The variety of gloxinia that makes a classic Christmas present has actually been re-classified as a Sinningia. But say "gloxinia" and everyone knows its fat, bright-red, gaudy, bell-shaped flowers. , along with its close chums amaryllis (bright-red, gaudy, lily-type flowers) and poinsettia (bright-red, gaudy bracts), are seasonal visitors as regular as the Christmas tree. In garden centres, supermarkets and florists up and down the land, they have shifted huge stocks of these three over the past few weeks. Next year, resist! A pot of daffodils or scented hyacinths is a far more welcome gift, and although they may take a while to flower after the festive season, they are also guaranteed to last longer than the Christmas tree and can be planted out when they have finished blooming.


Garden houses

At this time of year, in the dip between Christmas and New Year, the garden shed seems like a most reasonable place to hide out. The control room and nerve centre of the garden, the proper shed will be stocked with gleaming tools - hanging in rows on the wall, all carefully cleaned and put away ready for use - neatly deployed hanks of twine, balls of string, canes, watering cans and bottles of fertiliser. Plus, of course, space on the windowsill for trays of happily germinating seeds and a comfortable folding seat for the gardener to sit in, relax and contemplate all this beautiful order.

In reality, many sheds are hard to get into due to the huge heap of debris (broken flower pots, half-used bags of ancient compost, saggy deck-chairs, dried-up tins of creosote etc) piled against the door. A lot of sheds simply act as a kind of permanent skip moored in the garden, where rubbish can be left out of sight and out of mind. The poshest kind of shed is not even called a shed but a "garden house". Muddy boots are not welcome; garden houses are not for gardening, but for use as a study or studio or retreat or even chalet-style outdoor dining-room. Double-glazed, insulated, wired, plastered, carpeted and decorated, these Wendy-houses for adults do not come cheap: expect to pay around pounds 10,000.

The Hampshire (pictured above), from Country Garden Buildings, The Garden Studio, 42 Crossway, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, 01582 765769.