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Weekend work: Time to prune trained fruit trees

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Woolf Hall: Emma Townshend finds a new book about the author's final home irresistible - and she's not the only one

So I'm standing next to a woman in Belgravia Books (it's much friendlier and less posh than it sounds, and a tippety-top-class independent bookseller, to boot), and she's clutching this book, Virginia Woolf's Garden, to her chest.

Christmas gifts for the green-fingered: Stunning English gardens, Virginia Woolf's country bolt-hole and the art of growing bonsai

Tim Richardson's book The New English Garden (Frances Lincoln, £40) is the best kind of book to have by your side over Christmas. It is a big, lush production, superbly put together and is printed on thick paper that captures images beautifully. Most of the photographs are by Andrew Lawson (nobody is better) and they are well used, in luscious double spreads of reflecting pools and stilt hedges, bamboo groves and bananas, eremurus ("compulsory" in Noughties planting, says Richardson) and stipa.

Scilly season: The year's first daffodils can be tracked back to the pharaohs

I got a letter this week from Churchtown in the Scillies. I love this letter – it's one I get every year in November, as the Julian family gears up its daffodil farm for a winter of blooming and picking, boxing and despatching.

Wood work: It's a mystery that so many people favour paving over decking

Floorboards, planks and timber provide a far more sympathetic environment, says Anna Pavord

Weekend work: Time to prune elders

WHAT TO DO

How many trees have to fall before local councils see their significance?

The year turns inward now. The darkening dusks, the long shadows and the endless leaf-clearing leave few appealing opportunities for gardeners engaging in outdoor work.

Curly-leaved parsley may not have the best flavour, but it gives the prettiest effect

I have been working up in the Highlands for three weeks: no phone, no telly, no internet. I didn't miss any of those, since they don't play much part in life at home either. But, after the first 10 days, I did begin to miss the garden. The cottage I use in Wester Ross is miles up a track, with a marshy meadow on one side. Then mountains, fore and aft and, at night, stags roaring all round. On the deer fence, a wisp of honeysuckle clings grimly to the wire. Someone must once have got a crop of potatoes off this ground. And turnips. But now, just grass.

Weekend work: Time to plant trees and shrubs

WHAT TO DO

Weekend work: Time to plant grape vines

What to do

Better still: Emma Townshend enjoys the 'stationary' pleasures of Selborne House

Lately I've started to think of myself as stationary. I've not moved house since leaving home some point in the mid-1990s. Even if I go on holiday (not very good at that, either), I prefer just going to the same old place, experiencing the occasional new bakery/ice-cream place/car rally, but mainly just laying another year's worth of memories over all the others. And garden-wise, I'm not one of these energetic types blogging their latest "gravel bed" creation – I'm mainly doing it to watch the things I planted 15 years ago renewing themselves; years turning; familiar roses fading, and flowering again.

The resplendent isle: Sri Lanka's botanical gardens are so lush, almost all of the plants are unfamiliar - and stunning

When the great architect Geoffrey Bawa made his garden at Lunuganga, he described it as "a garden made in a garden", the larger garden being the landscape of Sri Lanka.

A retreat of one's own: Tending to Virginia Woolf's country plot proved a surprising insight into the writer herself

When Caroline Zoob was living at Monk's House, the former home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, she recalls how she would overhear visitors speculating erroneously about the Woolf marriage, and what they presumed were Virginia's many lesbian affairs. "I would sit in the kitchen gritting my teeth, longing to pop my head out and put them right."

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