Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

I’d like to have some topiary (something shaped like a Japanese cloud tree). I am prepared to do all the clipping and realise it will take years to get the right shape. Can you suggest a suitable (and affordable) tree?
Japanese cloud trees are grown from the shrub Ilex crenata (Japanese holly), which has small, glossy, evergreen leaves and grows very slowly. But it is possible to achieve the same pompom effect with other evergreen shrubs, several of which will grow much faster. Architectural Plants (01403 891772) uses orange bark myrtle (Myrtus apiculata), which grows five times faster and is much less expensive. The small-leaved shrub Lonicera nitida (box-leaved honeysuckle) is very fast growing, too, with dark-green shiny leaves – L. n. ‘Baggeson’s Gold’ has golden leaves and is very affordable. Buxus sempervirens (box) has small, green, glossy leaves and needs less maintenance than lonicera. The privet Ligustrum delavayanum is less expensive than box, and its tiny evergreen leaves are perfect for clipping. Yew (Taxus baccata), however, is the classic conifer for topiary – after selecting your main stem, choose the strongest side stems and bend them down, using canes to keep them in place. Strip away unwanted growth and mulch shrubs with well-rotted organic matter.

I’d like to replace a rose that has died. Will I have to replace the soil, too?
The usual advice is not to grow new roses where old ones have been, because of the risk of rose sickness. However, it’s not necessary to change the soil, only to improve it by adding well-rotted manure or organic matter. Bare-root roses, available from November, should be planted on arrival. Plant the base of the stems 7.5cm below ground level; if stems have not already been cut down to 10-15cm, do so after planting, to ensure shoots emerge from the base of the bush, making a sturdy plant. Also, incorporate a sprinkling of bonemeal and apply a mulch. For a fragrant red rose, you’d be hard pushed to better William Shakespeare 2000. Try David Austin Roses, 01902 376300.