Plant of the moment

Virginia creeper

Virginia Creeper is a plant that sells houses. Who can resist a facade draped in its seductive rosy leaves? One might as well be buying Scarlett O'Hara's Tara, or some other old colonial home, even if, in fact, the creeper is clambering over a quite ordinary terrace in Clapham or Cambridge. But if the creeper is your main selling point, deflecting interest from worn pointing, dodgy gutters etc, be sure to sell in the summer or autumn, when it's looking its best. At this time of year it's just coming into its main glory; those wonderful red leaves that make everyone around think "Why haven't I got one of those?". The reason comes in a few weeks time when it starts shedding leaves in earnest; you'll be out there with broom and bucket, clearing up drifts of dead leaves, thinking, "Wasn't garden work meant to, um, trail off about this time of year?".



AT CHELSEA this year, one of the award-winning gardens featured life-sized sheep made of scrumpled chicken-wire - oddly appealing, in a prickly kind of way, and anyway, if it was at Chelsea, it must be okay. As a general rule, garden artwork becomes progressively more acceptable the more costly the medium it is made from (with chicken-wire, one gets round one's artwork's rather base origins by having it most expensively fashioned by a chicken-wire sculpture-specialist). Hefty bronzes and marbles are fine, though you need the right majestic setting - forget it if you have a teeny patio (life-sized wild birds and suchlike are available on a smaller scale). Stoneware has a particular cachet if it is a piece of architectural salvage. Best of all is when it comes with a label along the lines of "Urn, circa 1845, with coat of arms of Duke of Sproxton, rescued from Sproxton Hall, Gloucs". Any such ticket should be laminated against the weather and left casually attached, of course. Plaster or concrete representations of weeping-child-with-thorn-in-foot/pitcher-bearing- maiden etc must be severely avoided, as should "amusing" tortoises, hedgehogs and/or frogs. There is an argument that says gnomes can be considered post-modernly ironic, but it's dangerous to assume that everyone will get the joke.

`The Dreamer' limited-edition, bronze statue, pounds 2,990, by Marion Smith, The Studio, Farm Cottage, Puttenham, Nr Guildford, Surrey GU3 1AJ, 01483 810352. Also, life-sized geese, pounds 550, or herons, pounds 585.