CUT BACK early flowering herbaceous plants such as the oriental poppy. You can be as vicious as you like with this. Surrounding plants then will have more room to manoeuvre. The perennial cornflower Centaurea montana can also be cut back hard. It will produce fresh foliage and another crop of flowers later in the season.
Clip over aubrietias and saxifrages to remove dead flowers and some of the straggly growth of aubrietia. If bright yellow flowers on your senecio are going to ruin a colour scheme, get rid of them now.
Keep a watch on aphids. Some infestations, as on the tops of broad bean plants, can easily be dealt with. Snap off the tops, together with the blackfly, and bin them. Greenfly on honeysuckle and roses may need spraying.
Evergreen ceanothus can be pruned now, if it is growing too far out from the wall. Cut back flowered sprays to within a few buds of the main branch. Tie in new growths as flat as you can against the wall. Growths springing directly from the front of the trunk (called, for obvious reasons, breastwood) may have to be dispensed with altogether.
Spring-flowering chaenomeles may also need work where it is trained against a wall. Tie in some new growths to build up the framework and cut back other lateral twiggy growths to five or six buds.
Gather herbs such as rosemary and thyme and hang them to dry in a cool, airy place. Keep picking sweet peas, which will soon stop flowering if allowed to run to seed.
Prickly subject WILL I ever learn to love cacti? It does not matter if I don't, as enough people do already. The British Cactus and Succulent Society is thriving (Secretary: T E Jenkins, St Catherine's Lodge, Cranesgate Road, Whaplode St Catherine, Spalding, Lincs PE12 6SR). One of the most comprehensive guides available is The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Cacti by Clive Innes and Charles Glass (Headline, pounds 19.95), which describes 1,200 species.
The photographs demonstrate beyond doubt that nature has a sense of humour. Facheiroa tenebrosa, for instance, looks just like a busybody neighbour, red nose peering over the garden fence. The book is admirably clear and shows the plants in their natural habitats - always a help.
Soft fruit A SUMMER Fruit Festival is being held this weekend at Brogdale Farm, the national collection of fruit at Faversham, Kent. There will be tours of the orchards, fruit for sale and tastings of strawberries, cherries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries. Today and tomorrow (10am-5pm), admission pounds 3.Reuse content