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"Can you tell me whether planting a wisteria in a large container, such as a half-barrel, is likely to be successful?" asks Caroline Benwell of Herne Hill, London. "I long for a wisteria draping my balcony, but my surveyor has vetoed one in the ground (subsidence, cracks, drains etc). If not a wisteria, could you suggest another climber (a vine? a hop?) that might be happy in a container for many years? I want something that will be really happy as long as it's fed, watered and loved. I did grow a Clematis montana in a half-barrel and persuaded myself that it didn't know it was in prison, but when I eventually planted it properly, it positively exploded into growth and I felt guilty at having deprived it of freedom for so long."

My own feeling is that a wisteria is unlikely to be happy for years in a half-barrel. If it is to drape Ms Benwell's balcony it has a lot of work to do, and it is difficult to imagine that a half-barrel would provide sufficient spark. But there may be wisterias whose loving owners can prove otherwise. If there are, I'd like to hear from them.

Gardening Which?, asked the same question, replied that wisteria would grow in a tub, but would be stunted, though, being confined, it might come into flower more quickly than young wisterias usually do. I waited eight years for the first bloom on my Wisteria venusta (not in a tub).

The most successful climber I have ever seen in a container is an Actinidia chinensis which stretches to extraordinary lengths from a terracotta Ali Baba jar on the roof garden of Rick Mather, the architect. It is the vine commonly called Chinese gooseberry, which in warmer climates produces kiwi fruit. When suited, it will grow to 30ft. The leaves are handsome: dark green and heart-shaped. It's worth growing as a foliage plant alone and since Ms Benwell mentioned a vine and a hop as alternatives to the wisteria, she presumably does not mind doing without flowers. When the actinidia is established, she could grow a clematis (in a separate barrel) to scramble up through it.

The Alpine Garden Society is holding an early spring show today (12pm- 4.30pm) at Mark Hall School, First Avenue, Harlow, Essex. Fritillaries, dwarf narcissus, saxifrages, wild cyclamen and primulas will be among the flowers put up for competition at this show. Admission pounds 1.

The Royal National Rose Society will hold its annual pruning demonstrations today and tomorrow (11am-4pm) at The Gardens of the Rose, Chiswell Green, Herts (01727 850461). Admission pounds 4.