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.

Weekend Work: Time to cut back broom

What to do

The light fantastic: Transform your garden with some well-placed tealights and lanterns

It takes Derek St Romaine and his wife Dawn at least two hours to set out the 500 candles that light their garden for a special evening opening each year. What dedication! They hang tealights in lanterns through the rose arbour. Their mophead hollies are lit from below by candles set in bags of sand. They float tealights in clear plastic cups on their pond, highlighting the gleaming scales of the koi carp nosing around underneath. "You've got to put a bit of sand in the cups as ballast. Otherwise they capsize," says Dawn.

Weekend Work: Time to protect young pea plants

What to do

Flower power helps Nicolas Almagro turn other cheek after courtside garden fall

Nicolas Almagro came out smelling of flowers from his fourth-round match today after he landed in a heap on one of the courtside geranium displays - and emerged unscathed thanks to his "big bottom".

Everyone's a winner: The alternative to the Chelsea Flower Show has no prizes but plenty of surprises

"No prizes, no medals, no judging," says Chelsea Fringe director Tim Richardson with a grin on his face; and it's clear that this long-time enthusiast and critic of flower shows has something different in mind. Two weeks ago The Independent on Sunday gave away a guide to highlights of the Chelsea Fringe, but now things are in full swing there have been pleasures both planned and surprising.

Hedge Britannia: a curious history of a British obsession, By Hugh Barker

Barrier, border, habitat, evergreen history – a rich past dwells inside your humble hedge.

Shady character: All hail the mighty fern

It's spent millennia perfecting itself, unfurls its fronds like a Zen master, and can liven up the dullest bit of tarmac...

Katherine Butler: Confessions of a tea-party republican

My heart goes out to republican-minded malcontents at this time. It must be dismal seeing the bunting go up in your street and have the papers gushing about how you should bake an Elizabeth sponge, when you regard the monarchy as a travesty that was outdated in feudal times. The great thing about being the citizen of an actual republic, yet resident in a kingdom with functioning royalty, is that you can marvel at the pomp and ceremony, completely free of inner conflict. You can – as I, an Irishwoman, did on Tuesday – hail a taxi and say "take me to Buckingham Palace" , without compromising your democratic values. Some of my English colleagues were full of contempt.

Hole truth: An artist's impressions of the forthcoming Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Hyde Park, London

Memories of the far pavilions: A sneak preview of this year's offbeat addition to Hyde Park

Can a large, cork-lined hole in the ground in London's Hyde Park – with a steel disc floating above it, mind – be architecture? It can if it's designed by Herzog & de Meuron, and Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist considered a threat to cultural order by his country's political apparatchiks.

The Plankbridge shepherd's hut

Sheditecture: designer gardens make their mark at Chelsea

People really are going to work in the garden. This year’s Chelsea Flower Show not only inspired gardeners, it inspired homeworkers too

Joe Swift's winning garden features a palette of copper, green and white

TV gardener wins top prize at Chelsea

Joe Swift, the BBC Gardeners' World presenter who was forced to stand down from this year’s coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show after new BBC rules banned anyone involved in designing a show garden, has won a prestigious gold medal for his efforts.

Brewin Dolphin garden scoops top prize at the Chelsea Flower Show

A garden celebrating the popularity of topiary has scooped best in show at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Parador de Granada, Spain

The Big Six: Garden retreats

Parador de Granada, Spain

Made in Chelsea, but set to flourish all over the capital

The Chelsea Flower Show, for all its indisputable merits, is not cool. Manicured lawns, panama hats and nicely-trimmed clematis all have their place, but do they really express what it is to be a trowel-wielding, window sill potting urban green-fingers in 2012?

View of the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Horticulture: Can you dig it?

A group of gardening guerrillas has set up a hip alternative to the Chelsea Flower Show. Charlie Cooper meets them

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Career Services

Day In a Page

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
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game