HOW EXHAUSTING it would be to live in a country where the seasons never allowed you the chance to draw breath in the garden. There's plenty to do out there, of course - tying in climbers, pruning roses, lifting cannas and packing their tubers away in damp compost - but winter gives a gardener time to dream. At this stage, the present year's disasters are becoming hazy but the possibility of triumph in 1999 is undimmed. You need a catalyst, though, to get yourself thinking about ways of changing the layout of the garden or waking up the planting. Gardens for Living by David Stevens (Frances Lincoln, pounds 12.99) is a good browsing book, with a useful chapter on creating the framework of a garden. David Stevens treats the garden as a room, with walls, a floor and ceiling, all to be tended in different ways. Walls of rammed earth, diagonal slatted screens, honeycomb brick and bleached boards show Stevens's strong feeling for texture, and he likes plants, too - not all garden designers do.
THE ROYAL Horticultural Society will be holding its Christmas flower show next Tuesday and Wednesday at the New Hall, Greycoat Street, London SW1. Plant hunters D'Arcy and Everest will be building a Christmas tree from poinsettias (you can't escape them) in all shades from pale pink to deep red. Ingwersen's are showing masses of azaleas, cyclamen and Christmas cacti, while Matthewman's Went Valley Nursery will scent the hall with mahonia.
Highdown Nursery is bringing a range of culinary herbs to the show, which is open Tuesday 11am-7pm (admission pounds 5) and Wednesday 10am-5pm (admission pounds 3). All stallholders will have plants and sundries for sale.