GARDENING: Don't be a Charlie...plan your own designer garden.
Look for water-based outdoor paints that won't harm plants. To get the right look with plants, choose contrasting shapes, colours and textures. Look for bold foliage and bright colours. Exotic-looking plants are in, so think cannas, cabbage palms, bamboos and bananas. Plant containers with brightly-coloured coleus instead of geraniums, or go minimalist with the ultimate designer plant - arum lily or zantedeschia aethiopica, with its amazing white goblet-shaped flowers and arrow-shaped leaves. Look for Crowborough, the hardiest.
Add some quick topiary by binding a wire frame with ivy. Go for a small- leaved variety with distinctive foliage Deltoides or Digitata. Ponds are a popular feature, but spend time on their edges for a professional finish. Gravel will mask the edge of the liner and can be extended to create a dry bed for drought-loving grasses and phormiums.
Jobs for the week
PLANT a camellia in a large tub for an instant display on your doorstep. Use an ericaceous compost and water with rainwater to keep the leaves a healthy green colour. Feed regularly in summer and keep the compost moist to prevent bud drop. COVER strawberries with cloches to encourage earlier flowers and fruits.
SERVICE the lawnmower ready for use now that the mild weather is encouraging the grass to grow. Do not cut grass too short at this time of the year or the growing tips close to soil level may get attacked by a late frost.
FINISH planting bare- rooted bargains as soon as possible. Protect newly- planted shrubs, roses and hedging from cold winds and keep the soil moist throughout the season.
PLANT out your onion sets and shallots. Space them 4in apart with 9in between rows. Bury the sets so that the tips of the bulbs ares just showing.
Q & A
THIS week's star letter comes from Bill Warner, of Spilsby, who wins pounds 20 worth of National Garden gift tokens. He writes: "I have just got my first garden and would like to stick to organic methods. Where can I go for inspiration?" ADRIENNE SAYS: For ideas and practical tips visit Ryton Gardens, near Coventry. It is the home of the Henry Doubleday Research Association, who set the standards for organic gardening. They also have gardens at Yalding in Kent and Audley End in Essex. You'll find everything from growing herbs to making compost. Check out their web site on www.hdra.org.uk I HAVE a late-flowering clematis growing on a tripod in a tub that is overgrown. Can I prune it? - Pauline Cousins, Dover, Kent
ADRIENNE SAYS: Yes. Now is the time to prune any clematis that flowers after June. Cut last year's growth to within a few inches of soil level.
FOR Mother's Day on April 2 check out this website for a range of exclusive gifts, including The Gin Drinker's Companion, which consists of a pair of small juniper bushes, a bottle of gin and a supply of fresh lemons, and The Box of Roses, comprising a bottle of champagne, chocolate hearts and a miniature indoor rose bush.