Gardening: Weekend Work

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TAKE SEMI-HARDWOOD cuttings of shrubs such as ceanothus (pictured), choisya, hydrangea, honeysuckle, pyracantha and senecio.

HYACINTHS, TULIPS, narcissi, crocus and grape hyacinths can all be forced in bowls to provide flowers for Christmas and the New Year. The fastest are Tazetta narcissi, such as `Paperwhite' and `Soleil d'Or'. These bloom only six weeks after planting, so if you want them for Christmas, plant them at the beginning of November.

Tulips are much slower, and will need at least 12 weeks in a cool, dark place to form roots before they can be brought into the warmth. Try yellow `Joffre', double pink `Peach Blossom' and double red `Stockholm', all of which respond well to forcing. The trick lies in the initial period of darkness, during which they must be kept really cool.

If you want hyacinths for Christmas, you need to act fast. Plant a bowl every two weeks, and you will have a succession of flowers in the New Year.

Set the bulbs with their noses just above the surface of the compost. Water them and keep them in a dark, cool place (not more than 9C/48F) for at least 12 weeks. When a good two inches of bud is showing, bring the pots into a warm, well-lit place to hurry them into bloom.