Six winter lectures on various aspects of the tree have been arranged at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All the lectures take place on the last Friday of the month and this month's speaker is the encyclopaedic Dr Joan Morgan of the Brogdale Horticultural Trust in Kent. She will be telling the story of the English apple and there will be various varieties to taste. Tickets for the lectures, which start at 7.30pm in the Jodrell Lecture Theatre, can be bought from the shop at Kew. Alternatively, send a stamped, addressed envelope and a cheque for pounds 3 payable to the RBG, Kew to Sarah Oldridge, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AQB.

You can also join one of Kew's winter tours of the garden, arranged around a series of specific topics. Tomorrow the focus is on the treasures of the Temperate House. On November 15, a "Plants for People" tour provides an introduction to the many ways that we use plants in our lives, from food, clothing and medicines to spectacle frames, screwdriver handles and soap. On November 18, the subject of the tour is "The Green Physician", an introduction to some of the plants used in medicine, traditional and modern. All guided tours (tickets, pounds 1) leave from the Victoria Gate Visitor Centre. They start at 11.30am and last approximately an hour. Each tour is limited to 20 people, so phone first to check availability (0181-332 5633).

During the Cornish Apple Festival, recently held at the Probus Gardens near Truro in Cornwall, three varieties of apple, rather rare in cultivation, turned up in the hands of visitors queuing to have fruit identified by experts at the garden. One was the large crimson cooker, 'Mere de Menage', another the curiously shaped 'Lady's Finger', a popular late dessert apple in the 1820s, and the third the 'Dutch Painter's Apple' - so called because it so often appears in still-life paintings. Mere de Menage is available from J C Allgrove Ltd, The Nursery, Middle Green, Langley, Bucks (01753 520155), Lady's Finger from Keepers Nursery, 446 Wateringbury Rd, East Malling, Kent, ME19 6JJ (01622 813008).

Iwas very interested when you put out enquiries for companion planting," writes Ms W Pike from Brighton. "I also wanted to see a page of success stories. On my allotment I have tried summer savory with broad beans, marigolds with tomatoes, and my rose bushes almost changed scent with the amount of garlic I planted. Unfortunately, like your other readers, none were successful. But my one pleasurable discovery was rocket, which I have grown ever since."

Colin Flood Page of Hereford has also been following the companion planting debate with interest, hoping to find the clue to a phenomenon he noticed in his own garden this summer.

"I have a small bush of teucrium and last year planted an achillea not far from it. This spring I was surprised to see that where the achillea was put in, no shoots were to be seen, but a lot were coming up towards the teucrium. As time went on it became obvious that A was totally in love with T as it formed a hedge right round the bush. Both plants are flourishing."

But will love turn sour next year, when T begins to feel threatened by A's advances? Or will A tire of T's different lifestyle and abandon T in search of a perennial he can understand? The story continues...