I know a man who looks like God in the Sistine Chapel, bestowing life on Adam. Angus, bearded of course, is an absolute whizz at restoring old orchards. He will refashion an old tree that can scarcely muster one apple and turn it into a living sculpture.
So what rules should you follow if you are trying to reclaim your old trees? Any that are riddled with disease have to go and old stumps must be ground out to prevent them becoming a larder for the dreaded honey fungus. But leave lichen or moss on the stems, it looks beautiful and does no harm.
Pruning of apple and pear trees is a mid-winter task and made much easier by the exposure of bare stems. Take it in 2 stages. First reduce overall height so that stems are kept to a manageable length. Make sure you cut to a point where another branch has formed or remove right back to the trunk, avoiding any stubby bits.
This done, follow the daft-sounding pruning mantra so redolent of 70s wine and cheese parties, and aim for the goblet shape with your tree. Basically the idea is that the plant is opened up for air movement, keeping mildew and other pathogens at bay and the sunshine in for ripening.
Out with all diseased, damaged or crossing branches.
Plum trees should never be pruned in winter as the open wounds can let in silverleaf disease. Wait till after blossom in May for post harvest in early September.
The urban garden can be a place where the sun never, ever arrives. If you have a basement garden you will know that there is nothing more solid than building shade. Instead of invoking a sense of despair, make list of the plants that will rise to the challenge and employ a few design tricks. Top tip is to install a mirror - better still get distressed glass to give the patina of age and position it behind some trellis work. Trellis can be very elaborate, even with trompe d’oeil effect.
For plants, there are plenty of jungly beasts that do not like sun - tree ferns and Fatsia japonica which has remarkable shiny palmate leaves. Go for climbers where space is limited. Clematis montana, is a vigorous species that is used to clawing its way up to the light and Hydrangea petiolaris is is a fabulous climbing hydrangea. Last of all there are shade lovers that have white flowers or markings on their leaves giving out borrowed light. Make sure Cyclamens and arum lilies make it onto the shopping list.
Either, like me, you just love a fire in the dark outside or you may be banished outside to have a fag on a chilly night. For both types, The Hotspot Square brazier from Raw Garden gets my vote as the most stylish out-door fireplace. www.rawgarden.co.uk
If you have a pond, place floats on the surface to stop it freezing over.