“I have a north-facing front garden, sheltered, in chalky soil, which doesn’t get much sun. What bush would give a good strong shape under these conditions?” I can just about bear The Archers but GQT (as it is known to aficionados) gets on my pectorales major.

There was a time when the idea of doing anything in a garden, except for wandering around with a soppy smile on my face, or worse, feeling anxious bordering on paranoid, would have been unthinkable. I spent many a year inhaling the fruits of the soil, (which did me no good at all, kids!) and it’s been a long time since I last choked on a lungful of smoke; then I had no idea that one day I would be asking the above question in a garden centre. (A GARDEN CENTRE!) It’s not rock&roll, is it?

But here I am, buying a Salix Caprea ‘Pendula’: it’s a small willow, and its branches curve over from one side to the other (fig.1). We name it ‘Arthur’, because it reminds us of Arthur Scargill’s bouffant comb-over hairstyle.

A few little Buxus Sempervirens, some Uncina Rubrasome, gravel, and a couple of rocks, and we’ll soon have this feline lavatory transformed into a zen garden.

Sheltered, trailing willow

in a gravel garden –

catkins, not cat-crap.