Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

My son’s bedroom overlooks a north-east facing wall. I’d like to encourage birds to visit a birdhouse on the wall. Can you suggest any climbing plants that would be happy there?
Native climbers such as honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) and ivy (Hedera helix) support a large variety of wild creatures: wrens and blackbirds are among the garden birds that like to nest in their tangled stems. Strips of peeling bark from old honeysuckle are used by many birds as nest-building material. Ivy is self-clinging and evergreen, but you will need a support of trellis or wires for the honeysuckle. I have trained pyracantha and ivy on a north-east facing brick wall, and the birds love feasting on the bright orange berries. You can buy nest boxes from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

We would like to put plants that are white or pinky-white, and scented, on the south side of our house – around a paved terrace. We have clay soil, plenty of rain, and are about 150m above sea level in the Welsh hills. What would you suggest?
It is a good idea to place scented plants on the side of the garden from which the prevailing wind comes, so fragrance is wafted into your garden and not your neighbour’s. Trees could include the deliciously scented Prunus ‘J-nioi’, with white spring blossom, or the spring-flowering Magnolia x soulangeana. For an evergreen shrub, try Elaeagnus x ebbingei, which has fragrant flowers in autumn, Choisya ternata, with fragrant spring flowers, or Viburnum x burkwoodii, which flowers from mid- winter to late spring. For fragrance in late spring and early summer, the white flowers of Syringa vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’ are exquisite. My favourite fragrant climber is Trachelospermum jasminoides, whose starry flowers have a mouth-watering scent in mid to late summer. Phlox paniculata ‘White Admiral’ is a herbaceous perennial that flowers in pure white from mid to late summer.

I have a small, sunny patio in London, and not much time for gardening. I’m quite keen on the tropical look, and feel a few well-chosen plants in containers would be the answer. What do you recommend?
Trachycarpus fortunei will give you the jungle effect, and is probably the hardiest of all palms. Put it in a sheltered, sunny spot in a sturdy container, making sure the soil is free-draining. Contrast its fan-shaped fronds with the broad-leaved Fatsia japonica and the rigid spikes of Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’. Throw in a pot full of hot-coloured Busy Lizzies and you’re off. All the plants will look after themselves, and are hardy for your sunny London hideaway. All you need now is a large rum punch.