Dear Mrs Danvers, I am going on holiday to Italy this spring and would like to bring some plants back. What do you suggest?

There are all sorts of regulations about taking plants between countries (potatoes are particularly dangerous, being classed with firearms and explosives). So you should read up about the restrictions on moving plants and also about the possiblity of having a bureaucrat make a follow-up visit a few months later.

Having said that, seeds are easy: no regulations, no problems about keeping them alive, no extra weight. In fact, foreign seeds make excellent presents. If you are in Italy, virtually every market has a stall full of the sort of seeds grown by locals?artichokes, lettuce, herbs, rocket and zucchini?and these will be good and cheap.

Live plants, if you bring those you are allowed (cuttings are probably safe) should be firmly packed with wadded- up newpaper wetted under the tap and kept in a sponge bag or dustbin liner. We once had to buy an entire new suitcase to bring back about

a thousand chive plants given by an organic farm in Ireland, and they are doing well.