decided that it would be a really good thing to weed my grandads veggie patch because he was poorly. (I also thought it might earn me a packet of spangles or some other such treat, I would of settled for a bedtime story though!)

After a day of weeding with parents and grandparents keeping an eye on me from the windows I went to get gramps so he could take a look at all my hard work, it was then he realised I'd pulled up all his tiny onion shoots thinking they where grass. When he told me I burst into tears because we wouldn't have any onions that year.

Always being one to make do and mend we re planted them again in the hope they would survive. I died my eyes, got the aforementioned sweets and bedtime story for trying my best... all the rest of the patch was beautifully weeded.

Gramp managed to get lucky and ended up with all seedlings growing tall and strong!

It's over 35yrs ago now but the feeling of ruining the veggie patch has stuck with me all this time.... maybe this was the start of my caviler attitude to gardening... if can survive it's 1st year deserves to stay!

Jean Genie

Well folks , Think I may be awarding myself the garden gaffe certificate of excellence . WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THIS TREE !!!  Just by way of interest I've got a heuchera sugar frosting in a pot in front garden which seems to be thriving on neglect. Its in full sun for half the day, gets watered when I remember to do so and gets the odd feed now and then . Its got stunning purpley foliage and just keeps on growing. Maybe we don't get as much sun here in Lancs.

Anyone got any instructions for a tree - house !!

Alina W

Is your tree in a pot, by any chance? That would restrict its growth quite a bit.

Jean Genie

Noooooo !! It' 20ft plus ! Some kind soul has told me it could grow to 60-80 ft so I'm a bit concerned now . Can they really grow that big?  Don't know that much about trees .

Alina W

Depends on the variety, but I'm afraid the answer's yes, and they're fairly fast growers. Watch out for the roots, too - they are very shallow, travel a long way and form an impenatrable mat close to the tree. They don't tolerate drought very well because of the shallow roots, either.