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Flower of the hour: Crocus tommasinianus, the mauve-purple crocus that grows wild on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, in Bosnia and Serbia. It is one of the earliest of the easy members of the crocus tribe to flower in the garden and it establishes and increases without much effort on the part of the gardener. The narrow, furled buds continue their performance well into March. It was named by the Dean of Manchester, the Rev William Herbert, after his botanising friend, Signor Tommasini of Trieste. Selected forms such as `Whitewell Purple' and `Barr's Purple' have darker, richer flowers than the norm. Use them in grass and scatter them under deciduous shrubs.

In the middle of the 17th century, the Count of Nassau returned from the exile imposed by the 30 Years War, and started to restore his castle at Idstein, near Frankfurt. He also laid out a garden, full of rare plants and flowers - lilies, roses, hollyhocks, anemones, tulips. When the garden was established, he commissioned the painter Johann Walther of Strasbourg to record all his best and rarest plants. The paintings have been gathered in a charming book which deserves a better title than So Many Sweet Flowers - even if that is a contemporary quotation. The collection (Pavilion, pounds 16.99) has a foreword by Gill Saunders, of the V&A's department of prints and drawings, and are accompanied by extracts from the manuscript prepared originally for the Count of Nassau, and by quotations from other writers of the time. It is a delight.

Sad news for clematis lovers. Keith and Carol Fair of the Valley Clematis Nursery have decided that this will be their last season. "We want to enjoy some of the other pleasures of life before we get too decrepit," explains Mr Fair. I have found their mail order service one of the best in the business, with plants vigorously grown and beautifully packed. In a special clearance sale, they are offering four of their plants for the price of three. The offer extends only to plants available in March: 14 large-flowered hybrids, including `Comtesse de Bouchard' and `Rouge Cardinal', nine different montana types, four different viticellas and the herbaceous clematis `Petit Faucon' and C jouiana `Praecox'. The Valley Clematis Nursery, Willinghan Road, Hainton, Lincoln LN3 6LN (01507 313398).

The Alpine Garden Society and the Scottish Rock Garden Club are holding a show today (12pm-4.30, admission pounds 1) at the Lancaster and Morecambe College of Further Education, Morecambe Road, Lancaster. On display are primulas, cyclamen, soldanellas, fritillaries, saxifrages and sempervivums.

The Hazel Revolution, a one-day conference on managing hazel coppice, will be held at West Dean College, near Chichester, West Sussex on Tuesday 25 March (9.15am-4.30pm). It is organised by the Wessex Coppice Group and the Timber Growers Association, and will look at the new markets that have opened up for hazel products over the last two years and examine ways of meeting the demand. The cost is pounds 39. (Linda Glynn, Wessex Coppice Group, 01962 772030).