Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

I want to make a fresh start with our garden, which has poor, clay-like soil . Is summer the best time? Also, can you recommend wildflowers to sow, and other plants for the end of summer?
Careful preparation will reap rewards for years. First, get rid of weeds (perennials will need a glyphosate-based weedkiller). Clay soils need a lot of organic matter and horticultural grit, worked in to give drainage and aeration.

Also, sprinkle a general-purpose fertiliser over the soil shortly before planting, then annually in spring. Water it in well. Plants bought in containers can be planted out at any time of year, as long as the soil is not frozen or saturated, but the best time is spring.
Autumn is best for planting trees, shrubs and bulbs. Since you mentioned wildflowers, why not create an area that evokes a wildflower meadow, using ornamental grasses such as descampsia, stipa and miscanthus, with an annual meadow mix sown around (ie, Linaria maroccana, California poppy, Rudbeckia hirta and Cosmos bipinnatus). These can be sown in late March to early May on well-cultivated soil (ie, weed-free, and raked until fine and crumbly) in a sunny spot. They should flower the same year.
Annuals provide splashes of seasonal colour while you wait for other plants to mature. Late-flowering perennials that go well with grasses include Rudbeckia fulgida var deamii , with deep yellow, daisy-like flowers with black centres; Knautia macedonica, with wine-coloured, pin-cushion-like flowers; and Anthemis tinctoria ‘EC Buxton’, whose creamy, yellow daisies flower until the first frosts.

Our cotoneaster tree got badly burned in spring. What should we do?
I know how you feel. My box ball got accidentally torched last spring and, to my relief, new growth has now started. But if any plant is able to withstand burning, cotoneaster is it. You may notice it resprouting this summer; stems that don’t can be cut off. Also, I’m told that a splash of water on the stems encourages growth.