Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
My parents-in law celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in September. My mother-in-law is a keen gardener, and we thought a plant/shrub/small tree with a ruby association would be a fitting gift. Can you help us? They have clay soil.
How about a rose, the most enduring symbol of love. There is a repeat flowering hybrid tea rose called 'Ruby Wedding' whose warm crimson blooms appear in early summer, and continue flowering into autumn. Most roses can be encouraged to grow, even in very poor conditions, by the addition of large amounts of humus, well-rotted manure, or compost, both before planting and during the lifetime of the plant.
Most roses are dispatched from November to early April, but I know that David Austin Roses, in Wolverhampton, has some 'Ruby Wedding' in stock. Contact 01902 376300. Alternatively, how about Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'? It has delicate, rich green leaves in summer, which turn to the most brilliant reds in autumn. Because of the soil conditions, plant it in a container using ericaceous compost with added leaf mould. Or for something a bit different, Vitis coignetiae , the crimson glory vine, is a fast growing, deciduous climber with large, romantically heart-shaped leaves which start dark green and also turn bright red in autumn.
I have a small London garden where space is at a premium. I have been searching everywhere for a garden bench with a lift-up seat, which could be used for tool storage, yet nowhere seems to make them. Where could I find such a thing?
If you skip quickly past the hand-painted 'digging dog' and 'lovable seal' water feature, the Pride Of Place catalogue has just what you are looking for. Solid hardwood with a hinged lidded seat, this home-assembly storage bench is 120cm wide - big enough to easily house a spade and some small garden tools - and comes at an affordable 129.95. I'd be tempted to paint it myself. There is a 24-hour order line on 0870 122 6919, or check out the website, pofp.co.uk.