Gardening: Weekend Work

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THE HEAT this month has made fast work of ripening seed. Some is best sown as soon as it is gathered. Aquilegias, for example, germinate best if sown now in pots or boxes of damp compost in the shade. I had some good new aquilegias this season, crosses, I suspect, between shaggy `Nora Barlow' and a deep blue granny's bonnet. The result was a tightly double aquilegia, with bright blue ruffled buttons. Primula seed is also best sown fresh, though may balk at the heat. Like pansies, it germinates best in cool conditions.

Seed of astrantia, campanula, foxglove, hellebore, hollyhock, honesty and polemonium can be sown freshly gathered. Seed of eccremocarpus, which hangs in thickly clustered pods, is best saved until spring.

GARLIC CAN be lifted as soon as the tops begin to wither; turn down onions to help the bulbs ripen.

IT HAS been too hot and dry recently for radish and lettuce to germinate successfully, but earlier sowings of the red cos lettuce `Ruzika' (Johnsons, pounds 1.05) and the mildew-resistant butterhead `Action' (Mr Fothergills, pounds 1.95p) are still providing salads.

SUMMER PRUNING of espalier, fan and cordon-trained apple and pear trees needs to be tackled. Long, fresh shoots on the main branches should be cut back to three or four leaves above the dorsal cluster. Where spurs are really knobbly, cut back shoots leaving only one leaf. Philadelphus and weigela may need thinning. Cut out about a third of the flower stems, as close to the base as possible. Spring-flowering ceanothus trained on a wall can be tidied up by trimming unwanted shoots and tying in the rest.