Anna Pavord: Weekend work

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The Independent Online

What to do

* Get the lawnmower serviced. A Chinese garden-lover, visiting England in the 1920s, wondered at our obsession with grass. "A mown and bordered lawn, while no doubt of interest to a cow, offers nothing to the intellect of a human being." In China, of course, water provides the calm, peaceful element in a garden that is the chief purpose of our lawns. But they need to look crisp and are demanding in terms of maintenance.

* Before herbaceous perennials start to shoot again, check shrubs such as dogwood, which have a habit of layering branches growing close to the ground. In rough, wild areas, this may be an advantage. But I discovered that a variegated dogwood, Cornus alba 'Elegantissima', had quietly colonised about six square yards of ground round the original clump, as low growing branches had rooted and, themselves, sent up strong new bright red shoots. I've potted up the best for a May plant sale, but the hellebores growing round the dogwood will do better without the interlopers.

* The old, weather-beaten leaves of Helleborus orientalis should have been cut off last November, to give the new shoots light, space and air to come through this month. If you didn't do it then, do it now.

* Helleborus corsicus, with leathery leaves and beautiful lime-green flowers may be showing ugly signs of hellebore leaf blotch. This is caused by a fungus, Coniothyrium hellebori, which is particularly prevalent in wet seasons, such as the one we've had. My plants are badly affected, flowers as well as leaves. Unfortunately, there is no cure. You must pick off the blotchy discoloured foliage and burn it. H. orientalis is supposed to be more resistant to the problem. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

What to see

Today is your last chance to see the winning entries in The Royal Horticultural Society's photographic competition. The show, which opened on Tuesday, finishes today (open 11am-4pm) at The Medici Gallery, 5 Cork Street, London W1 (020-7495 2565). Entry is free and the exhibition presents the best images from more than 4,000 submitted for the competition.

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