Urban Gardener: Crazy daisies

On wanting to introduce some daisy-action to a client's garden recently, I was told in no uncertain terms: "OK, but no yellow, thank you very much." It's not often that I'll get a client barring a specific colour from a plant list, but when I do it will almost always be yellow or orange. The reasons for not liking a specific colour are about as clear as why some people are frightened of spiders except, of course, that yellow flowers don't scuttle across the carpet, make webs, or bite. OK, bad analogy.

Leading article: A necessary test of confidence

Given the shambles that has been this year's school testing and exam season so far, the decision of the independent regulator, Ofqual, to conduct an all-round evaluation of the system is the very least that needs to be done. Kathleen Tattersall, who chairs Ofqual, said in an interview with this newspaper that a debate was needed to foster better understanding and confidence in the assessment system. She can say that again.

Album: Ivo Papasov, Dance of the Falcon (World Village)

When this Turkish-speaking Gypsy from Bulgaria was declared the surprise winner of a Radio 3 World Music award two years ago, he handed it back, picked up his clarinet and stunned the auditorium with five minutes of solo pyrotechnics.

Miles Kington Remembered: It may never happen? Say that once more and it will...

One class of annoying remark that seems to annoy a lot of people is the catchphrase used way past its sell-by date

Urban Gardener: High and mighty

From the quiet subtlety of anthriscus to the ballsy arrogance of angelica, apiaceae/umbelliferae are a valuable genus of plants, whether it's a delicate touch you're looking for or pure drama. Their ability to exploit light and space sets them apart from other plants, each umbel a myriad of tiny single flowers pooling their resources for the collective good.

Book Of A Lifetime: Things Fall apart, Chinua Achebe

I discovered Achebe between the Rough Guides to Africa in a travel bookshop. I was young, browsing, dreaming of a holiday, when I picked out a slim book called Things Fall Apart. It was obviously misplaced; it wasn't fat enough to be a guide book. The owner spotted me and, based on nothing but my perennial browsing, prophesised: "You'll like that. It's a novel," he said. And that was all I knew as I started into this stark and simple story of Okonkwo, one of the greatest Igbo warriors in West Africa and hero of his village, at a time before colonisation by the British.

Gardening: Spring team

This time of year brings gardeners out in a plant-buying rash, says Anna Pavord. But just as important as spring blooms are plants that will keep your garden going all summer long

The Breeders, ABC, Glasgow

Didn't you used to be famous? Aren't you, in fact, Kim Deal – a quarter of one of the most influential bands ever and currently in the throes of your third long-awaited comeback of the decade? I would never have guessed.

My Style: Liela Moss

Lead singer, the Duke Spirit, 26

Urban Gardener: Memory lane

Plants on their own don't really do fashion. Few would be inclined to rip out a plant the minute it's reached maturity just because it wasn't seen at Chelsea that year. The way plants are used together, however, is different. This can fit a trend but can take several years to understand and appreciate before being labelled as a movement. Current trends, such as the new perennial movement spearheaded by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, have plenty of steam left for the larger garden where experimenting with drifts of perennials and grasses, seems boundless. In smaller, urban gardens, the trend for exotic planting has increased in line with our concern for climate change.

Four-letter Word: New Love Letters, Ed. by Joshua Knelman & Rosalind Porter

Golden rule of writing love letters is ignored by this gang of professionals

Preview: Various Artists, Roll With Me, Henry: Chart Toppin' Doo Woppin' Volume 2 (Label: Rev-Ola)

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Urban gardener, Cleve West: My secret weapon

This may sound like I'm getting a little over-sensitive about gardening, but I often wonder whether sub-shrubs get the hump. There may not have been any intended maliciousness in this horticultural classification, but you've got to admit it sounds a touch belittling. Demeaning as it sounds, the term "sub-shrub" should be seen as a positive thing for the urban gardener. It actually means "woody perennial", something that occasionally makes them difficult to categorise in the botanical world. Lavender, thyme, caryopteris are all labelled as sub-shrubs. They provide a valuable link between shrubs and perennials, especially in loose borders of perennials where the more identifiable and larger-than-life shrubs might spoil the intended fluidity and movement within a scheme. Their relatively smaller size means that they have an obvious use for urban gardens where space is tight or where a light structure is needed.

For whom the bells toil: Foxgloves have had quite a time of late battling the elements. The trick is to site them carefully, says Anna Pavord, and you should be amply rewarded

"What a lot of tall plants you grow," said a short friend accusingly as we bobbed and weaved our way through the verbascum, dead foxgloves, eremurus, onopordon and ligularia on the bank in our garden. She acted as though they were all part of a devilish plan to undermine her psyche. More likely that they were bolstering up mine. When I was growing up I always felt like a crane among linnets, I like to surround myself with plants that are built on my sort of lines.

Urban gardener, Cleve West: Do the strand

My mother's small garden at Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex is a simple affair. A rectangular patio (I prefer the word terrace but this is too grand a claim) and the rest laid to gravel where a mix of grasses, a couple of trees and a few perennials create a pleasant enough view come mid-summer. I built it before I really considered myself a designer, and at a time when there seemed to be more time for family and friends, who (as most garden designers will tell you) can be very useful guinea pigs.

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