Gardening: Cuttings: Death Wish II

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SEVERAL readers wrote with suggestions to overcome my problems with death-wish gypsophilas (Independent, 20 November).

Edward Kindler of Walworth, south London, said: 'If you could bury some old mortar or brick rubble a spit down beneath your gypsophila site, you will have better results as they hate to have soggy roots.' Mr Kindler was not surprised at my lack of success with cleomes in the same border. 'I've found it safer to keep clear of stove annuals,' he wrote. 'It's nice when they do work, but with English weather on mostly a five- year cycle (notice apple crops, etc) it really is a long shot.'

Valerie Bardsley writes from Norwich suggesting that I try galegas instead of the gypsophilas. 'They are so pretty and dainty and flower for ages. I have had one for several years and it always puts on a good show. Last year I planted the blue variety and that, too, has been very successful. This year I found a soft lilac one for sale on a WI market stall and am looking forward to seeing that in flower.'

I, too, love galegas, but in this situation, a long narrow border, think they would be too careless, sprawl too much. They are like giant vetches, with good divided foliage and pea-like flowers, but they grow up to five feet in good soil, which would be too high for my needs, and usually need supporting. They were much in vogue in Edwardian herbaceous borders and that is when most of the varieties were named. 'Her Majesty' is soft lilac blue. 'Lady Wilson' is mauve and cream.

Marianne Cornwell writes from Iffley, near Oxford, to suggest Gaura lindheimeri as a replacement. 'Prettier than gypsophila and does well in Provence, so should find the conditions in your south-facing bed to its taste.' I saw gaura growing brilliantly in a Cambridgeshire garden late this summer and promptly bought myself one. It produces endless sprays of white flowers with pronounced bronze-red calyces and grows with great grace. But its leaves are scaled-down versions of the iris that would be behind it in this border, strongly upright, sword-shaped. In that respect, it would not be altogether successful. The search continues.