Gardener's Question Time at Torberry: Horticultural Fun!

Alitex Open Day

As the sun went down on a beautiful spring day, birds chattered their evensong to welcome over forty guests to our show site at Torberry for a horticultural evening of fun.

We were delighted to have Marina Christopher from Phoenix Perennials, Tony Kirkham from Kew and Sarah Wain from West Dean with us. Our chairman for the night Graham Hughes (an Alitex non-executive director) officiated proceedings, keeping everyone in check and playing to his strengths as in his own words “he can’t tell his crysanths from his delphiniums”.

Chris Sawyer, Alitex’s sales director who many of you may know, introduced our panel and opened proceedings with a linguistic flourish, demonstrating his understanding of Latin and also wondering whether we could give Radio 4 a run for their money! From Alitex we had members from the sales and design departments, all with notebooks in hand to record the answers to their questions.

Lots of Alitex friends both old and new joined visitors from the locality who just wanted to pop along to find out what it was all about. As Laura Bradley Alitex’s marketing manager commented;

“We really just want everyone to come along and have fun, and hopefully get some answers to horticultural problems!”

Graham had proposed that we had a “sharing of knowledge”, which worked out brilliantly for all of us as there were some keen and experienced gardener’s amongst our guests who were able to add to the advice given.

We started with a question from the audience about moving a ten year old distressed cherry tree – could it survive? Would it? Who better to step up and answer than Tony Kirkham, who looks after thousands of trees at Kew. Essentially, for those of you interested in moving not so young trees around, the devil, as always is in the detail and preparation. You should encourage new smaller shoots by gradually cutting away the larger ones, but do not move the tree. The tree needs to withstand the shock of moving and this will better happen if you move it next season, ideally before Christmas. Tony also revealed that this weekend he had been pulling green ivy off his house, which was pebbledash covered and has succeeded in bringing half his exterior cladding down! His top tip was pulling it down green, not dead and then kill the root with a chemical available from the garden centre.

Hilariously (though probably not for Sarah!) Sarah Wain revealed that the pesky mice at West Dean are forever nibbling the tender green shoots of spring, which sets back the growth of sweet peas amongst other plants. There is not terribly much you can do about that, and was a sentiment shared by other members of our audience.

Marina Christopher has a science rather than horticultural background and provided the perfect balance to our panel. Whilst her interest and livelihood is focussed on bringing wildlife into the garden with appropriate plantings, she also had some great insights for the audience.

A really hot tip which I thought was great and hadn’t occurred to me; when using secateurs on a plant with problems, you must sterilise them afterwards otherwise you simply pass the disease from plant to plant. It’s the simplest things!

We are really enjoying these events at Alitex, they are fun and we love having visitors to Torberry. Do keep an eye on our future events and come along and bring your own guests!

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