Wilde side

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

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

How much of a pest are ants?
Ants are not a major problem; they actually eat small insect pests. I, too, have been irritated by their arrival lately on our kitchen worktops. If a colony is becoming particularly troublesome, they can be doused with water, boiling or cold. If the problem is localised, for instance on trees, grease 'bands' are available to put around the trunk, or you can use fruit tree grease. Natural predators such as frogs will also help. As for in the house, apparently they hate talcum powder.

I have a 16-year-old pieris in a pot by my north-facing front door. It looks woody and I suspect it has become pot-bound. Should I repot it, or discard it and start again with something more suitable for a northerly aspect?
Discard it? After 16 years of loyalty and not even a gold watch? I would certainly repot your plant as soon as possible. First, water it thoroughly and leave it to drain, then ease the shrub from its con-tainer. The undoubtedly congested root ball will need its roots teasing out care-fully. Cut back non-fibrous roots by half before repotting in the container at its original depth with fresh ericaceous compost, leaf mould and slow-release fertiliser. Pieris tolerate shade, so I think the north-facing aspect is the least of its problems. Other plants suitable for container growing in shade include Viburnum tinus 'Variegatum', Elaeagnus x ebbingei 'Gilt Edge', Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' and Sarcococca confusa (Christmas box).

What can be grown to camouflage the east-facing wall of our neighbour's extension?
I have trained the evergreen Pyracantha 'Soleil d'Or' very successfully on an east-facing wall, enjoying the glossy, dark green leaves and frothy, white flowers in early summer, and the golden yellow berries in winter. P. 'Mohave' has bright red berries, and P. 'Orange Glow' has dark orange berries. I would plant all three to create an evergreen screen, as well as to provide early summer flowers and a fiery tapestry of winter berries. Tie in shoots to establish a framework, but beware, pyracantha is a thorny customer.