Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

I have a ‘Madame Alfred Carrire’ rose in full sun that has always produced masses of blooms. But this year I’m dismayed to find the leaves are going yellow, mottled brown and dropping off in their hundreds before the buds are out. What is wrong?
The lack of rain has hardened the soil, locking in vital nutrients, which might be causing the yellowing (a sign iron deficiency). To be on the safe side, spray with Rose Clear until the end of the growing season, and apply a soluble feed of Miracle-Gro fortnightly. The long-term forecast is for a hot summer, so keep it well watered. Feed next spring, working in lots of organic matter to retain moisture, and feed againafter mid-summer 2004, when the first flush of bloom is over.

Our new house has a well-stocked garden. How can I tell what might be hazardous for my 18-month-old son?
There are several potential risks. Rhus, dictamnus and fremontodendron can cause skin and eye irritations. With children, you also need to watch out for thorny plants such as berberis, pyracantha and yucca. The poisonous plants include deadly nightshade, aconitum and hellebores; laburnum, with its pendulous clusters of yellow flowers, looks stunning, but all parts of the tree are poisonous. Other common poisonous trees are taxus and Robinia pseudoacacia (which is also armed with long thorns). A sunny border might well contain ruta (rue), which is a severe skin irritant, and causes violent stomach pain if eaten – definitely one to be avoided. Saint John’s wort, foxglove, euphorbia, most bulbs and lupins are all on the RHS’s list of potentially harmful plants. But it is important to keep things in perspective: serious poisoning by plants is rare in the UK, and deaths infrequent. If you think your child has eaten a doubtful plant, go to an A&E department, taking a sample of the plant with you. Teach children to wash their hands after playing with soil and plant matter (soil can carry tetanus); when they’re old enough to understand, take a weekly walk around the garden to point out friend or foe.