Date: 10 August 2002
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
I’d like to plant a hydrangea in my paved front garden, to hide the bins. There is just a single planting hole, the size of one paving slab. When is the best time to plant, and what will the hydrangea need to survive?
Screening unsightly features is best done using plants with small, plain green leaves that don’t attract attention. Choose a shrub like Lonicera nitida , which looks like box (Buxus sempervirens) but is faster growing and cheaper. A small-leaved ivy, trained on a piece of trellis, is worth the effort, too. Another way of drawing the eye from your bins is to put something else nearby, such as your hydrangea, which is ideal for town gardens and tub planting. Use moisture-retentive soil with some well-rotted manure. Plant in autumn.
We have a gravel garden around 3m square, with plants such as veronica, scabious, campanula, viola, cranesbill and helianthemum. The soil is clay; I mixed peat and grit sand into the planting holes, with some bonemeal. The plants are in their second year; should they be fed and how often?
It’s not feeding that’ll make your plants perform better; it’s maintenance. Veronica plants that are clump- or mat-forming species can become weak if they grow too many stems; it’s best to split them every two to three years. Scabious can be lifted and divided in early spring. Divide perennial campanula species after flowering or in autumn. Cranesbills (geraniums) can be divided at the end of summer and also in spring. Helianthemum can be trimmed lightly immediately after flowering.
The previous owner of our garden used it as a tip and left loads of asbestos in the soil, which we are trying to get rid of. I have planted vegetables, rhubarb and a fruit tree, but will my produce be safe to eat?
If there’s ‘loads’ of asbestos, ask your local authority for advice. You are at risk if a fork breaks into it, releasing the fibres. I would feel uncomfortable about eating anything from soil containing asbestos. Grow vegetables in fresh soil, put into raised beds.