Country & Garden: Cuttings: News From The Gardeners' World

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The Independent Culture
I WAS recently (Independent, 21 August) quite rude about the red and white fuchsia `Swingtime'. Zephyrine Barbarachild writes from Lancaster to say that it's her favourite fuchsia. Oops! She has a standard specimen about 4ft tall and 2ft wide, laden with heavy blooms. "My chief concern," she says, "is how to get it through the winter. I love standard fuchsias and have for years bought them and grown my own. I have no greenhouse, so I bring them indoors and put them in a cool spare room. If they survive till Easter, they always then fail."

Fuchsias do not like frost, but they do not like dry heat, either. Stop watering the plants once they have finished flowering. Leave them outside until the first severe frost.

Inside, the temperature needs to be as low as possible (39-45F), and the plants kept barely moist. They overwinter more successfully if the heads are pruned back, removing all soft growth. It will soon make up again the following season. By March, the plants can be started into growth again. Trim them, repot them, water them and give them a higher ambient temperature (around 45-50F). By May they can be set outside.

Some cultivars seem to accept the overwintering regime well. Connoisseurs recommend the old fuchsia `Display', raised in 1881, with fluorescent pink corollas inside slightly darker sepals. `Brutus' is another toughie, dating from 1897. It has red and purple flowers of medium size. `Dollar Princess' is similar, but the flowers are double. All will make decent standards.

TWO DOCTORS at a hospital 13,000ft up in the Himalayas are managing to grow their own vegetables from seed sent to them by Marshalls, the seed company based at Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. Rachel Bishop and Jim Litch, who run the Kunde Hospital in Nepal, are raising carrots, turnips, onions, spinach, radishes and peas in two greenhouses. Spinach and radish succeed spectacularly, spinach being a favourite with the hospital staff. They eat it raw in salads or steamed in momos, a kind of dumpling. Unfortunately, there was a disaster with the lettuce when a stray yak broke in through the greenhouse door.

Can any gardener have a more spectacular view than these two? The peaks of Thamserku and Ama Dablam are close by. Mount Everest is just down the road.

"THERE HAS been a seismic change in the horticultural chemical warfare industry," writes Bill Alexander from Surrey. "All the household names such as Murphy, Levington, Fisons and what used to be ICI have been bought out by one American company, Scotts, based in Godalming.

"This, of course, has totally annihilated what little competition there was in this market, but their crowning glory has been to destroy the utility of the Weedol sprinkler bar. This used to be a cheap, simple device, essential for watering weedkiller over a wide area. Their latest design costs pounds 5, and does not fit my perfectly ordinary watering can.

"I wrote to them about this and they said they might `look for an old one', but to no avail. I pointed out that their new design did not fit my watering can and that my local retailer had told me that this was now a frequent problem. This may seem trivial, but I assure you it is not. The weeds are winning."

Can anyone help Mr Alexander? He's at 27 Redstone Hill, Redhill, Surrey RH1 4AW. And I'd like to know about any other manufacturer who forgets customer service. That irritating "How can I help you?", parroted on a million phone lines, is, after all, supposed to mean something.

Anna Pavord