Wilde side

Date
Published in
The Guardian (UK)
Written by
Kim Wilde

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

We are looking for plants wit year-round interest, which are fairly easy to maintain, for a dry, shady area, under deciduous trees in our south-west facing garden. The soil is full of stones, so drainage can't be a problem.
Some plants thrive in dry shade. I have a weed-proof carpet of the aromatic, virtually evergreen Geranium macrorrhizum 'Ingwersen's Variety' under my deciduous acers, with clear pink flowers from late spring to early summer, and warm autumn colours. The soft, scallop-edged foliage goes well with Iris foetidissima, which is dark green, glossy and evergreen. Its pods open in autumn, showing vivid orange and scarlet seeds. Euphorbia arnygolaloides var. robbiae is a good evergreen for tough areas, with lime-yellow flowers from mid-srping to early summer. Ferns make a beauutiful contrast to other foliage plants, though they usually prefer cool, damp conditions. Asplenium scolopendrium, with its strap-like fronds, will tolerate dry shade.

We planted a camellia two years ago. It looks healthy but hasn't produced flowers. We live in Glasgow and the plant faces north-west. Can you help?
The cooler the area, the more sun camellias need to produce flowers. Buds sdevelop in summer, so ensure the plant does not dry out then. Avoid feeding after June, as plants fed too late can drop their buds. A thick mulch of leaf-mould in late spring will help stop the plant from drying out. As you only planted it two years ago, why not move it this autumn to a sunnier spot?

Our bamboo, Phullostachys nigra, was planted in April, before a three-week period of no rain. I was out of the country, so couldn't water it, and all the leaves died. The stems are still colourful and pliable. I was told to cut back the smaller, twiggy stems for new leaves to grow. Is this right?
Bamboos are evergreen, losing old leaves in spring, and they don't tolerate drought. Recovery is slow, encouraged by regular liquid feeding. Removing old growth can help, stopping roots from being overtaxed by decreasing the demand for water.