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Best buys at Hampton Court, how to handle poisonous plants and tips on anemones from garden expert Helen Yemm

RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019.
RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. Credit: Tim Sandall / RHS

Every week, Telegraph gardening expert Helen Yemm gives tips and advice on all your gardening problems whether at home or on the allotment. If you have a question, see below for how to contact her.

A SHOPPING LIST FROM HAMPTON COURT

To my relief, Press Day at Hampton Court Garden Festival seldom, if ever, requires me to comment on the show gardens or interview excited creatives. I spend the day trawling the nursery and gadget stands, sniffing out must-haves and earmarking slog-saving paraphernalia.

Topiary and hedge-trimming time looms – for me an arduous few days of leaping on and off ladders, manhandling equipment and twitching around with inadequate plastic sheeting. I have the vital stuff to hand: tripod ladder, tick; battery hedge trimmer, tick; topiary shears, tick; flat-ended plastic sweeping rake, tick. But I lack a long tarpaulin for collecting all the bits.

I visited old friends at Niwaki (suppliers of my ladder and also of my favourite Okatsune secateurs), who came up with just the ticket: a 12ft long and narrow pruning sheet. Thence to Gardena to express great appreciation for their rake, which has been one of my most turned-to garden tools of all time. There I saw an ingenious topiary bit-collection “bib”, as well as small-space “planting mats” of various sizes, with button-up corners and even a central removable “plug” to enable the tidiest-ever bits-disposal (see video online).

Other notables? The Backdoor Shoes man (backdoorshoes.co.uk) always sees me coming, having forgiven my “wear them with pride, just don’t look down” comment about his colourful footwear. This year he showed me a super-light and comfortable new line of slip-on clogs in (phew!) navy blue and other plain colours.

Last, I should draw readers’ attention to some truly excellent medium-weight washable stretchy gloves: Red Backs from glovespecialists.co.uk. I suggest you go up a size from normal on both the shoes and the gloves if 
you buy online without trying them on.

WILL ANEMONE CORMS COME BACK?

I was given some anemone corms 
that have just finished flowering. 
Will they come back next year or 
are they a “one-off”?

Jane Macdonald – via email

I am assuming these anemone corms were the brightly coloured varieties, either De Caen Group (with single flowers) or St Brigid’s (double), but you don’t say whether you planted them in the ground or in a pot.

Yes, they will come back smiling next year. However, if they are in the ground, be sure to mark their position before they die back and disappear into dormancy. The reason I find this is necessary is that anemone corms (and this goes for their small spring-flowering relations Anemone blanda, too) are nondescript little things when dormant (as you may recall): rough, brown and misshapen, i.e. like tiny clods of earth.

Digging them up by mistake and dispersing or even destroying them while filling the “space” with something else is, I am sure, common among notoriously forgetful gardeners. I have been known to make a discreet, spaced-out “stockade” around precious bulbs and corms such as these using bamboo kebab sticks (which I find amazingly useful in the garden). This serves as a reminder as to their whereabouts, which often 
saves the day.

If your corms are in pots, let them die back and either leave them where they are for another year (give them a foliar feed before the leaves die down) or dig them up when dormant and replant them in spring.

Soaking them for a few hours before planting speeds things up.

CHOOSE YOUR POISON

We have found that we have monkshood in our garden, and have discovered that every part of the plant is poisonous. Should we keep it, and if not, how should we dispose of it safely?

Tina Cutts – via email

The perennial monkshood (Aconitum) family is a magnificent tribe – the best of them, completely avoided by slugs and snails and needing no support to stay bolt upright through bouts of inclement summer weather – happily stand in, in my garden, for delphiniums that I find fiddly to grow.

But they are indeed on a long list of relatively common garden plants that have poisonous or irritant sap, fruits, roots and so on. You can choose to avoid them, and dig up your monkshoods, particularly if you ever have inquisitive small children around.

Most gardeners are pragmatic about poisonous plants, but it is important to garden in gloves. It is also vital to teach children from the word “go” not to eat anything without asking.