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The garden definitely enters a new season in July
and it's conventional wisdom that late July and August
can be quite tricky, but that's not true here at Longmeadow at all.
It's the summer holidays and you get this flush of wonderful, rich colour.
The tawny shades, oranges, browns and deep purples
and plum colours, which can last right into autumn.
They say August is a tricky time - well, here it isn't.
In tonight's programme, I'll be showing you
how to extend the colour of sweet peas for as long as possible
into late summer.
It's also time to summer-prune apples and pears,
so I'll be sharing my tips on how to do that.
Plus, if you've got primulas, now is the perfect time to propagate them.
Gardening on a steep slope can be tricky,
but Carol meets a man who relishes the challenge of a hillside.
You turn round and say, "No, how can that possibly garden?"
And slugs may devour your hostas, but you can do something about it,
as Rachel finds out when she drops in on a couple of "hostaholics".
There's more here!
I do feel like I've stepped into another world.
I sowed our sweet peas in March and planted them out in May.
They were a bit slow to start because we had a dry, early spring
and a cold, middle and late spring, but they've done well.
I want them to go on doing well for as long as possible.
The way to do that is to keep picking them,
because sweet peas, once the weather gets warmer
and the days get shorter, want to start producing seed.
There's an urgent need to get seed before next year
and we want to delay that process.
What we found through trial and error is,
if you pick the whole lot every ten days,
that maximises the flowers and minimises the seeds.
When you're cutting back,
make sure that you go right back for as long a stem as possible.
Don't leave any stubs.
But I will leave these buds here and here
and they will flower on into the border for continuity.
It's not as though you just get a shock of flowers every ten days.
Now, I know that it might seem a bit unlikely,
but one of my own real personal pleasures of gardening
is picking flowers.
I really like cutting flowers for the house.
I can't stress too much how, if it's hot and dry and you don't pick them,
how quickly they'll set seed.
You need to keep on top of a picking regime every nine or ten days
and also give them a good soak.
Every time you pick them, give them a bucket of water
and with any luck, they should go on giving you lovely flowers
right into September, as well as lots of cut flowers for the house.
This part of the damp garden has no visible flowers at the moment.
But there are a couple of things
I'm watching like a hawk and treasuring.
The first are these Meconopsis sheldonii.
I really want to make them work,
because they've got the most amazing blue flower in spring.
I've tried in the past and failed.
The secret is to keep them damp all summer,
not sopping, but don't let them dry out.
Luckily, we've had lots of rain in the last few months,
but they need watering once a week
with a shower and they're looking healthy and they should be good.
This is Primula bulleyana
and now is a perfect time to propagate it,
both by seed from the green seed, and also by division, by splitting it.
Where the flowers have formed these tiers,
wonderful, orange, intense flowers that last for ages,
they've left groups of seed heads.
I'll just cut off those stems.
Those will go to the potting shed
but before that, I'm going to divide the plant, dig the whole thing up.
It came out very easily.
There we go.
There we go.
You can see that's divided through.
I could divide that again.
Pull that apart - there we are.
Two nice plants from that.
They're all being cut off because they've done their job.
That, we can replant. By taking leaves off,
we're taking stress off the roots
which have been traumatised, hacked about, dug up.
Put it in the ground, give it a really good soak and keep it moist.
New leaf will grow and there'll be a new vigour to the plant
and that will flower enthusiastically next spring.
These go really well with hostas
and share exactly the same growing conditions
of damp soil, but taking sun or shade.
I've got lots of hostas here and would like to get more,
but I'd never call myself a "hostaholic".
Rachel has been to visit a couple in Hampshire
to whom the word "hostaholic" really doesn't do sufficient justice.
Wow, this is unlike any garden I've ever been to before.
It's so lush, there's so much foliage,
It's absolutely extraordinary.
There's only just room to walk through.
I do feel like I've stepped into another world.
This incredible collection, christened "the hanging hostas of Hampshire",
is the creation of June Colley and her partner John. When did you first get hooked on hostas?
I started growing hostas in 1995.
I was looking for a perennial for the shade.
I saw this at a car-boot sale and it grew very well in my backyard.
Then I started to look for other hostas in the local nursery.
So now I have about 1,300 varieties.
They've gone up the walls of the house
and vertically into the trees and made pagodas with the hostas.
It's often said that hosta people are "hostaholics".
We can always find ways to find room for a few more.
The garden is divided into different spaces.
There's an artificial
but very convincing stream running through lush, naturalistic planting.
Contrasting with this is the cool formality of the Islamic garden.
There are variegated hostas, blues, yellows and miniatures.
And all expertly arranged.
Do you both tend to agree about what goes where, how you arrange things?
No, I'm the one who decides where they should go.
Quite right, there's got to be a boss in the garden.
-That's certainly true.
-I always look for the colours, the size and shape.
June's very creative and she can set out the hostas and arrange them.
That's why we have them in pots,
because she can move them about for a pleasing display.
It's amazing. Wherever you look there are hostas.
Just growing them up here in the pots on the wall, that's fantastic.
Well, it's a custom in the Tropics to hang plants
and also, at this level, you can appreciate the foliage even more.
So what would you describe as the ideal growing conditions for hostas?
-What do they really need to thrive?
They like to have maybe four hours of sun.
We use potting compost, humus.
We use grit to give the roots the best chance of growing.
And we feed the plant with slow-release fertiliser
to give it a boost to grow roots in the autumn
and produce their shoots for the next year.
You can't sit here and not admire the fact that it's pristine.
The leaves are all beautiful, I can't see any holes,
any damage anywhere.
This is the million-dollar question.
What do you do about slugs and snails?
The most important thing is garden cleanliness.
In the autumn, we clear up all the debris
and that gets rid of a lot of eggs
which are likely to hatch in the spring.
And then, usually around February time,
we use the blue slug pellet
and we distribute that like seeds around the garden
and that kills off the first generation of slugs and snails
that may be emerging.
And then, when the leaves have emerged,
and the slugs and snails might be on the leaves,
we use a garlic spray.
It irritates their nervous system
and they go off into someone else's garden.
It doesn't kill them, but it does kill slug eggs in the soil.
John's recipe for garlic spray is as follows.
Crush one bulb of garlic and add it to a litre of water.
Boil it for five minutes
and, when it's cooled, sieve it, bottle it and put it in the fridge.
Then add one tablespoonful per litre of water and spray.
This garden is very deceptive but in the best way.
It's not a big garden, but it looks enormous.
That's because they've divided up the space so you don't see everything immediately.
You have to work your way through the paths and sometimes it's really quite narrow.
And then each space has a very individual feel.
It's beautiful. The best thing of all is, if this was the entirety of your garden,
this small space here, just look how beautiful it can be.
I've been increasing my stock of candelabra primulas.
I've lifted, divided and replanted a batch,
but I'm also going to propagate more from green seed.
Right, just water in the last of these primula divisions.
There we go. And now I'll go and sow the seed.
Whoops. Dropped my glasses. Always doing that.
OK, these seeds, being green, will germinate much quicker
than if they're left to dry.
And it's a fairly straightforward process. Take a small container.
I actually have a home-made mix which I use.
Leaf mould, a little bit of garden compost, some vermiculite,
but you can use any peat-free compost, but just thin it down.
It doesn't need a lot of nutrition because these will be pricked out
as soon as they're big enough to handle. Right. Here we go.
Now, we're so used to thinking of seed as this dry thing
that we harvest and we store and we dry out.
It's quite novel to go for green seed. There we are.
Now, we take that out and it looks like a little green raspberry.
And the paler parts, each one is a separate seed,
so if I gently break that apart...
..and just drop them on the surface of the compost,
that's all I need to do.
It is amazing to think that each one of these is going to make
a new plant.
Now, don't cover it, because primula seeds
are stimulated into germination by light.
If you're going to put these somewhere where it's windy
or you think it's going to be disturbed,
you could put a thin cover on your vermiculite, but best not.
Best to just leave it open.
And because the seeds are a bit sticky,
they're not dry at all or light, like dried seeds,
they should just stay put.
The next step is just to sit that in some water so the soil can get moist
and then put it somewhere where the air is moist.
An easy way of doing that is to put a sheet of glass over it.
So water it, then put glass over the top.
Light can get in, but moisture can't evaporate out.
Or, I've got a mist propagator, that's perfect.
Put it under there and then the air is kept moist all the time.
Failing that, use a polythene bag. But it must be clear.
You need light on those seeds.
And they should germinate in three to four weeks
and then we can prick 'em out.
Although the herbs are now in their heyday,
it is worth thinking about next year already.
Because if we have a winter like the last couple,
we're bound to lose herbs in the process,
particularly the Mediterranean ones like rosemary and sage and lavender.
I've got some lavender here. This is Lavandula stoechas,
which is really not very hardy at all. Although it's in pots
and can be taken in,
it's worth taking steps now to ensure I have plenty of back-up.
The best way to do that is from cuttings.
What I'm looking for are nice, straight, healthy stems
without any flower buds.
Now, if I took just the soft ends,
that would root very readily, but it would also die very fast.
However, if I take some older growth, wood that's grown this year
but has had a few months to harden off,
it'll die off much slower
and therefore have more time to produce roots,
so that's what I'm looking for. So, I'm going to cut back to there
and then I'll take another couple from this plant.
Right, now, the crucial thing if you're taking any cutting at all
is have a polythene bag in your pocket and put them straight in.
Because essentially those are dying
and by sealing them in a polythene bag, we're delaying their death,
which buys us time to prepare them so they can make roots.
As it is, I'm going to do that right now.
Right, this is just normal potting compost
and I've got some extra grit which I'm going to add into it.
You could take the cutting in pure grit if you had to,
so don't stint on it.
Wherever you have a heel,
which is a slither that attaches to another stem,
you tend to get much better rooting.
So it's a good idea to keep that.
Now, when we have a long cutting like this without a heel,
I'm going to cut that back.
Do you see here that there are leaves coming from there and there?
So if I just cut across there,
sharp knife, and then take a few more leaves out...
I always used to make my cuttings by just sticking them into the compost.
But actually, recently, I've been putting them
between the pot and the compost, and they take much better.
You just slide it down nearer to the pot like that.
And the reason for that is because they're kept a bit warmer
and the drainage is a bit sharper.
Now, Mediterranean shrubs don't want to be too wet.
Unlike some cuttings which need to be kept permanently wet,
these are fine if you put them in a bright,
but not glaringly bright, place.
A sort of shade for half the day is fine. And mist them.
Once, twice, three times a day if you remember.
But if they turn brown at the tips, that means they are too wet,
so dry them off a bit. And then when you see fresh, new growth,
you'll know they've got a root system
and you can pot them up individually and keep them over winter.
They won't grow a lot between now and next spring,
but once next spring comes, they'll grow away strongly
and you'll have half a dozen healthy, new plants.
Now, we've had quite a few e-mails, letters and pictures
about the problems of gardening on a slope.
This one's from Carmen Odell who says,
"I've got a very steeply-sloping garden
"and I've recently removed a tree." She sent pictures of this.
"I'm a single mum.
"I've got lots of enthusiasm, but not much time and money.
"I'd like to grow some veg, but not only have I got a sloping shape
"but awful soil and I greatly welcome some advice."
Another one, "Our garden has
"a north-sloping, exposed windy site with clay soil."
This can all be a bit daunting. I do know that.
But Carol has been to visit a very steep garden
that is just packed full of ideas and inspiration.
This is the pretty Welsh village of Drefelin,
nestled deep in a landscape more suited to four legs than two.
But, for some people, their desire to garden knows no bounds.
Steve Harwood lives here with his young family,
and over the last seven years,
he's transformed an almost vertical slice of Welsh hillside
into a plant-rich and family-friendly garden.
Most people would just take one look at this
and head in the opposite direction.
You'd turn round and you'd say, "No! How can that possibly garden?"
-What did you think when you got here?
-We scrambled up to the garden.
-Right. Right up to the top?
-Yeah. We saw the vista,
just so excited and we started bouncing up and down on the spot.
I just fell in love with the whole atmosphere of the place.
The views, the river at the bottom of the hill...
It's just such a peaceful place
and I didn't consider really the issues of a hill garden.
It looks wonderful, though. It looks so inviting, you know?
I just want to climb up in there.
-Can we have a look?
-Yeah, of course we can.
The actual landscaping must have been pretty hard work, wasn't it?
The hard landscaping was just real hard slog for the first three years.
It takes you time to get access,
so as you are working your way up the garden,
you form ideas in your head about what you're going to do
in that area once you've got to it.
If you try to take on a hill garden and think,
"I'm going to try and do it all at once,"
it would just be so overwhelming.
If you tackle it in small projects at a time,
it just becomes so much easier.
Yeah. Well, you're certainly succeeding, aren't you?
And everywhere you walk, you've got these new vistas, these little ways through.
And it leads you on, doesn't it, right up the slope.
Up we come.
Once you'd got access and made your steps,
you started to create these terraces.
So how did you do it? Pickaxe, yeah?
Pickaxe and shovel. I dug all the soil on this side,
moved it across to this side to level it.
So that triangle there went over to the other side.
You've created a level and got rid of all the soil at the same time.
You don't have to carry it down the slope or up it or anything, it's just to the other side.
Obviously, all the stone I dig out goes into walls and rockeries.
You've got to reuse and recycle these days.
That's what you call local materials, isn't it?
There are seven terraces in all. No mean feat.
And the clever thing about them is the way they've been planted.
Each one has its own character.
Even though this is a south-facing slope,
by adding shrubs and smaller trees and vertical structures,
Steve's created a range of growing conditions.
From hot, sunny spots, perfect for growing vegetables,
to both damp and even dry shade.
Everywhere you look there are these secret little places, aren't there?
-This is so pretty.
-Yeah, this is my rose walk.
Not many people would have it on the level with the roof.
-What came first, the veranda?
-Yeah, the veranda came first.
And I bet you can smell these roses from the veranda.
The scent of some of these roses is just amazing.
A really brilliant use of a bit of difficult space. Well done.
Plenty of ideas, eh?
At every stage, you've got a different view.
-You'd never get that in a flat garden.
And on each area of the garden, I've put seats so you can actually enjoy that view.
I'm trying to encourage this area to be a glade
and plant lots of nectar-loving plants in this particular area
to get the butterflies in and the bees.
And you're succeeding, too.
Right at the top of the garden,
Steve has made use of existing trees to create a shady woodland.
I've planted a couple of trees at the front edge to enclose it a bit more.
It is more protected now for the Acers, which don't like to be in the strong winds.
Having a young family means this garden isn't just about plants.
I'll tell you what though, they're not going to be able to play football up here, are they?!
It's not a garden for football, it's not a garden for cricket.
It's a garden for using your imagination
and making up games and hiding.
The way Steve's risen to the challenge is truly inspiring.
I've put the tree-house in.
The kids, as they get older, they can go up there with their friends and have sleepovers.
I've got a few more ideas that I want to do up there.
I'm summer-pruning these pears. It's a job that I do every year,
any time from midsummer to the middle of August.
And it's very simple.
But I know that some people feel very anxious about pruning.
It comes with all kinds of problems
of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
In fact, we've had a couple of e-mails, which I've got here,
on exactly that subject.
One is from Doreen Hamilton. And another from Beryl Woolesden.
You've got a gift of two pear trees, four apple trees and a plum tree.
"My dilemma is, they're coming up to their first summer pruning
"and I'm very unsure what to do, as I don't wish to damage the trees."
And it's a refrain I often hear.
"I don't want to harm trees that are growing perfectly well,
"yet I do want to prune them."
So the first thing to sort out is that apples and pears
have a very different regime from plums and gages.
The basic rule of plums and gages is, don't prune unless you have to.
However, for apples and pears,
what we tend to do is prune in summer for training and restricting.
I've done this dozens of times, so I'm doing it with complete confidence.
I know what I'm doing and I know that it's very easy.
But if it's your first time and you're feeling a bit daunted,
just take it steady. Go slowly.
Take a piece of new growth like that and you can see it's new
cos you can bend it around.
Follow it back down to old growth, and the old growth,
that's two years old and that's one year old and that's this year.
Then come back up the new growth and leave two, three,
even four leaves.
Now, obviously the anxiety is cutting off a fruiting spur,
especially if you're not quite sure what it should look like.
We've got some examples here. You can see there's one,
the fruit coming off.
If you follow this branch along, it's encrusted with lichen.
Good and old and probably riddled with canker.
You've got a spur coming off it.
That wood there is two or three years old. That's probably three, that's two.
And there's fruit on the end it.
This, that I've pruned back, is this year's.
And if I leave it,
that may well develop fruit next year or the year after.
Now, I'm going to pootle along and do this nice and slowly.
But even if you don't have fruit trees at home,
here are some jobs that you can get on with this weekend.
If you have a variegated tree or shrub, like this holly,
it's not at all uncommon to see strong, all-green shoots
at this time of year.
This is because they're reverting to the basic green that the plant has been bred from.
You should cut these off as soon as you see them
because they grow much stronger than the rest of the plant,
and if you're not careful, you can lose your variegation altogether.
It's time now to clear the first crop of beans and peas
to make room for future plants.
Lift them all, picking any pods you want to use for cooking,
and take the haulms to the compost heap.
These espaliers are all riddled with canker, and that's not good.
But it's never got desperate and I think one of the reasons is
that I prune them really hard every summer,
so they're constantly exposed to light and air
and the fungus never gets a chance to develop.
Anyway, I shan't take them out. They'll see me out.
And it's the end of tonight's programme,
but we'll be back next week
for a 60-minute programme starting at 8pm.
so join me at Longmeadow then. Bye-bye.
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