Gardening: CUTTINGS

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The Independent Online
Flower of the hour: the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis. It is the first flower to look for in the grim days of late winter, the start of the long sequence of bulbs and tubers that will brighten up the garden until mid-June. Aconites break through the ground head down; the first sight is a little croquet hoop of green. The flower follows the stem and straightens out to open as a brilliant yellow globe set against a ruff of green. The tubers do well under deciduous trees where, later in the season, they will put themselves away underground and leave no mess on top. They flower in sun or in partial shade and, when happy, increase quickly by self-seeding. The easiest way to establish them is to buy them, like snowdrops, "in the green", that is, just after they have finished flowering. Plant them no more than an inch deep. Tubers are available from the Cambo Estate, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8QD (01333 450054), price pounds 7 for 50, pounds 12 for 100.

Several National Trust gardens are open all winter when, with the leaves off the trees, new, long views are revealed. The emphasis of such gardens shifts in winter. With noisy herbaceous borders lying doggo, you look more at the structure of the garden, notice avenues, statues and viewpoints. The 17 acres of garden at Killerton, Broadclyst, Exeter, Devon were first laid out by Sir Thomas Acland and his agent, John Veitch, when the house was rebuilt in 1777. Later Veitch founded a famous nursery that sent plant hunters all over the world. Many of their plants found a home in this garden, which is open every day from 10.30am until dusk. Admission (winter only) pounds 1.

Polesden Lacey, near Dorking, Surrey was left to the National Trust by the Hon Mrs Ronnie Greville, the society hostess and friend of Edward VIII. A path leads past the herbaceous borders to a special winter garden, protected by three large Persian ironwood trees. Mrs Greville is buried outside the walled rose garden, watched over by 18th-century French statues of the Four Seasons. The garden and grounds are open daily from 11am until dusk. Admission pounds 3.

During his time at Rowallane, Hugh Armytage Moore filled the garden (which he had been told was "not fit to graze a goat") with unusual trees and shrubs, many from the southern hemisphere. This was always a plantsman's paradise, the trees and shrubs grouped in a natural way in the landscape, amongst strange cairns of local rock. The garden is open Mon-Fri from 10.30am until dusk. Admission pounds 1.40. For an entertaining account of Trust gardens, see Stephen Lacey's Gardens of the National Trust (National Trust, pounds 29.99).