Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

I have a small town garden that faces north and in spring and summer is sunny for only part of the day. As a focal point, I have a large pot, which contains a cordyline. But it has grown huge and needs to be planted in the ground – have you any suggestions for a decorative, slow-growing replacement, preferably evergreen?
Low light levels make things appear smaller, so boldness in planting can redress the balance. Your garden could happily play host to such exotic looking architectural plants as Trachycarpus fortunei, Fatsia japonica or the silver-leaved Astelia chathamica, all of which are evergreen and will be perfectly happy in a shady garden. The last is a stunning plant, producing long leaves of beaten silver, up to 8cm wide, which turn green at the base when older and regrow well if cut back by frost. You could also go down a more conventional route, with various topiary fashioned from slow-growing evergreens such as box, yew or holly. Plant in autumn or mid-spring, using a soil-based compost, and top-dress in successive springs with fresh compost.

My new garden is blighted by bind-weed. I keep painting on weed killer, which kills off each occurrence, but it always appears elsewhere. Now I want to replant the borders. Is it safe to do so, even though I’m unable to dig up all the bindweed roots?
Of course you are itching to plant up your garden, but I’d get on top of the bindweed first. I’ve been most successful in eradicating bindweed when I’ve waited until summer, when the bindweed is covered in foliage. This means the intake of weed killer is maximised, giving you a better chance of getting to the root system. I have continued spraying well into the autumn with good results. Around now, take the time to prepare your new borders by improving soil structure. Dig in well-rotted organic matter, and if you have heavy clay soil, dig in gritty horticultural sand to improve drainage. Let the bindweed do its thing until it flowers in summer, then spray with glyphosate.