Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

Our small garden gets no sun at all. Can you suggest any flowers or plants that would do well, particularly something that might add colour?
The low light levels in shady gardens make things appear smaller, so go for plants with bold foliage such as Trachycarpus fortunei and Fatsia japonica . White flowers will glow luminously in the shade: good choices are Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, which flowers through autumn, and Geranium phaeum ‘Album’, with its broad, evergreen leaves and white flowers from late spring. Climbers that are happy in shade include Hydrangea anomola subsp. petiolaris and Parthenocissus henryana . Busy lizzies are excellent annual bedding for shade.

How should I prune a red callistemon (bottlebrush plant)? It didn’t flower much this year, but had done well for three years prior to that. It is in a pot.
These evergreen shrubs are more compact if the tips of shoots are pinched out, so promoting bushiness. They will tolerate hard pruning in spring, but this will be at the expense of flowers that year. Pruning in autumn, on the other hand, will leave it vulnerable to winter conditions. Since your plant has been happy for three years until now, it might be a good idea to prune it lightly in spring, and then top dress it (ie, replace 5cm-10cm of old compost from the top of the pot) with a lime-free compost. At the same time, add a slow-release fertiliser.

We have two ponds in our garden, and both are plagued by ducks. They’ve eaten the plants, made the water muddy and slimy looking, and they crap everywhere.
Since you have two ponds, why not allocate one for the ducks, and one for you? A wire or low barrier placed around the perimeter will discourage them from waddling in and out; or, if the pond is small enough, temporarily cover it over with netting. We had a family of moorhens who wrecked our pond for a few years; then new neighbours moved in with some hard-core cats, and they haven’t been seen since.