IT’S still possible to box clever — you have not left it too late.

Barbara Spencer, who has been unable to trim her hedge through a broken wrist, asked me the other day if it is too late to prune her Buxus, better known as box. It’s fine, Barbara, to trim your box balls in the next few weeks, despite missing your usual August tidy-up.

It’s also a good time to plant new hedging, or topiary.

To maintain the shape of your box you should prune it twice a year. The first should be done in late May or early June and, ideally, early September is the time for the second prune, but, down here it’s fine to drift into October when there is a highly limited risk of damaging frost.

A useful tip too is to prune box when it is cloudy which reduces the chance of the sun burning the leaves.

It remains one of the best topiary plants, although it is now afflicted by a couple of pests which are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.

We spied a lovely example of topiary gracing the front of an East Cowes house — and the subject need not be confined to box.

Mock privet, Phillyrea angustifolia, is a member of the olive family and makes excellent topiary. It is slightly tender but should be OK down here in all but the worst of winters.

But the best — and not prone to box pests and disease is Japanese holly, Ilex crenata. Like box it has small, slightly glossy, green leaves. Tolerant of shade and pollution, it can be clipped into shapes or grown as a low hedge.

I had a charming email from Joan Hall, who wonders whether it is possible to plant a rose in the same place as one she has taken out.

With a bit of care it is now possible, but not highly desirable, Joan. A condition known as rose transplant disease may afflict the new occupant of the site but with a bit of care that is not guaranteed.

Scoop out as much of the old soil as possible, mix-in compost and some well-rotted manure and a newish ingredient which has been proven to improve root structure and therefore plant health.

Mycorrhizal fungi is now widely available and should be mixed-in before planting. Mycorrhizas also seem to confer protection against root diseases, including the root transplant affliction. That will give new roses the best chance.

Paul Gilburt queried my tip of hanging tomato and pepper plants downside-up somewhere warm to ripen fruits at the end of the season.

It doesn’t apply to chilli peppers which will ripen if just the fruits are strung-up in a warm kitchen, or on the whole plant if it is in a container and brought inside near a radiator, purely toms and sweet peppers.

In my experience tomatoes are more likely to ripen satisfactorily than peppers.

Phil and Lizzy sent me a photograph of unseasonable blossom on their pear tree.

Not uncommon these days in these mixed-up seasons, I’m very much afraid...