Country & Garden: Cuttings

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DAGNA HORNER writes from Hemel Hempstead in Herts, complaining about pear midge. "My pear trees used to produce masses of gorgeous fruit (`Williams' and `Louise Bonne') until they got this pest. I have tried spraying, as described by the books, but it is difficult to do this at the right moment as the trees are in our second home.

"I wondered if I could attack the problem from the other end, so to speak, and cover the grass around the trees with polythene to stop the midge getting on to the trees in spring. It would not matter too much if the grass died. Anything would be better than yet another year without pears."

To attack any adversary effectively, you have to understand his habits. The pear midge is a small fly, Contarinia pyrivora, which emerges from a cocoon in spring and lays its eggs on the fruitlets of pears. The whitish- orange maggots, which are about 2mm long, sit in the centre of the fruitlets eating heartily. Affected fruits blacken, then fall from the tree in early summer, taking the maggots with them. They sink into the soil and pupate inside their cocoons, and the whole cycle starts again.

Gardeners will probably notice the danger signs before the fruitlets fall, because a few weeks after the petals have dropped, they start to turn black at the end furthest from the stalk. On small trees, you can pick off and destroy infected fruit before it drops, and fatally interrupt the insect's life cycle. Or you can spray with fenitrothion when the pear blossom is at the white bud stage, just before the flowers open fully.

But for Dagna Horner, spraying is not an option. It would be worth spreading polythene underneath the trees, if she doesn't mind the grass being killed. But I think this should be done in spring, to prevent the larvae getting into the ground, rather than later, as she suggests, to prevent the adults climbing into the trees. I hope she beats the beasts. A summer without pears is a sad thought.

THOUSANDS OF people are being invited by the Woodland Trust, the UK's leading woodland conservation charity, to plant trees this winter and provide a lasting landmark for generations to come. The Woodland Trust's Woods on Your Doorstep scheme, backed by the Millennium Commission, is one of the largest of the tree-planting projects planned to mark the turn of the millennium.

"We are calling on people of all ages to take part in over 70 events around the country to help us plant 250,000 trees. The Woodland Trust will provide the trees and expertise - all people need to do is turn up with a spade and lots of enthusiasm," says Sue Roe, the Woodland Trust's project manager. Planting started in mid-November at a site near Dinas Powys in Wales and will continue through the winter.

If you want to plant trees in the next few months, contact the Woodland Trust Woods on Your Doorstep team on 01476 581149 (in Northern Ireland call 01247 275787), or visit the Trust's website at www.woodland-trust.org.uk for more information. The Trust would particularly like to hear from anyone who wants to create a new wood (especially in Norfolk, Wales, Yorkshire or Northern Ireland) or who knows of land for sale, suitable for tree- planting, within walking distance of where people live.

THE GARDEN Gallery at Rookery Lane, Broughton, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 8AZ is holding a Christmas exhibition of sculpture, pots, mosaics, candleholders, mirrors and garden ornaments. Cleo Mussi is showing mosaic table tops; Zoe de L'Isle Whittier has some intriguing candelabras.

The exhibition is open on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday (from 10am to 4pm) until 23 December. For more information, telephone 01794 301144 or

e-mail gardengallery@ compuserve.com

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