Q 1 Can I plant my plug straight out into the garden when I receive it ?
A 1 We would always recommend planting into a 4″ pot initially on receipt of your plugs – even in Summer months. By planting into a smaller pot the plant gets less stressed and will grow away well, take off the initial flower shoot so that the plant does not put energy into flowering before it has at least doubled in size. They will be happy in containers overwintered outside, as long as they are not in a wet, windy position. The main error is to overwater, and then not have sufficient drainage, so water regularly but sparingly, and make sure compost is free draining. During November to February they will need almost no water, just check they are not too dry and top up when necessary. In the Spring you can then re-pot into a larger container, or plant into the border, once the risk of frost has passed
Q2 I bought a selection of rooted plugs from you 2 years ago. They have done fantastically, as you said they would forming mounds between 10cm and 25cm across in just two growing seasons. However, two of them are turning brown from below having been the first to flower.
A2 It sounds like one of two things: It may just be that on a mature plant the underneath is actually brown. anyway and sometimes if the plant gets too heavy with flowers, or after heavy rain, the plant will “split” and you end up seeing the underneath of the plant. If you are feeding and watering regularly and the plants are flowering well, I would expect this to be the case. You could up the feed to a weekly, rather than fortnightly one , using a rose or tomato feed so the nutrient ratios are correct to see if this improves the colour – and make sure they have very good drainage and no sign of slugs which will strip the stems and make the flowers abort. Alternatively, as your plants are flowering well and therefore must be healthy enough – then if you have green growth on top of woody stems, this is normally because you did not pinch back low enough at the end of the previous season. If you take the flowering stems down to the lowest node (joint) possible, then the plant keeps a tighter mound shape over the winter – and this will avoid fresh growth on brown stems.
The photo above shows a plant after it has been tidied for the Winter – make sure all flower stems are removed as low as possible.
Q3 The flowers have been fabulous all summer but this week I’ve noticed a problem whilst deadheading: Some of the blooms appeared to be ‘shredded’ at the base and as I was cutting them off little black beetle-things emerged.
A3 The beetles you have found are most likely the pollen beetle as they are in some seasons very prolific. Unfortunately you cannot spray with anything to get rid of them as this would affect the bees and other pollinators. They should not destroy the blooms, but they will weaken and make them less uniform. You can only spend time picking them off by hand, but as many of our dianthus are so fragrant, they are highly attractive, perhaps an equally fragrant flower close by as a decoy?
Q 4 I planted some plugs in a border a couple of weeks ago. The bed has had lots of rain over the last 2 days and all have been watered daily since planting. I estimate half have perished.
A4 It looks like the plugs have dried out before they’ve had a chance to root into the ground. We recommend you put the next lot into 4″ pots for 6 to 8 weeks and then plant them into the ground. The other option is to keep them in pots until early spring and then put them in the ground.
Q 5 I love pinks and have grown them with some success for some years. However I always get problems with a lot of the buds which form but then dry out and go brown before a flower forms. Having looked at your cultural notes is this the moth that is mentioned and is there anything that can be done to stop it?
A 5 Thank you for your question regarding the brown buds and no flowers and I think your assumption is correct. It is a very common problem. A preventative treatment, probably weekly for say 3 weeks in about June, should alleviate the problem. A product available in the garden centre should do the job, such as the one to treat pea moth. Unfortunately you are not aware of the problem until there are no flowers and one rarely sees the moth, which is a very boring brown one!