Episode 37: kokedama

Carolyn Dunster's kokedama creations. 

Carolyn Dunster's kokedama creations. 

The ancient Japanese art of kokedama - meaning literally "moss ball" - is the in thing right now, and I can understand why: plants can be displayed in stunning and original ways, and it's a real space saver for those of us lacking a lot of ledge space.

My guest this week is Carolyn Dunster, who became captivated by kokedama to the extent that she's about to start selling her own kokedama creations (pictured above) at the Conran Shop in London, and she is staging a kokedama exhibit at the RHS Malvern spring festival in May. She's a florist, planting designer, garden writer and author, and her book Urban Flowers came out last year. I find out how she got addicted, what kokedama can offer the plant addict, and what you need to get started.

Photograph:  Gergely Hideg  on  Flickr

Photograph: Gergely Hideg on Flickr

Questions of the week

Amy's poorly  Aechmea  'Blue Rain'. Can you spot the aphids?

Amy's poorly Aechmea 'Blue Rain'. Can you spot the aphids?

Listener Amy Zaaiman has a poorly bromeliad, as you can see. Her Aechmea 'Blue Rain' was covered with mystery critters which are leaving a residue behind, too. The pests in question are aphids, which leave a sticky stuff called honeydew that's popular with ants and can encourage sooty mould. (Want to see honeydew being made? Check out this short video.)

I explain how to rid the plant of aphids using a water spray; if that fails, insecticidal soap spray, either bought over the counter or made at home (recipes here and here), can help. Just remember to wash off the soap after 24 hours. Either way, this is a task that requires persistence - you'll rarely rid yourself of all the aphids in one go, so be prepared to repeat the process a few times. If you fancy trying a neem oil spray, another method for kiling aphids, there are instructions here. If you have a whole heap of plants, maybe in a conservatory, there are biological controls to use, too: aphidius and aphidoletes.

I also answered a question about a crying Alocasia. Rosalind wanted to know why drops of a watery substance were appearing on the tips of her leaves. I explain that this is the process of guttation, which isn't necessary a bad thing, it's just a plant's way of getting rid of any excess moisture. There's more on guttation here and here

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News on the newsletter..

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On The Ledge live show and houseplant chats 

I am going to be at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on the afternoon of July 4 giving talks on houseplants in the roses theatre - do join me if you can. And on the evening of Friday October 26 I'll be bringing a live show of On The Ledge to the RHS London Urban Garden show, with special guests including Alys Fowler and all kinds of leafy fun! Put those dates in your diary NOW!

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This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, and An Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day Gokarna, and Oh Mallory by Josh Woodward, all licensed under Creative Commons.