Q: Dear Ken, I have an Abelia grandiflora in my garden that was planted by the previous occupants. It is some 10 feet tall and a bit leggy. I would like to reduce its height and spread. I would welcome your advice on pruning please.  Rick Porter

A: You could trim the Abelia grandiflora back by about one third at present, but it is better pruned back late April. So my advice would be do a bit now with the remainder in Spring.

Q: My lawn took a bit of a bashing in the course of some building work. I am minded to lay down a layer of topsoil and seed. Should I remove, or kill off, the old tatty grass or can I just cover it over and start again. Rick Porter

A: If you were laying turf I would advise a thorough cultivation of the ground, however if you are over seeding it will be not be necessary. Rake off all debris, then with a scarifying rake thoroughly scratch and agitate surface, add a good lawn dressing across the top again and rake in. Then seed on top at about 2 ozs to the sq yd. Others like you to rake it, honestly it`s not worth it, at 2 ozs there is enough for the lawn and the birds. Lastly do it as soon as possible as the weather is just right. Hope this helps.

Q: I have a Catalpa tree 18ft high near a garden wall.  I am getting worried about the roots of it … both for the wall and a
neighbours extension.  Does it have to go? Thanks, Bryan.

A: Catalpa is a very large tree and I would honestly say that it is better in a park than in a garden.  It would be wise to speak to an Aboreaculturalist for specific advice, however, you must check that they are insured to give you such advice.

Q: I have 5 big pots in which I’ve got lilies growing, on some now the flowers are starting to fall so coming to an end. Can you please tell me what I do now keeping them for next year … once the flowers have fallen do I cut the stems down or leave them?  Thank you, Dorothy.

A: The stems are normally left until they start to die back and go brown, then you can cut them back.  Up until that stage it is import to keep the soil moist and maybe in early stages a liquid feed across the stem and leaves will help the lily bulb for future years.  Then stand somewhere shaded and water occasionally.

Q: Could you please tell me suitable shrubs to grow in pots in the front of my house.  The house faces North West and catches the wind.  I have tried Rhododendrons also Box plants which have not survived.  I would like to try again but need advice before I buy !  Jill.

A: See that the pot is large enough – at least 20 inches with a compost made up from half John Innes No. 3 and half multi-purpose compost which will retain sufficient moisture to help when the site is windy.  Lonicera nitida is often found in shaped bushes which will be hardier than Box.  Alternatively you could use Viburnum tinus which would also be suitable and can be shaped on a regular basis.