Miles Kington: Time to labour in the arbour and gaze from the gazebo

With leylandii, I always advise people to lop off the top 40 feet, then remove any portion of the tree that is left
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The Independent Online

The days are getting longer, the nights are getting shorter, the weather is getting warmer, none of us is getting any younger - yes, it's time to be out and about in the garden again, putting right the damage caused last time I brought you a series of garden hints, so here is another piece on what to do in the garden this month.

Pruning

The commonest mistake with pruning is to cut through the electric cable connecting your hedge trimmer to the mains, which will cause you to shrivel up, go brown and die immediately. The best protection against this is to wear rubber boots, use big rubber gloves and stand on a big rubber ladder. You should be careful to get a rigid rubber ladder, as the second commonest mistake with pruning is to fall off a non-rigid ladder into your hedge, which will create a man-shaped hole in the hedge.

Never be afraid to prune rigorously, especially with leylandii. I always advise people to lop off the top 40 feet from leylandii, then remove any portion of the tree that is left. If it shows signs of regrowing vigorously, I would think seriously of moving house.

Water feature

Instead of just making any old pond, why not think of installing a small replica of some famous water feature? I know one gardener who has created a pond which he claims is an exact scale replica of Lake Geneva. On the south side there is a model town which he says is the French spa town of Evian, where the famous water comes from. He says that no birds ever visit this bit of the pond, for fear of catching Evian flu. I say, Isn't it a bit over the top, building a whole miniature lake, just to make this one feeble joke? He says, Maybe, but when did you ever hear a gardener ever make any kind of joke at all? And he has a point.

Miniature railways

It is about time to switch miniature garden railways over from winter schedules to summer schedules. Alternatively, have you ever thought of reflecting the real world and closing your railway line due to lack of demand? In the real world this is done by reducing services and making them so bad that passenger figures drop off, and you then claim that there is no demand for the line so you can close it, but in a garden you can just close it without consultation or public inquiry and turn it straightaway into a miniature cycle route, model landfill site, etc.

Topiary

Shaping yews and box trees into artistic or interesting forms is coming back into fashion again, though you should be careful not to go as far as Major Bill Courney of Sussex, who escalated a row with neighbours by carving a tall bush into a two-fingered V-sign pointing at them. They sued him for insulting behaviour, under the little-known Offensive Shrubbery Act of 1898, which had originally been passed to help flush out suffragettes from the undergrowth.

Open-air festivals

Keep a careful eye open in your garden for any sign of people wandering aimlessly about holding programmes, small shacks selling sandwiches or people hiring out cushions. These are all danger signals that someone may be planning to hold a literary festival in your garden or, even worse, open-air theatre. Stamp anything like that out ruthlessly at the first signs, or you will have people knocking on your door day and night, demanding to use the loo. It is said that nowhere in Britain is now more than five miles from the nearest book festival, but that doesn't mean it has to be in your garden.

Pergolas, gazebos, arbours and bowers

Lovely words, aren't they? But as objects they are the very devil to build and maintain. So what I recommend is rooting them all out and putting decking down, especially if you live in an area which is due to be flooded next winter, when it will be very helpful to be able to pop out into the garden and float to safety on the raft your decking has instantly become.

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