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.

Michael Loftus: Neal's Yard owner who became a dedicated nurseryman

The nursery that Michael Loftus set up, Woottens of Wenhaston, was a place of pilgrimage for anyone who loved plants, especially iris, auriculas and day lilies. The nursery had an aura about it; and Loftus himself certainly did.

Michelle Williams and Luke Kirby reflect the intense chemistry between Margot and Daniel

Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley, 116 mins (15)

This Canadian romantic drama trundles along sweetly — but do lovers really speak like this?

Growing pains: Buddleia could do with some serious trimming - but be careful only to cut the most inconveinent stems now

Cutbacks, cutbacks: It's time to cut loose with the pruning shears

And how am I going to reach that?" my neighbour guffaws. We are looking up at a stray tendril, hovering temptingly between the ground and first floor, just out of reach. The rain has made everything grow so ridiculously, fairy-tale-beanstalk-tall this year. Stems have grown long and wandering, leaves are plate-sized. Sometimes that's a good thing, but lately it can feel as though the main result has been an eye-watering quantity of pruning and weeding.

Let dark petals bloom

Flower power is back but don't try to channel the 1960s. Instead a moody, more gothic look is trotting off the catwalk and heading for our homes

Next sees new gardening centres as path to greater growth

Fashion retailer Next is branching out into garden centres after a trial format came up smelling of roses.

True grit: Horticulturalist Beth Chatto's remarkably hardy gravel garden

To get to Beth Chatto's house you turn down an unremarkable lane just near a petrol station in the heart of Essex. Here is the celebrated gardener's residence itself: a white suburban bungalow that sits plump on well-mown green turf. And though it's signposted well, it remains a surprising prologue to one of Britain's most interesting and exotically original gardens.

Each plant of the weed Shepherd's purse can produce 5,000 seeds

Weeds have run rampant during the wet summer - it's time to go on the attack…

It's been an amazing season for weeds. In the hideous conditions of the past few months, docks have grown to tropical proportions and you can wring enough water to wash in from the crunchy stems of sow thistles. Round here, there have been endless reminders of how thinly order lies on chaos. In the steep lane that leads out of our valley, more than 50m of bank let go of its moorings and slid so smoothly down, that the trees in the landslip stayed upright. The day after the fall, it was like looking at the beginning of the world: torn earth, gloopy mud, impenetrable tangles of briar among the tree trunks. Impassable.

Weekend work: Time to feed tomatoes

What to do

New Zealand Games hospitality house Kiwi House

London 2012: Up to 700 evacuated from blaze at New Zealand Games hospitality house

Around 700 people have been evacuated from Kiwi House, New Zealand's Games hospitality site after a fire broke out.

<p>1. Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire</p>
<p>Adult £20.50, child £15.50, org/zsl-whipsnade-zoo </p>
<p>This is the UK's biggest zoo, with lions, elephants, et al. There's also a special family festival aimed at under-10s.</p>

The 10 Best country days out

From fossil hunting to forbidden corners and the golden age of steam

Matthew Norman: Even a doormat can only take so much abuse

Like Diana, Clegg's role was to look innocent and pretty - and to humanise Cameron

Purple patch: For a burst of colour next year, get thinking about bulb-planting now

Bad news. It is at this time of year, when we've finally seen some sunshine, that we must forget about tans and start turning our thoughts to wrapping up warm (ugh), going outside in the cold (yikes) and digging several hundred holes in stony frozen soil (blerg). Yep, it's bulb-order time again.

Dog owner acquitted over one police attack as it 'happened on privat land'

A man on trial over a pitbull attack that left five policemen injured was acquitted of one of the charges against him today.

Arable plant species disappearing

Some of the most well-loved flowers of the British countryside are disappearing from arable fields, conservationists warned today.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
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Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
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Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

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The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

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All the wood’s a stage

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Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

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