Weekend Work: Time for some winter pruning

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What to do

Prune trained fruit trees, remembering that winter pruning, in terms of persuading trees to bear fruit, is not as important as summer pruning. Winter pruning is the way to gradually build up a standard or half standard apple or pear from a young, single-stemmed whip. With big, established trees, you need do no more than cut out thin, weak shoots, or any wood that is diseased or dead.

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.

Check bowls of hyacinths rooting in whatever dark, cool place you have put them in, to see that the compost is not drying out.

Mulch beds and borders, round the bottoms of currant and gooseberry bushes, round roses, climbers and wall shrubs. A good, thick mulch of mushroom compost (or your own home-made product) is the best Christmas present you can give your garden.

What to see

The unmissable event this weekend is the Christmas Fair at Great Dixter, the late Christopher Lloyd's home at Northiam, Rye, East Sussex TN31 6PH. No hall could be more Christmassy and this (together with the Yeoman's Hall) is where the fair will be held today and tomorrow (10am-4pm). If the weather is fine, walk round the garden and admire the topiary. Admission £5. Call 01797 252878 ext 2, for info.