Date: 17 May 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
I planted an ivy with a clematis in a tub years ago. Last year, the clematis succumbed to disease; this year, it has not appeared at all. I would like to replace it, but will the ivy affect this? I could get rid of the ivy, or plant a different climber.
For clematis, container size is important: not less than 45cm deep, with a 30-40cm diameter and good drainage. Use John Innes No 3 and 6-8cm soil, replaced each spring. Clematis are greedy, so I would guess that the container size, plus the ivy and a lack of food and water, might be the cause of your one’s demise. Other causes could be frost or cold, wet compost, which encourage root rot, and vine weevil larvae. In a small pot, grow annuals such as Lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea), Ipomoea purpurea (common morning glory) or Cobaea scandens , a perennial almost always treated as a half-hardy annual.
Nearly all my daffodils are blind. Those in beds get an autumn top dressing of compost of leaf mould, the others are not touched. My soil is 10-20cm of loam on chalk, and some bulbs were here when we moved in 31 years ago.
This might be due to overcrowding and lack of nutrients, so lift, divide and replant your bulbs. Divide when foliage is dying back by loosening soil around the clump and levering it out. Discard damaged or dried-out bulbs, then work in bone meal or general-purpose fertiliser and new soil, before replanting two to three times the bulbs’ depth. Feed weekly in spring, when the flowers are fading, with a high potash liquid feed to give a boost for next year.
I’d like low-maintenance evergreen plants to jazz up my sunny balcony.
I would defy anyone to kill a sempervivum: it will grow in any container, from an old tin to the crevices in a piece of driftwood, and will look after itself, so long as excess water can drain away. There are 42 species and hundreds of cultivars to choose from, and it combines well with other low-growing alpines. Sempervivums are frost-hardy, but shelter them from winter rain by placing them against a wall.