Arts and Entertainment

The idea of The Great American Novel feels like an albatross around the neck of that country’s literature. Sooner or later every white middle-class male writer with any kind of reputation feels obliged to have a stab at it, usually with limited success. Eventually they think it’s time to pack away all the fun stuff like storytelling, energy and plot, and make some big state-of-the-nation address, telling people exactly how things stand in the good ol’ US of A. Interestingly, America’s women writers don’t tend to feel the obligation to grandstand so strongly, and their novels are usually all the better for that.

A microscopic photograph of a fossilised pollen grain

Flowers have bloomed for 240m years

Flowers appeared on Earth 100 million years earlier than was previously thought, according to evidence from ancient fossilised pollen grains.

The aim is to ensure that not a single breeding pair of rats survive to repopulate the island

Dutch police recruit rats to sniff out criminals

The Dutch police are pioneering a new approach to catching criminals, recruiting rats to sniff out crime.

Pretty in pink: Give a rosy glow to the lips, cheeks or eyelids

(Clockwise from top) 1. Fall in Rose Lipstick, £21, lancome.co.uk

Sow long: If you want a beautiful cuttings garden next summer, get those seeds in now

Annual flowers are profligate with their seed. Which is why, with very little effort now, you can collect free supplies to provide next year's flowers. This summer has been superb for both producing seed (plants have grown with tremendous vigour) and ripening it. I had an unusually peaceful session with the small, thin seedpods of larkspur, cracking them open and spilling the hard black seed on to a sheet of paper on the kitchen table.

Flower girls: Christian Dior's ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2014 collection in Paris

Paris Fashion Week: Raf Simons blossoms in the dark to lead Dior down a gorgeous garden path

Alien vines wrap wrists and shoes sprout roots in Paris Fashion Week’s biggest show thus far

A model walks the runway during the Balmain show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2013

As Paris Fashion Week gets into its stride – it’s all about the music...

Balenciaga's spring/summer 2014 show plays out to thumping, bass-heavy and very, very loud beats... but only after four outfits

Goulding judged for over 40 years at The Chelsea Flower Show

Michael Goulding: Flower arranger who served the Queen and nine prime ministers

Michael Goulding was a flower arranger to royalty and to nine successive Prime Ministers and their wives, from Macmillan to Major. They were all interested in flowers: Alec Douglas-Home used to rearrange Goulding's flowers when he left the room; Dorothy Macmillan would bring flowers from Birch Grove for Goulding to arrange – when he got them they were often dead. Margaret Thatcher took a great interest in his flowers, and put his name forward for a Queen's Birthday Honours award.

The Erdem show

London Fashion Week: Lessons in English from Christopher Kane, Giles Deacon and Christopher Bailey

The Englishness of English dress is a very interesting concept, especially as manifested during London Fashion Week. Although maybe it’s the London-ness of London dress, given that most of the star designers come from further afield. Nevertheless they are all the product of the British capital’s fashion schools – Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art dominated today, Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon of the former, and Erdem and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey of the latter.

Jos Buttler hits out against Australia in Cardiff

England vs Australia ODI: Anything is possible for Jos Buttler the fearless

Series still to play for after another thrilling innings from England’s fastest run-maker

Sunset at Montmajour by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is seen during a press conference at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Sunset at Montmajour critique: Nature is alive with motion in this magnificent Van Gogh failure

Work is almost religious in the fervour of its making

The 10 Best new perfumes

Fragrances can capture a mood and ease you into a new season. These new scents will help smooth your way into autumn

Missing: my darling Jacqui... the search for a lost tulip

I found the most perfect tulip, says Emma Townshend.  She’s playful and charming and perked me right up – but now I can’t find her anywhere. Somebody help me!

Anna Pavord's A to Z of pests and problems: P is for passageways, pests and pruning

Our green-fingered correspondent Anna Pavord continues her A-Z of horticultural pests and problems standing between you and your perfect garden

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General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'