Q. Can grapevines be grown in Islamabad and, if yes, which variety is best and what growing conditions do they need?

A. Yes they can and you will find a suitable selection of varieties in local nurseries during the winter months. Grapes enjoy full sun, require good drainage and a soil mix of river sand, river silt and clay.

Q. My guava tree in Islamabad fruits well but when the fruits are ripe, they are full of worms. What is the treatment and at what stage should it be used?

A. Please read the column published on Jan 5, 2020, in the following link, it deals with the problem in full: https://www.dawn.com/news/1525838

All your gardening queries answered here

Climbing jasmine
Climbing jasmine

Q. I recently watched a documentary about reducing pollution, lowering temperatures and insulating buildings by having green walls and green rooftops in cities. With this in mind, which plants and vines can withstand the summer heat and winter cold of Islamabad and can be used on house walls and on rooftops?

A. Insulating walls and rooftops with plants is already being done, albeit slowly, in our major cities, with Islamabad being no exception. Commercial enterprises are using specially designed membranes combined with in-built irrigation systems to grow plant walls. People are creating rooftop gardens, some of them with magnificent results. Yet others are reinventing the age-old tradition of cooling their homes by covering them with masses of climbing plants. If simply growing climbers and vines up house walls, the following species are suitable for Islamabad and surrounding areas: Bougainvillea, tecoma grandiflora, Virginia creeper, passion flower vines, kiwi fruit vines, grape vines, ficus repens, golden shower, allamanda species, thunbergia grandiflora and quisqualis indica — which is commonly known as Rangoon creeper. Plants for rooftop gardens are exactly the same as regular garden plants but, unless you are using gigantic pots/containers, it is best to stick with relatively shallow-rooted varieties. You may need to provide them with summer shade while securely fixed green netting is ideal to prevent them from burning up in the heat.

Q. I am from Gilgit-Baltistan but now live in Islamabad and find the summers unbearably hot. I am thinking of planting vines that will creep up the walls of our rented house and cool the interior of the house. Plus, I want to cover the rooftop with plants as well. Please suggest some suitable plants for this purpose.

A. Please refer to the answer to the first question for details of suitable plants but, a word of caution first. Please be aware that some climbing plants root directly into/on to walls and can cause structural damage in time. It would be advisable to ask the house owner for permission to cover the property with climbers rather than causing a problem by simply going ahead. The same applies to creating rooftop gardens, as not all properties have roof areas designed to support the additional weight of heavy pots of soil.

Q. I have seen honey bees on willow trees, jasmine and mint flowers. Can you suggest more flowering plants that can be grown in pots, in Islamabad, to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators and sunbirds too? 

A. All flowering plants will attract bees, butterflies and a whole range of other pollinating insects, as long as air pollution levels are fairly low. They find the following particularly attractive: Sunflowers, scabosia, chives and garlic chives, borage, hollyhocks, larkspur, sweetpeas, sweet sultan, sweet williams, nasturtiums, alyssum, jasmines, thyme, marigolds, salvia, monarda, agastache and many more. Sunbirds are a little more particular but do like hibiscus, morning glory vines, bougainvillea, thunbergia/black-eyed Susie, ixora and hamelia patens.

Q. I am thinking about growing vegetables on my terrace in Lahore. There is ample space and I have a lot of options. But, during summer, the place burns like a furnace. To counter this issue, we are thinking about installing a fiberglass roof but I am afraid that vegetables will grow poorly in the fiberglass shade and won’t grow at all in the winters. Will a canvas sheet be better? What other options are there?

A. It would be hotter than ever beneath a fiberglass roof and the diffused light would adversely affect growth. Canvas would also reduce light and possibly hold in heat. The strongest, best quality, green shade netting, securely fixed in place, is the best option for the summer months. Shade protection is not necessary in winter.

Q. Can you suggest some flowering plants and vines suitable for growing in the Abbottabad area? I love fragrant plants and would like to know of some that are tolerant of shade.

A. Passion flowers grow very well in your area, as do gloriously fragrant honeysuckle and jasmine too. Wisteria sinensis is another climber with perfumed flowers in the spring, and climbing roses thrive in the Abbottabad area. Both lavender and rosemary are suitable aromatic species for you to grow and, in the shade, a collection of hostas, with different leaf colours, can be a joy to behold.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 12th, 2021

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