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General advice on starting out

NzJamesNzJames Posts: 3

Hi all, I've recently gotten into gardening and have decided to see what I can do in my rental properties garden as a fun project. It's a decked garden with an L shaped bed on two sides of the garden, it's not particularly deep which has caused me some trouble but so far this is what I have planted.

2 x Rhododendrons, the larger of which I just dug a space in the bed and put the entire plastic pot in it as it's far too big to plant in the bed.

2 x Azaleas, planted in the bed

3 x various small hydrangeas that I cut back last year (a little too much I fear)

1 x small Acer

I also have some climbing hydrangeas in large planters on the deck itself, along with some wisteria, jasmine, parthenocissus and pyracantha in planters that I have built around a pergola I built myself from raw timber.

To start out, I just have a few questions, if anyone can answer one or all of them, I'd be greatly appreciative.

1) Do I need to add anything to the soil for my hydrangeas, azaleas or rhododendrons? I don't know what the state of the soil is, are there any tests I should do to see how much nutrition is in it? Should I fertilise now they're planted?

2) The rhododendrons and azaleas wilted in the heat and lost most of their petals. I've removed the petals but the heads with the stems are still on the plant. Should I remove these too or leave them? Will they flower again this year?

3) How can I encourage my Pyracantha to grow sideways and become fuller/bushier rather than taller?

4) The parthenocissus lost most of its tendrils and leaves when I had to move house recently and had to rip it off the trellis. Its now growing leaves in clumps on a few of the remaining branches but I want to encourage it to grow more tendrils and branches/stalks to grow new growth and thicken it out. Is there any way to do this?

5) My Trachelospermum Jasmine was also distressed from being pot bound for a while and the move, its now nowhere near as thick as before and feels a bit brittle, though it's not dying. The leaves have mostly gone back to green and the brittleness is starting to fade but it's only growing new tendrils very slowly and there are no sign of flowering buds yet. What should I do to nurse this back to health?

6) Lastly, in the bed around the hydrangeas, azaleas and rhododendrons I'd like to fill out the ground cover and in between spaces with things that won't take away from those shrubs but will provide good seasonal interest, flowering at different times and plenty of colour/texture contrast. Can anyone suggest good plants for that?

Thanks again for any help!



  • LoganLogan Posts: 2,532
    Nz james,1)For azaleas and rhododendrons you need to take soil tests their requirements are different.their acid loving plants. Hydrangeas aren't, it all depends on what fertiliser to use a high nitrogen will encourage leaf and a potash one will encourage flower.Beginning of next year start with a high nitrogen feed then in summer. change to high potash feed

    2)take off the stalks as well but be careful there will be next years buds underneath or you can leave them it doesn't really matter they won't flower again this year.

    3)train the pyracantha with wires to go sideways.


    3)train the pyracantha with wires
  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    OK 4) leave it alone for now, next spring cut it back to ground level and let in grow back.

    5) do nothing, it's establishing so be patient.

    6) a combination of plants so use  the RHS site to pick perennials that will flower according to your tastes and the seasons, bearing in mind you may have to acidify the soil around the rhododendrons and azalea's.

    Point, pyracantha need pruning to produce a bushy plant. Cut the leading stems to half the height you want them and at an outward facing bud. They are going for it now in full growth, so accurate pruning will produce new leaders to get the bushy growth. It can be painful, so wear gloves.

  • NzJamesNzJames Posts: 3

    Thanks Dave, just re: the pyracantha, when you say leading stems do you mean the primary vertical ones? And when you say at an outward facing bud, could you just clarify what you mean by that?

    Also to check soil acidity, is there a kit I can get from B&Q/Homebase?

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,224



     (Diagram just to show what is meant by an outward facing bud - you don't need to prune the Pyracantha as severely as this rose!) You can also prune just above a small healthy side branch.

    Basically where you prune, you do so where the plant's energy can be diverted into a bud or side branch. The cut should slope away from the bud / branch, and of course the bud / branch needs to be pointing in a direction where you want the plant to grow, i.e. outwards. If you cut too far from the bud / branch, the stub of the stem which is left above the bud / branch will die and this looks ugly & encourages disease.

  • NzJamesNzJames Posts: 3

    Great diagram, that helps massively, cheers. So if I have a side branch that I want to grow bigger, cutting just above it will divert the plants energy to the side branch?

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,404

    Rhododendrons and azaleas need acid soil as Logan says. The potted one will need ericaceous compost. If your soil is not acid this type of compost will help a bit, but they may need watering with a sequestering agent. This helps them access iron in the soil and stops leaf yellowing. If soil is very alkaline they would be best in containers.

    Hydrangeas can grow in any soil but they have blue flowers in acid soil and pink or red ones in alkaline. Neutral soil gives you mauvey shades or an interesting mixture. White ones generally stay white.They are thirsty plants so keep well watered.

    Wisterias grow into massive plants and are not generally considered suitable for containers. However they can be trained to form a standard which would make it easier to take it with you if you move again!

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