Date: 20 September 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
My garden is scorched after the heat wave: the lawn is yellow, my shrubs brown and twiggy. Can it be revived?
Most grass will grow back: the rootstock will respond to the first rains which, within a fortnight, should see your beloved lawn recover. All plants, including evergreens, shed leaves in drought conditions. To check if your plants are dead, scrape the shoots lightly: a thin green layer means they are alive. As for evergreen shrubs, wait until spring to prune them so you can spot new growth and cut out anything that hasn’t made it. Some species need less water than others, so you could try introducing some of these if your other shrubs do not make it. Try ceanothus, cistus, hebes, lavenders and phlomis.
My friend has requested that after his death, I should take his ashes, mix them with soil and grow a houseplant from seed. I want to get it right. I feel a responsibility.
Generally speaking, houseplants should be germinated at 70F with an electric propagator. Spread a 2.5cm layer of damp sand over the base of the propagator and switch it on. Sow seed in a multipurpose seed compost, such as Levington, water until moist and spray with a copper fungicide. When the seedlings show, move them to brighter light and get them used to the open air by leaving the propagator cover off for a few hours each day.
When seedlings are large enough to handle, prick out into individual pots in John Innes No 1, keeping them in a warm, bright place out of direct sun. Don’t let them dry out. When there is active growth, feed the seedlings every two weeks with diluted liquid plant food. After several months’ growth, pot them on into John Innes No 2 – perhaps this is the time to add your friend’s ashes. Seeds to try include the graceful Washingtonia filifera (fan palm) and W. robusta which, unlike some palms, are fairly quick to germinate.
Dracaena marginata and Fatsia japonica make impressive indoor plants. A possibly symbolic plant could be Angel’s Trumpet ( Datura ‘La Fleur Lilac’), a scented, exotic-looking shrub that flowers in just a few months from seed.