CUTTINGS

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The Independent Online
Weekend work

This week sees the return of the tyrannical demands of weekend work. Dig. Prune. Sow. Sweep. Split. Don't let it grind you down. In the blissful refuge of your own garden, nobody will know whether you have kept up or not.

Here goes. First, clematis. The kinds that flower in the second half of the summer need drastic pruning now, if you have not already done so. Cut all the growth hard back to a couple of feet above the ground. Unfortunately, this means losing all the juicy shoots that the clematis has already made. Do not worry. It will quickly make up ground and the clear-out will give you the chance to train the new growth in the way that you always meant to do last year.

Spike lawns thoroughly to help surface water to drain off into the now saturated ground underneath. Most lawns have tell-tale tracks along those short cuts to the compost heap or washing line. Spike these areas with special care to loosen the compacted ground and allow air to circulate.

Continue to sow seed. This week I have been sowing everlasting sweet pea, Lathyrus latifolius `White Pearl' (Thompson & Morgan, £1.99). It is a perennial climber that usually hoists itself up to about eight or 10 feet in a season. It has particularly eye-catching clusters of white flowers, unfortunately not scented. It looks as good hanging down in a curtain to disguise a blank space as it does clambering up through a robust old rose.

Seed takes longer to germinate than that of ordinary sweet peas - sometimes almost a month. I sow them in the same way but instead of setting five or six seeds in a biggish pot, sow seeds singly in a series of small pots. Soak the compost well and wrap the pots in clingfilm. My pots then sit on the kitchen windowsill so that as soon as the seed germinates, I can whip off the covering. The plants need hardening off before you plant them out.

This white everlasting pea was a great favourite of Gertrude Jekyll's. She planted it behind delphiniums so that when they had finished flowering and the stems had been shortened, she could train the sweet pea over them. Sometimes, she used the purple clematis `Jackmanii' as a third player, to train over the pea when that, in its turn, had done its bit.

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