Weekend Work: Time to tend to the snowdrops

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The Independent Online

What to do

Split congested clumps of snowdrops as soon as they have finished flowering. This is a much quicker way of spreading them over a large area than waiting for them to seed themselves. Replant bulbs in clumps of just two or three bulbs. Encouraged with a handful of bonemeal in fresh ground, they will soon bulk up into eyecatching clusters.

Evergreens work hard for their living during the cut-down days of winter. Topiary pieces made up from ivy grown over a wire frame provide a quick (and cheap) alternative to box or yew and can provide the bulk and winter furnishing that a garden needs at this time of the year. Choose small leaved varieties such as 'Cockle Shell' or 'Green Feather' to clothe a frame, twining the growths through the supports, or tying in stems as they grow.

Prune laburnums, if you have not already done so. Like vines, they bleed badly if you cut them when the sap has already started to flow. That will happen any day soon. Where laburnum is trained to make a tunnel, pruning is vital to keep the growth in order. It also encourages the production of flower buds, rather than more foliage. Cut young shoots back, leaving just two or three buds on each stem, close to the old wood it has broken from. Wisterias should be treated in the same way. If you are planning to make a laburnum tunnel, choose L. x wateri 'Vossii', which is more free-flowering than plain L. alpinum 'Pendulum'.

What to buy

If growing from seed seems too much bother, you can now buy young plants of a wide range of vegetables. Dobies are offering an outdoor salad collection which includes 20 plug plants of lettuce and two pot-ready plants each of cucumber 'Passandra' and the tomatoes 'Fantasio' and 'Summer Sweet'. They'll also throw in seed of the spring onion 'White Lisbon' and the radish 'Jolly', the easiest of all vegetables to grow. Total cost £12.95. To order call 0844 701 7625 or visit dobies.co.uk.