n Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus, below) are generally treated as annuals, but by nature they are perennials (though short-lived) and often flower better in their second season than their first. By then, they are big, bushy plants and produce a succession of secondary spikes when the main head has finished flowering. I have had good results sowing seeds in pots in a cold frame and then pricking out the seedlings into individual three- inch pots. Grown hard and cold, the seedlings stay stocky and strong. Seedlings I raised on a window sill indoors were drawn and much weaker in the stem. Sown in multi-purpose compost and covered with a thin layer of vermiculite, seeds germinate in two weeks. `Chartreuse' (Unwins, pounds 2.49) is a gorgeous variety with flowers of a sharp lime green. `Mulled Wine' (Unwins, pounds 2.49) makes bushy plants with spikes of deep red flowers.

n Start tubers of favourite dahlias into growth if you want to increase your stock by taking cuttings. Greengrocers' wooden boxes can make ideal nurseries. Line the box with newspaper, cover with a layer of compost and stand the dahlia tubers upright in the compost. Pack in more compost so the tubers themselves are covered, but the stumps of last year's stems are above the surface. Water the box and stand it somewhere light. A temperature of around 55F/13C will be enough to tickle them into growth.


The Cambo Estate (for contact details, see Snowdrop Gardens, left) specialises in sending out snowdrop bulbs for planting "in the green", that is, just after they have finished flowering. Planted at this stage, they are far more likely to settle than if they are planted as dry bulbs in the autumn. Fifty snowdrops (double or single) cost pounds 9.40, plus pounds 4.75 postage and packing. They also offer a spring "Starter Pack", an ideal present for anyone starting a new garden. The pack (pounds 29, inc. P&P) contains three snowflakes (Leucojum vernum), two clumps of aconites, and 25 each of single and double snowdrops.