Weekend Work: Dry leaves can be piled on top of agapanthus and nerines for insulation

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The Independent Online

What to do

Mild November weather has been tempting geraniums into fresh bud in the south of the country, but you should be prepared to bundle these (and fuchsias) inside at a moment's notice.

Draw the leaves over the crowns of other slightly tender plants such as red hot pokers and tie them up in a bundle to provide some winter protection. Dry leaves can be piled on top of agapanthus and nerines for insulation.

Save the turf from planting holes cut for trees and shrubs in established lawns and set it, grass side down, in the bottom of the hole. As it rots, it will improve soil texture.

Plant new raspberry canes, 45cm apart in rows two metres apart. Prune hard after planting.

Remember that greenhouse plants are more likely to die from overwatering than underwatering during the winter.

Large established apple and pear trees may need pruning to eliminate branches that cross over or are overcrowded. Some young fruit trees grow strongly upwards but show little inclination to fruit. Pull two or three of the vertical growths gently down towards the horizontal and hold them in place with binder twine or light rope fastened to pegs in the ground.

Pinch out the tops of autumn-sown sweet peas to make compact, bushy plants. Actually, I no longer sow in autumn. Too many plants were nibbled through by mice. Plants grown from an early spring sowing soon catch up.

What to buy

My order to Thornhayes has gone off and I am now waiting to hear when I can collect my bird cherries, my snowy pear and two Irish yews. This is always the most exciting order of the year: all the trees I've had from Thornhayes have been superbly grown.

The list includes a particularly good selection of fruit trees, but the range is wide. "The range of species we offer is selected for health and disease resistance" says owner Kevin Croucher, "hence some commonly known plants are missing as they do not meet the standard required". Trust Mr Croucher. He knows. Thornhayes Nursery, St Andrews Wood, Dulford, Cullompton, Devon EX15 DF; tel: 01884 266746, thornhayes-nursery.co.uk.