COUNTRY & GARDEN: Cuttings - News From The Gardeners' World

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EMMA TENNANT'S gorgeous watercolours are on show at Mallett, 141 New Bond Street, London W1 until 4 December. Fruit, flowers and vegetables are her subjects. Sometimes they are painted singly, as in her studies of the blue sweet pea, Lathyrus sativus, or her spray of wild strawberries. Sometimes they appear in a seasonal group, a picture of a leek, an apple and some pears for instance (pictured below), looking as though they had just that minute been brought in from the garden. The exhibition is open Mon-Fri (9.30am-6pm) and Sat (10am-4pm).

BOOKING HAS just opened for the National Trust winter lecture series, held over eight weeks at the Purcell Room on London's South Bank. The first lecture is on 7 February, when Princess Katya Galitzine talks about her recent book The Hidden Interiors of St Petersburg. The Victorian's obsession with taxidermy is the theme of architectural historian Tim Knox's talk on 15 February. Stuffed birds were a feature of many country- house interiors, and considered to be the apogee of good taste. On 6 March, Lady Mary Keen, garden designer, author and journalist, will talk about the powerful effects that gardens have on the subconscious. Tickets cost pounds 6.50, but you can get a season ticket (pounds 45) to cover all eight lectures. To book, call the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London SE1 8XX (0171- 960 4242).

EMMELINE STEVENSON, of Pencaitland, East Lothian, is worrying about her sweet peas. She's grown them for many years, but this year, she writes, "the flowers, although prolific in bud, got some pest whereby the stem looked pinched about an inch below the flower head. Some flopped over. Some dropped at an angle and some were perfectly all right. From a double 8ft row, about half were affected. Can I prevent this happening next year? I cannot imagine a summer without sweet peas."

The problem Mrs Stevenson describes is not one I have experienced, so I consulted the expert, Colin Hambidge of Unwins Seeds, who has published a booklet, Success with Sweet Peas (pounds 1, from Unwins Mail Order, Histon, Cambridge CB4 9ZZ).

He felt that though aphids can cause similar symptoms, the problem was more likely to be bud drop. This is not a disease, but something that happens a few days after a sudden change in growing conditions. It is brought on, particularly, by a sudden drop in temperature.

Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to prevent this. I just hope that Mrs Stevenson has better luck this coming season.