Plant of the moment

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Venus fly-trap

A MEAN-LOOKING carnivore, the is in fact rather shy; it will never catch a fly when being watched, which rather defeats the point of having one in the first place (coming in to find hapless legs poking from the closed jaws of one of its traps does not compare with the potential thrill of seeing the fly meet its doom). Grown alongside pitcher plants, graceful cups with poison at the bottom, it's possible to make a display of sinister, bog-loving, meat-eating plants. Except that in fact they are not terribly exciting; it's hardly full-on carnage and guts, when most carnivorous plants have very dainty appetites and tend to exist on a bluebottle a month. This is very disappointing for visiting children, who will demand to feed the s bits of ham and the like, just to see the traps snap shut.

PARAPHERNALIA

Garden shows

ONE THING guaranteed to throw into sharp relief the inadequacies of most private gardens - their bald patches, sickly specimens, boring layouts, fetid ponds and the like - is visiting a garden show. At shows designers cram more into a space the size of a ping-pong table than most people could manage with half an acre. The show with the most cachet for visitors and exhibitors is still the Chelsea Flower Show, but for many people it is the nearest they will ever come to all-in wrestling, as coachloads of ladies from the shires armed with notepads and Biros swarm furiously around the various stands. Unless you can sneak a preview or have extremely sharp elbows and a finely-honed killer instinct, and most particularly if you are under five foot four, forget it (or go equipped with a small folding ladder and/or an electric cattle prod). The Royal Horticultural Society also holds smaller shows throughout the year all over the country and these are much less gruelling. But the real pretender to Chelsea's crown is the RHS's Hampton Court Flower Show, an extravaganza that lasts almost a week and, due to its sheer scale, can process far more punters than Chelsea in relative comfort (though still expect to queue to shuffle round the most popular exhibits and wait half an hour to buy an expensive sandwich).

Chelsea Flower Show 19-22 May 1998, tickets 0171 344 4343; Hampton Court Flower Show, 7-12 July 1998, tickets 0171 344 9966

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