Gardening: cuttings

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Building up in commercial nurseries all over the country are stocks of the plants that will zap us in the garden centres this Easter. This year's novelties include a new choisya (Mexican orange blossom) called `Walberton Moonshine'. All choisyas have handsome, glossy evergreen foliage and sweetly scented flowers in April and May. But breeders promise that this new introduction has bigger, better flowers and glossier foliage than existing varieties. Judge for yourself when it hits the market in April. Also new this year will be the hebe `Spring Glory', which produces its dark-purple flower spikes in April and May, rather than the more usual June and July.

The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens has brought out a new guide to 600 plant collections all over the country. If you love hellebores, head for Hampshire where the local NCCPG group has 40 species and 69 cultivars scattered through the gardens of local NCCPG members. The collection is open by appointment from mid-February to the end of March, admission pounds 1.50 (contact John Wood, on 01794 884306). If primroses are your thing, go to Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire, where Mrs Jackson has 80 different kinds. Admission pounds 1 (open by appointment, 01530 412606). In Yorkshire, Mrs Shaw has a primrose collection too, at Tan Cottage, West Lane, Cononley, near Keighley (01535 632030). It is open by appointment only, admission pounds 1. For a copy of the directory, send pounds 3.50 (plus 50p for postage and packing) to the NCCPG, The Pines, RHS Garden, Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QP (01483 211465).

The Garden History Society's Winter Lecture series starts on 4 February when Eelco Elzinga describes one of The Netherlands' most important gardens, Het Loo, near Apeldoorn. It was laid out for William and Mary in the late 17th century by the Huguenot designer Daniel Marot, who had fled from persecution in France to The Netherlands.

He quickly found his feet, for in 1686, only a year after his arrival, he was employed by William and Mary to bring a touch of French glamour to the Dutch court. He tackled architecture, interior design and the garden, making all with equal verve. His work at Het Loo was considered at the time to be the last word in modernity and style. It was the most lavish garden ever to have been seen in The Netherlands and visitors gasped, especially at the cascades and fountains - more than 50 of them. The lectures continue every Wednesday until 18 March and include talks by the garden designer Arabella Lennox- Boyd, and Philip White, director of the Hestercombe garden project. All the lectures take place at the Scientific Societies Lecture Theatre, New Burlington Place, London W1, at 6pm. Tickets (pounds 7 each) from the GHS, 77 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6BP (0171-608 2409).

Work in the garden in January is entirely at the mercy of the weather. If the ground is waterlogged (as ours is) it is better to stay off it until it dries out. But gardeners on fast-draining soil may be able to get out and stir up the earth round their bulbs. Aconites and snowdrops are well above ground and, as a treat, can be fed with a scattering of Growmore or bonemeal. Roses can also be pruned and tied in. All the old rules that used to govern rose-pruning as tightly as a Masonic convention seem to have gone by the board, but there is a useful general rule: the weaker the growth, the stronger the pruning. It seems the wrong way round, but cutting a sickly rose hard back is the best way to wake it up. If, that is, it is ever going to wake up at all. It didn't work with my `Agnes' rose.

Anna Pavord