IF WE could have your attention for a moment, please. Last week we premiered Hester Lacey's The Truth About... This week we introduce her fellow gardening correspondent Fran Abrams, who has recently been let loose in a 90ft garden on the Suffolk coast. In her first, er, cliffhanging episode: will our heroine manage to subdue the rampaging alien corn?

RECOMMENDED gardening activities for January:

1. Throw another log on fire.

2. Pour another large glass of port.

3. Stare out of the window, reviewing progress.

The view from 6 Coastguard Cottages, January 1997: A long swathe of mud, quivering with the promise of Great Things to Come. The same view, January 1998: A long swathe of mud punctuated by green blobs, mostly awaiting positive identification as weeds. By now, all was to have been ashimmer with sun on frosted seed heads, each a tiny maracca shaken by a gentle breeze. The dark corners were to have been aglow with the orange flame of Chinese lanterns and the yellow dots of winter jasmine.

Unfortunately, the winter frosts were replaced by downpour this year and the breeze was swept aside by howling gales. The opium poppy seed heads went black and keeled over at first breath of wind, the teasels crane uneasily away from next door's leylandii searching for light and the bronze fennel has been cut down and moved because it had already achieved total domination of the herb bed. The Chinese lanterns seem to dislike dark places, while the winter jasmine threw an adolescent sulk at the flower-bud stage and refused to go any further. Great Things are bound to begin happening in 1998, though. All will be transformed into a beautiful jumble of light and colour, just as it is in those glossy books where nothing ever goes awry. And yet we have not been entirely unsuccessful. First prize in the spring onion class at Butley village fete! There were only two entries and the other wasn't actually a spring onion at all, but I am still confident of a glorious career on the show circuit.

Honourable mention, too, go to the mystery seeds brought back from holiday in Greece by Sarah's mum Flo's friend Pat. At Pat's house in Bridlington they struggled manfully to a couple of feet. But here in East Anglia they thrust themselves to a full six before bursting out in lovely blue and white flowers followed by cape gooseberry-ish seed heads. Magnificent! But the varmints have already begun making unexpected appearances elsewhere in the village. By January 1999 pest control will have been called in to suppress them and I shall be cast out of the gardening fraternity in ignominy. Still, several months to go before the infestation takes hold. Now, where did I put that gorgeous glossy book?