News From The Gardeners' World
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THE MUSEUM of Garden History has arranged an introductory course in botanical painting, designed for absolute beginners in the field. The course stretches over four days: 12-13 Jan and 26-27 Jan (10.30am-3.30pm) and costs pounds 110. The tutors are Elizabeth Smail, who painted the Irises below, and Sheila Mannes-Abbott, both founder members of the Society of Botanical Artists. For more information, contact the Museum at Lambeth Palace Rd, London SE1 7LB (0171-261 1891).

WITH CONSERVATORIES in mind, Marston & Langinger, who make the most stylish conservatories on the market, are offering square planters made entirely of bamboo. Softer in style than stainless-steel or zinc, lighter to shift around than terracotta pots, the bamboo planters come in four sizes. The smallest is 20cm high and 14cm across (pounds 32). The extra-large planter is 57cm high by 40cm across (pounds 90). You can buy them at Marston & Langinger's shop at 192 Ebury St, London SW1W 8UP (0171-881 5717).

THE OXFORD Botanic Garden's Winter Lecture series begins on 20 January, when garden designer John Brookes will talk about "The Evolving Garden". He's followed on 3 February by Stephen Anderton, whose subject is "Courageous Gardening". The lectures continue at fortnightly intervals (there are five in all) and finish on 16 March, when writer Patrick Taylor considers "The Englishness of English Gardens". Lectures start at 8pm in the Garden Quadrangle Auditorium, St John's College, Oxford. Tickets are pounds 7.50 each or pounds 35 for the whole series. For further information or to book, contact Louise Allen at the Botanic Garden, Rose Lane, Oxford OX1 4AX (01865 276920).

WHERE WOULD you go to get advice on timber decking for the garden? In a recent survey, 30 per cent said they would ask their local timber or builder's merchant; 17 per cent would ask at a DIY superstore, and 9 per cent would expect their carpenter to tell them what they needed to know.

That's why the Timber Decking Association has been formed. The people who know most about decks would like the opportunity to answer some of those questions themselves.

Skip quickly over the waffle about "a great new lifestyle concept" included in their most recent brochure, to the useful information on design and maintenance beyond.

Most decks are made from softwood pressure-treated with preservative. Some are also treated with water repellent, which keeps the wood sound for at least 25 years. But decks need maintaining. Water repellents should be re-applied every other year. Colour stains also fade with time and need touching up.

Decking has enormous possibilities. Quick-fix gardening programmes have shown some of the worst of them. Don't be put off. In the right hands, wood is one of the gentlest, kindest, most flexible materials to use in a garden. The Timber Decking Association is waiting for your questions. Contact them at PO Box 99, A1 Business Park, Pontefract, West Yorkshire WF11 0YY (01977 679812) or visit the TDA's website at

THE NATIONAL Trust has produced a new colour leaflet giving details of properties to visit through the winter season. Traditionally many of the Trust's houses, parks and gardens have closed during the winter so that essential conservation work can take place. But the new Out and About in Winter leaflet lists many properties with special seasonal openings.

To get hold of a copy (as well as leaflets on Autumn and Winter Colour, Christmas Meals, Christmas Walks and Spring Flowers at National Trust properties), write to the National Trust, PO Box 39, Bromley, Kent BE1 3XL enclosing a first-class stamp.