Colin, our resident plant expert, has been advising Notcutts customers about their gardening needs for many years,  and here are a selection of some of the questions he has answered through our "Ask Colin" service:


I am growing bamboo in pots; do they need any maintenance?

Watering is the main requirement. Ideally stand on a saucer. You can divide them into more pots as they grow quickly before they get root bound. The Fargesia types are more suited to smaller pots.


I need some plants that will climb a trellis that is attached to a wooden planter, ideally fast growing. Colour and density are important.

Try Trachelospemum jasminoides. It is evergreen and has scented cream white summer flowers. It will need to be a big trough. Other possibilities are clematis (large flower types), or even sweet peas.


Which lavender should I buy for evergreen hedging please?

Go for the English lavenders, in preference to the French varieties. The angustifolia types are stronger and bigger. A severe winter may reduce the amount of evergreen leaves, but this is a strong sturdy type.


If I want to plant orchids in a big pot, what soil would I use please?

You need a specialist orchid compost which will be based on bark. Generally, orchids prefer to be in a smaller pot, where they flower better.


 My hydrangea has curled leaves and on opening them they have black markings on the inside. It is in the ground and has been there for about 5 years.

These are fresh shoots that have been slightly frosted by this year’s late frosts. They will grow out of this without any action needed. I would just water them over the next few weeks if dry, and maybe feed with a general-purpose plant food.


What tree is best for a shaded area, being planted between a wooden fence and shed.

Amelanchier or birch are good trees. Smaller plants include fuchsias, hydrangeas, Japanese maples (Can be a tree or shrub form), Alchemilla mollis, camellia, hostas, ferns, hellebores, and vinca are all possibilities. Bluebells and snowdrops are also worth considering.


I have a plant called Angel Wings. It is in a pot and has gone very straggly, should I cut it back?

This has a silver bold leaf. If it is growing a stem, then yes cut it back. I had one that did the same thing. I have now planted it out in a well- drained soil and it seems to be happier.


What is the best hardy fuchsia to plant in my borders?

‘Mrs Popple’ is a great variety with large flowers, or a narrow flowered very tough plant is ‘Ricartonii’. There are other good varieties such as ‘Prosperity’, ‘Display’ etc. They aren’t available as larger shrubs until later in May.


I have a north facing wall. What bushes or trees in tubs would flourish in such an environment?

I would recommend Rhododendrons (if you use ericaceous compost), Japanese maples, Fuchsias, Camellia, Cornus, Fatsia, Photinia, Amelanchier and Skimmias. Photinia and Amelanchier can be bought as a tree or shrub.


Are lilies poisonous as my cat has eaten some pollen?

Lily plants including pollen can be poisonous to cats, so I recommend that you contact your vet to get a professional opinion.


Can you recommend some screening trees or bushes to block my neighbour’s overlooking window from a new extension?

This will all depend on the aspect and style of garden. Hedging can be evergreen including laurel, conifers, or privet, or can be deciduous such as beech, which holds on to dried leaves through most of the winter.
Trees with a broad head, but not growing too tall include Amelanchier, Photinia, Malus (Flowering crab apples), Prunus (Flowering cherries), liquidamber and more. Also consider a raised trellis where you can grow an evergreen climber such as Trachelospermum or climbing roses.


Can you recommend a pesticide for apple and pear trees codling moth and other pests etc.

I would recommend the use of a codling moth trap. This traps the males and stops the spread of the larvae that cause the problem in the fruit. There are also natural alternative pest control products online and in our garden centres.


We are having problems with neighbouring cats in our very small garden. Could you advise of the best plant or repellent to at least reduce the number coming into the garden without harming them.

You could try sonic deterrents that are safe for pets. There are also sprays from companies such as Grazers and cat deterrent crystals, which all have a moderate effect. One old trick it to plant catnip – (Nepeta cataria) in a far corner to attract them to a far place away from your garden.