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CLASSES AT Catriona Boyle's Garden School start again on 20 April when Bob Brown, owner of the Cotswold Garden Flowers nursery, talks about plants that thrive in shade. Town gardeners always complain about shade. Bob Brown shows how to turn it into a benefit rather than a bugbear. You can buy and grow plants until you're broke, but they won't necessarily add up to an attractive or rewarding garden. In the afternoon of the same day, Helen Dillon, who has an outstanding garden on the outskirts of Dublin, shows how to transform a random collection of growing things into a pleasing garden scene. Workshops start at 10 and finish at 4. Price pounds 45 a day. Contact Catriona Boyle at Penpergwm Lodge, Abergavenny, Gwent NP7 9AS Tel: 01873 840208.

ONE OF Oxfordshire's best kept secrets is the Harcourt Arboretum, a satellite of Oxford University's own Botanic Garden. The collection was established by the Harcourt family in the mid 1830s, but for the past 30 years or so, has been under the wing of the Botanic Garden. In spring it lights up with masses of azaleas, planted in drifts under the trees, and there is a 10-acre bluebell wood as well. The arboretum is 400 yards south of Nuneham Courtenay on the A4704 Oxford-Henley road. During April it is open Mon-Fri (10am-4.30pm). From May through to the end of October it is open every day (10am-5pm).

MONEY RAISED by the National Gardens Scheme goes to many good causes, including the National Trust, where NGS money provides bursaries for five trainee gardeners each year. The Careership scheme, as it is called, addresses the problem of producing gardeners with the right skills to care for historic gardens. Students work in Trust gardens under the eye of its head gardener and also study at Bicton College in Devon. Current apprentices include 16-year-old Colin Wood, who joined the scheme from school last year, and Jacqueline Currie (36), who left the Inland Revenue at Aylesbury to train as a gardener at Wimpole Hall in Cambridge. For more details about the scheme or an application form to join the new intake this September, contact John McKennall on 01208 265245.

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