In this Christmas special, Monty Don and the team celebrate the festive season from a gardener's point of view. Pam Ayres shows how she encourages wildlife into her garden.
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# Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
# Jack Frost nipping at your nose
# Although it's been said
# Many times, many ways
# Merry Christmas
# To you. #
Hello. Welcome to a Christmas Gardeners' World.
Although the days are short and the weather sometimes truculent at this time of year,
there is lots to do, both putting the garden to bed for the winter
and also making sure that it's poised to begin next growing season
at its very best.
'And for the first time this year,
'Joe and Rachel will join me at Longmeadow,
'to give me a hand with some seasonal work.'
'Carol will be coming along, too, a little later, but first,
'she takes a winter walk at Dunham Massey in Cheshire.'
A brisk walk in a beautiful garden can be invigorating
and also fill your mind with all kinds of ideas for your own garden.
And, as a Christmas treat, we're getting tips and advice
about making our gardens more wildlife-friendly
from poet and national treasure Pam Ayres.
Whether our gardens are large or small,
we do tend to share them with a lot of critters of all different types.
So that became my great interest, to not just have nice flowers,
but to have interesting things sitting on them.
'Rachel will also find out how to create beautiful Christmas decorations,
'simply by gathering seed heads, berries and evergreens from the garden.'
And we'll all be looking back over our gardening year
and picking out our favourite moments.
-Here you go.
-I have been longing to see the Jewel Garden for years.
The truth is you've come at about the worst time, I have to say.
I don't know. I still think it still looks good.
-You've cleared a lot on this side.
-Actually, these three quarters have been cleared back
pretty much as much as we'd expect to at this time of year
-and we haven't started this side yet.
-So is this something I can help you with?
-I'm rather hoping you would.
I think it's a question of just getting stuck in.
-You can see what we're getting back to.
-What do you want to lose? Presumably the annuals?
The annuals. If you start with those Cosmos. One of the first things I always do
when clearing a border is take the annuals out, the tender annuals.
We've got Cosmos, Tithonias, and they can be pulled up.
They've done their stuff. That's it, that's over and can be chucked to one side.
I'm just coming through now to a lovely clump of the Heleniums.
This is obviously a perennial, which means the top growth is going to die down, anyway.
Now, some of them, if they're slightly borderline tender,
you might want to leave the top growth in through the worst of the winter
and then cut it back in very early spring.
And that will give extra protection to the roots.
Just help nurse it through.
This is one of those wonderful blue Salvia guaranitica.
What I'm going to do, because it's not hardy, is to cut it right back
so it's easier to dig up.
All that top growth off and we can dig it up
and keep it in a pot somewhere frost-free over the winter.
The key thing about this process is not to be daunted by it.
If you're in doubt, cut back, but don't rip out,
because roots will produce a new plant in a herbaceous perennial, although they won't on an annual.
And enjoy it - this is all part of the process of making a border work for you.
'As well as clearing away old growth, it's now a good time to mulch.'
'I like to use garden compost as this not only suppresses weeds
'and retains moisture, but also returns valuable nutrients to the soil.'
-Right. It's Christmas time, I've bought you a present.
-Ah, bonus. Fantastic stuff.
Look at that. I have to say mulching is one of those satisfying jobs to do,
because you know that it's working on so many levels.
The main thing to remember is always to mulch on top of moist soil.
Don't do it when it's very dry, because all it does is lock in that dryness.
It's very hard for it to get wet afterwards.
So you're just spreading it around.
It'll improve the structure of the soil, as well,
once it goes in, and it's a fantastic weed suppressant.
Very hard for those weed seedlings to get going,
for the seeds to germinate.
When you come up to a shrub, or a tree,
just leave a little bit of space.
You can see round there the base of this holly.
I won't take it right up to here.
Just want to make sure there's no rotting right around the stem.
And you want to aim for about three inches in depth.
That would make a really good insulating blanket, as well, for bulbs.
But if you can't get the full three inches, anything is better than nothing.
And if you haven't got lots of garden compost,
there are alternatives.
You can use coco shell, there's straw,
so lots of other ideas are on the website.
One of the things I do like is the way everything we're cutting back
goes on the compost heap and that gets used to go back in the soil.
So a lot of this started life growing in these borders.
It is, it's fantastic, that cycle.
Talking of cycle, this is something we don't normally do around Christmas time.
We normally leave it to late winter, February,
as soon as we can get on the ground in February.
It's only because we planted tulips that we've done it early.
It's such a personal thing, when you do this and how much you cut back,
because if you cut back too much, it can be detrimental for wildlife
and somebody who is passionate about gardening for wildlife,
and they need all the help they can around Christmas,
is the poet - and I think a national treasure, I've loved her since I was a child - it's Pam Ayres.
I suppose most people would know me for what I've written,
for my poems and verses,
but I've actually got another important interest.
And that is in gardening for wildlife.
Of course, I love my big, beautiful garden, but everybody's garden,
whether it's large or small, will have a large quantity of critters of all different types in it.
It seemed to me, after we came here in 1987,
that it was a nice thing to plant a flower.
But how much nicer if it was a flower that attracted a bumblebee
or a moth, or a beautiful butterfly,
or that fed the birds with its seeds?
So that became my great interest, really, to not just have nice flowers,
but to have interesting things sitting on them.
One of my harmless pastimes when I'm clearing up the winter garden
is I like to make little bug abodes.
I've just cut down a polythene bottle.
I've left the end entire, but I've cut off the bottle top.
I've just packed it with hollow stems and I've got them from things like hogweed,
daylily, cow parsley, dock leaves,
bits of bark.
Here's a bit of sow thistle growing up through my bay tree.
That would do fine. It's completely hollow.
I just pack it with little hollow stems like that.
And the great thing is, if you attract insects into your garden,
you will attract birds, because one feeds on the other. See?
I'm just going to pop this down into some little comfy, dry corner
and I'm sure that lots a very small persons will be pleased to find it there!
One thing I really like about my garden
is that whenever anyone comes to visit they always say,
"What a lovely lavender walk."
Actually, it's not lavender, it's Napeta,
otherwise known as 'Catmint'.
Which in my opinion is a much better bet than lavender.
I like lavender, but it gets very woody.
It ages very quickly, it seems to me, whereas this has got a long season.
Like lavender, it's a good attractant for insects
and when the flowers are finished blooming you just go over it with the shears
and it all comes up again in these lovely pale green cushions and the leaves smell lovely and herby
and it blooms all over again. so it's got a nice, long season.
In my opinion, it knocks spots off lavender.
On many a flower shrub and tree
Food for birds grows naturally
On the Pyracantha, say
As autumn shortens each new day
See the show of berries start The red and green to lift the heart
Then, when we have admired the spot Blackbirds come and scoff the lot.
That's my Pyracantha anthem and I wrote it
because I'm very, very fond of this shrub here.
The Pyracantha or 'Firethorn'.
I like it because it's cheap and cheerful.
You can get it in all the garden centres.
It doesn't mind a north wall. as it is here,
and it's such good value,
because you get lots of lovely, white, creamy flowers in the spring
and lots of bees and interesting insects on that.
Then, in the autumn, you get this fabulous show.
This fabulous red and green contrast.
One of the things we can all do in our gardens is put up a nest box for the birds.
Now, this is an oak tree, and I have read recently that blue tits like to nest in oak trees,
so I'm going to put this nest box up in this tree.
This is a really good nest box. It's made of concrete and wood shavings.
The concrete makes it hard, so predators and woodpeckers
cannot get into it, they can't penetrate it.
And the sawdust makes it cosy and warm for the baby birds.
And I've got lots of these.
I always ask for Father Christmas to bring me one. So up I go.
And, of course, the important thing about putting up a nest box
is the direction which it faces.
You mustn't put it so that it's facing south, so the hole is facing south,
because when there's a brood of babies in there and the sun is on it, they will just cook.
And, also, consider the prevailing wind.
If there's a direction that the rain always comes from,
face it away from that,
so that there's not rain washing into the babies.
And I'm just going to hang it on that sturdy hook.
I don't want it to wobble about. If I leave it like that it's going to wobble.
So I've got some wire and the wire is threaded through a plastic pipe,
so that it won't bite into the tree.
It won't be one of those horrible things where you see the wire actually absorbed into the bark.
So I'm just going to secure it with this piece of wire
and I don't see any reason why lots of happy, healthy blue tits
shouldn't hatch out and give me years of pleasure.
The thing is, just these tiny things that I do, they're only small, like keep the bird bath clean
and plant a vine or make a little bug house, or plant a Pyracantha,
but I do believe that all creatures are important and precious
and I think there should be room for all of us.
So I think if everybody tried to do a little bit for them,
it would amount to a very great deal.
There are more tips and advice
on caring for the wildlife in your garden on our website:
I'm digging up my rhubarb.
Now, there is some method in this,
because this particular rhubarb
has been here since 1993.
And I have done nothing other than mulch it every year.
And until about two years ago it didn't need anything.
It was producing really good stems
for that wonderful stewed rhubarb,
rhubarb pie, rhubarb crumble,
and it quite happily reappeared every year.
But the last couple of years, the pickings have been slim.
And this year it's been really bad.
I'm going to refresh it by digging up the roots,
cutting out the old portion,
and replanting vigorous new sections
to give it a new burst of life.
This is a variety called Timperley Early.
Which is very good, highly recommended.
One of the fascinating things about rhubarb
is that until the early 19th century
no-one thought of eating the stems.
Everyone grew it simply as medicine.
And they powdered the roots.
It was a purgative.
And then it was one man in the 1820s and '30s
who tried to get people attracted to eating these delicious stems
and the way he did it was by making pies and selling the pies.
Of course, people like pies.
So they ate it, and said, "Oh, what's that? That's delicious!"
It was rhubarb.
And the Victorians took to it,
then started to breed varieties,
and never really looked back, since.
And it's become a national favourite. There she goes.
OK, let's have a look at this piece here.
You can see that's a substantial affair.
Like any herbaceous plant, it grows outwards.
And the new growth is vigorous.
The old growth produces much less stems, foliage, or flowers.
So what we want to do is keep the new
and discard the old.
If I just divide that up, like that,
a piece there, that just breaks up.
Now, that I'll keep.
Now I can go through the whole thing.
Here we have stems. That's breaking itself up.
That's clearly a nice small piece.
And this, that old root, can go.
So if I cut that back...
And by cutting it up and replanting it
you are provoking it into new vigour.
You are giving it a new lease of life.
Now, I've got three nicely chopped up bits of root
with good healthy big buds on it,
they need lots of space, lots of moisture,
and lots of food to do their best.
You simply make a hole and put that in
so the bud is above the ground.
Sticking proud, and there it goes.
Now, obviously, if you don't have rhubarb in the first place,
you can't divide it up to make new plants, you have to buy them.
There are lots of different varieties you can get.
I've got one here which is called Hawke's Champagne.
And you can see, that's how you buy it.
It looks like an unlikely candidate
to give you that wonderful rosy fresh growth
in February, March and April.
But it will.
And I've got another variety here which is called Victoria.
And this was bred to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria herself.
This bed here I won't pick next year.
I'll just let it grow and then the leaves will feed back into the roots,
we'll get a really good, vigorous roots system,
and then in the second year we can start to harvest.
At this time of year most gardens are closed to the public.
But there are some still open.
Carol has been to Dunham Massey, in Cheshire,
which not only is open,
but prides itself on looking really good at this time of year.
It can be tempting, on a cold winter's morning,
just to hibernate, to cuddle up indoors.
But a brisk walk in a beautiful garden
can be both invigorating and also fill your mind
with all kinds of ideas for your own garden.
Nestling in the fertile pasturelands of the Cheshire countryside
is this moated magnificence.
Within its 300 acres of parkland
there are 30 acres of gardens
which, since 1976, have been looked after by the National Trust.
The whole place is full of magnificent plants,
shrubs and trees.
But perhaps the most iconic at this time of year
is the holly.
And there are some magnificent hollies here.
It was a hugely important tree to our forebears,
signifying that winter would not last forever,
and that life went on through those darkest days.
Of course, you can't have holly without having ivy too.
They're the two most important plants of this time of year.
There are still wasps and flies feasting here.
But they'll be followed by juicy blackberries.
Luscious food for all manner of birds.
It's not just holly and ivy that celebrate the winter
here at Dunham Massey.
Around every corner there are all sorts of amazing surprises.
Look at this Cardiocrinum giganteum.
This is a giant Himalayan lily,
the biggest member of its family.
It takes a full seven years
to come from seed into flower.
And I've seen it before with a couple of these seed heads
here and there,
but never like this.
It's a positive thicket.
It's easy to assume that in a property like this
the necessity to maintain the rich heritage of this place
might stifle new ideas and developments.
But not a bit of it.
Here at Dunham Massey in this old area of parkland
a new winter garden has been born.
The project began in 2007.
The Trust worked with renowned plantsman Roy Lancaster to draw up a plan.
Four years on, and at Seven Acres,
it's said to be the largest winter garden
in the whole of the UK.
This is such a fine example of group planting,
using the same plants over and over again
to establish this wonderful rhythm and fabulous integrity.
Here, Betula utilis 'Doorenbos',
with this wonderful white bark, is used.
On this side of the path, the single stems.
On the other, it's multi-stemmed, growing from the base.
And these lovely white trunks
contrast with the great oaks above,
and the lovely crimson-barked Cornus underneath.
It's the kind of thing
that happens in every garden.
You want all these different layers.
This has to be one of the lushest combinations I've ever seen.
The purple berries of this Callicarpa
gathered together in tight bunches,
contrasted against this soft, butter-yellow foliage
of the Cornus 'Midwinter Fire'.
And what's more, once these leaves fall to the ground
they'll reveal orange, flame-coloured twigs,
and with a bit of luck
the purple berries of the Callicarpa
will still be there.
The birds will feast on them last.
The area underneath trees is often problematic.
Especially such big trees as this huge beech.
The shade during the summer,
and all the year round these roots drain all the moisture out
and impoverish the soil.
But how about this for a wonderful solution?
And both its flowers and foliage
combine beautifully with these beech leaves.
And it's growing in just the right place.
This is how it naturally occurs where it comes from. Perfect.
Most of our gardens are a fraction of this size.
But there are a couple of inspiring planting ideas here
that will enhance any garden through the winter time.
Unusually, for a herbaceous plant,
our native Iris foetidissima
has seed pods that burst to reveal glossy orange berries,
often standing right through to the spring.
Evergreens are a vital part of the winter scene.
And the glossy foliage of Sarcococca 'Christmas Box'
enhance any planting.
But its true glory is revealed
when its buds open to tiny flowers,
exuding enchanting perfume that fills the whole garden.
There are many winter gardens and walks
to be had around the country, right now.
For more suggestions, go to our website:
-Ah! At last, eh?
-You can come and do some spreading!
-Nice to see you!
-Nice to see your garden for the first time.
It's really interesting, seeing it.
Interesting is one of those words that covers a multitude of sins!
No! No! No! It draws you round.
It really does lead you round in different directions.
It's hard to get, unless you're actually here. To get the layout.
Yeah, the geography of it.
Just think of an open field, broken up into bits,
or runways, gangways here.
-But they work. They draw you through.
-That's the idea.
-It reveals itself slowly.
-That's the plan.
We've been busy.
Rachel's BEING busy.
-I'm getting it done.
Now you're here, I've allocated a job. When Joe comes,
this is going to happen.
You're happy to continue your work?
I'm perfectly happy. I'm enjoying this.
-All right. Before you get too comfortable, come with me.
-OK! I'm dreading this now!
What do you fancy?
Just a conventional spade.
There we go.
This is the spring garden.
And I've got a holly that I want to move, but it's a two-man job.
Here it is.
I planted it as part of the hedging,
it was just a loose holly, part of a job lot I bought. But it did have
a nice stem, and over the last few years I've been cutting off the lower branches
-and clipping the top vaguely.
-Nice shape, isn't it?
-The idea being to get a lollipop, but I think it'd look great in a pot.
-You don't like it where it is?
-But now you're here, we can do it!
-OK. I'll get round this side.
It's the perfect time of year to do this,
because the soil is moist and the plant is dormant,
so you can do this any time through the winter,
as long as it's not frozen solid.
But the first thing we're doing is digging a trench
all the way round the root ball. It's a way of root-pruning it
and getting the root to a manageable size
so we can actually lift it and put it into a pot.
The better we look after the roots when we're extracting it, the better it will transplant.
# Have a holly jolly Christmas
# It's the best time of the year... #
I'm glad to see you're sweating away as well, cos I certainly am!
-It's very mild for this time of year, isn't it?
It's not the hard work or the unfitness, it's the weather.
# By golly, have a holly jolly Christmas this year. #
A nice, compact mass of roots, neatly cut all the way round
and underneath, is going to give the plant a fighting chance.
Oh, yeah, go on.
-If you do that...
-That's almost it, Monty.
-I'll lean it this way.
-I think that's almost there.
-There you go.
-Beautiful, isn't it?
Let's have a look. See, that's good, isn't it?
-Really nice root ball, lots of fibrous roots.
-We've got to get it into there.
Is it going to stay in that pot forever, is that the idea?
No, that's just to hold it until I find
a nice pot, then we can make a feature out of it.
My concerns are, we've got a nice root ball, we'd have to trim it back even further,
put it under more stress. With that lovely root ball, you don't want to lose it.
Um...OK, plan B.
If you find yourself, as we have here, with a really good root ball
on something that's been a lot of work to take out
and you value highly, there's no reason why you can't heel it in.
Put it somewhere - in a vegetable plot if need be -
until you find the right container, rather than destroy the root ball
just to fit a pot that you happen to have. And anyway,
that plastic pot is worth a fiftieth of what the plant's worth, isn't it?
-One, two, three, go!
-Lovely job. Now, I've got bad news for you.
It's got a flat tyre? No! Oh, no!
-It should be all right, it's got a bit of air in it. You got it?
It's not going to go through the gap in the hedge!
Now, obviously... Normally, if you're moving a tree,
you prepare the hole you're moving to before you even begin to dig it up.
But because we thought it was going in a pot, we haven't done that. So, more digging!
There we go.
And what will happen is, the roots, because they've been pruned,
will grow a fibrous extension, they won't grow out as they were before.
That's really good news. In fact, all nurseries do this to trees that they're selling -
root-prune them, dig them up and move them, get a nice, compact root ball as a result.
So this will do no harm at all to making it suitable for planting
into a container, when I get the container.
If I hold that, will you fill round it?
# Have a holly jolly Christmas
# It's the best time of the year
# I don't know if there'll be snow, but have yourself a cheer... #
Now, normally, you would prune evergreens in spring.
But because we've taken so much off its roots and it's pretty stressed out,
I'm reducing its top growth to balance out with the root ball.
Also, I'm starting to shape it up, because Monty's looking for a lovely lollipop shape.
Of course, all these trimmings that I've got
won't be wasted at this time of year,
they'll go into some lovely Christmas decorations.
But when I think of Christmas, I always think of a nice glass of wine.
But I never knew there was a guy just round the corner from me who was making his own.
I live in Hackney, east London,
not a wine region that immediately springs to mind.
Now, I know this allotment,
but I've never known that there was a mini-vineyard in here.
It's my little vineyard in the city.
And it's harvest day today.
I've got my secateurs, I'm here to help.
I've heard that if I help, I may get to taste the wine. Any chance?
There's a chance. If you work hard enough!
Even though our climate is relatively cool,
if you pick the right spot, your vines can flourish.
You can grow a pretty reliable crop from year to year and make wine.
Especially down here in the south-east of England.
It helps to pick a spot where you've got sunlight for most of the day.
Where the ground is semi-fertile.
The leaner the soil, the better the grape seems to grow.
It helps to have the sun fall on both sides of the line.
If you have a north-south orientation of your rows,
then you will have sun on both sides of the vine.
They're pretty good on most soils as well?
Yeah, they will grow in most soils as long as it's not too acidic.
Marko makes both red and white wines
from his Regent, Madeleine Angevine, Kuibyshevky and Pinot Noir grapes.
If you're thinking of planting vines yourself, be patient.
They can take up to three years to produce grapes for making wine.
The right time to harvest them is down to how sweet they are.
To see whether the grapes are ready to pick, we measure the sugar content.
-I have a little instrument called a refractometer.
-Oh, a gizmo!
I love little gizmos.
We just drop a little bit of juice onto the surface,
close it, and you take a look through there
and tell me what you see.
I see 15 dead. Right bang in the middle. Is that good?
That's good. That's 15% of sugar by volume in the berry,
which will give us 7.5% alcohol.
That's not that strong.
Can you boost it up a little bit?
I can. I can add sugar and raise it to 10%, 11%, 11.5%.
-Can I try one?
Delicious. Really sweet.
What grapes do best in our climate? Not particular varieties, more their characteristics.
First of all, we're looking for early-ripening grapes.
Those that'll ripen in September, the beginning of October.
Secondly, grapes that have open bunches like these Kuibyshevky
where the air can flow in-between the berries. It makes them less susceptible to disease.
-What about pruning?
-In winter, I cut the vine back pretty hard.
I pass through the vineyard during the summertime regularly
and I will do three or four prunings during the summer season.
When the actual bunches of grapes are formed, is the idea to try and let as much sunshine onto them as possible?
They do need some sunlight, but they also need shelter
because it will rain in the summertime so you leave the leaves on the vine overhead,
both against the rain and against birds.
That's a pretty serious harvest.
Yes, it's the best harvest I've had with the Madeleine Angevine.
What's the next stage with them?
We'll get them back to my place and we crush them.
There's not room enough for both of us in there.
Are you in? Yeah! I bet it feels good, yeah?
It feels great. Feet are the best things for crushing grapes
because they won't break the pips, which are bitter inside.
'Then Marko adds a mix of fermenting grapes to get the fermentation going.
'In two weeks, the grapes will be ready for filtering and bottling.
'That leaves just one job left to do - taste some of Hackney's finest.'
Let's try it.
That's really nice.
What a great day. Thank you very much.
-It's been a pleasure.
I've always wanted to plant a small vineyard.
I never really thought I would have room, but that inspires me.
Watch this space, maybe next year we'll get some wines in. In fact,
now and up till the end of winter is a good time to plant any fruit,
whether it's a vine, a pear, a raspberry or whatever you like.
I'm going to plant another apple in my orchard.
Giving an apple tree is a brilliant Christmas present.
There are hundreds of varieties to choose from.
It can be a bit of a minefield - where do you begin?
How do you select out what's most appropriate,
either for yourself or as a present?
One of the ways is go and visit an orchard.
Even if it's got no fruit on, you can see the trees in their full magnificence.
We went down to Cornwall to Tresillian House
where John Harris, the head gardener, presides over a wonderful orchard
full of heritage varieties.
The question I get asked so many times is
what defines a heritage variety?
A heritage variety is something that has stood the test of time.
Everything in this orchard, 80-odd varieties,
all grown on their own rootstock.
Some already 14-15 foot high,
some no more than five or six foot.
The natural characteristics coming out
in every different variety we've got here.
It's not been grafted like your new ones now.
Every county throughout the country
have got their own local heritage varieties.
Here in Cornwall, most of them,
the biggest percentage, were grown to withstand the salt winds.
This little chap here, this is Tommy Knight.
Now, Tommy Knight was a miner back in the end of the 1700s.
Every time he got paid, Tommy would visit the local drinking house.
Tommy got home, his poor wife never had any money left.
And one night, she was so fed up with Tommy,
she kicked him out and he went up the end of the garden.
Tommy had this tree growing in his garden, but it had never had a name.
Next morning, she found her dearly beloved dead under the tree.
It was given the name Tommy Knight.
It's stood the test of time for over 200 years.
That makes it a heritage variety.
Here we have a wonderful apple, Cornish Gilliflower.
It is one of the finest apples you'll have for Christmas.
It's the apple of the aristocracy.
It's not the sort of apple that the working man would've had back then.
Only the aristocracy would have had eating apples on the table.
The working man, bless his heart, had to be content
with a general-purpose apple
that would have made him, the most important thing, a jug of cider,
apple pie or apple crumble or even a Cornish apple pasty.
Now, the secret of picking them
is to just come off in your fingers like that.
No more of this here tugging and pulling and twisting.
They're not ready. Let's see what the taste is like.
Oh, that is beautiful.
It's got a lovely, sort of crunchy,
juicy, almost tingeing on a pineapple.
But to think in a month or six weeks' time, what's good now
is going to be even better.
It's absolutely lovely, this one is.
The most important thing to keep heritage apples alive
is to propagate cuttings -
heel cuttings off your own tree - and this is the way I do it here.
I take a nice clean pair of secateurs
and a nice clean cut like that. Lovely clean cut.
There's no foliage left on
because you never take cuttings while the foliage is on.
Just nip off the leader tips
so you've got a cutting about 15 inches long.
That will be inserted 50% into the ground and 50% out.
Do not force that into the ground
because of damaging where you've taken the cutting.
As you ease the spade back,
you gently slide that down beside the blade, then take the spade out
and firm it with your foot.
That now will be in the ground, and in 12 months' time
that cutting will be rooted and you can lift it up
with a fork gently and give it to somebody.
You will then be passing on a wonderful heritage apple tree
for future generations to inherit.
I don't know about you,
but that makes me want to plant a heritage apple.
I've got one here called Pitmaston Pine Apple which is both old -
it was developed in the 1780s - and also local.
It comes from just south of Hereford.
I've dug a wide hole, but not very deep.
Just give the roots plenty of room to move out in
but don't dig a great big trench.
Just the depth of a spade.
When you've taken it out,
don't dig it over, but just loosen the soil
so that the roots can find their way down.
For that reason,
we don't add any manure or compost to the planting hole.
All that will do is encourage the roots to stay within
the confines of the hole you've dug.
Now, this is a bare root tree.
They arrive packed
but, as you see, the roots are bare, they're not in a pot.
This means that the root system tends to be more open.
They're cheaper, you get more choice, and they tend to grow better too.
I like buying them whenever I can.
However, it is important to keep them covered.
When they arrive, put them in a bucket of water, give them a soak
and, if you can't plant them straight away, heel them in.
Put them in a bit of ground - anywhere - so they're covered up.
This has got a root stock.
That's that bit there.
And then the variety is on top.
The Pitmaston Pine Apple is this section.
That determines how big it grows.
It could be a standard like this one will be,
and all the trees in the orchard are, or it could be an espalier.
It is important to stake any tree you plant for the first three years.
After three years, you need to remove that stake and let them establish.
The planting height is important.
The graft must be a couple of inches above the surface of the ground.
If that goes below,
that'll sucker, and it'll be the variety of the graft,
not the variety of the top.
What I'm doing is just getting the soil around the roots.
At this stage, gently but firmly
heel it in...with my shoes. Firm it in really well.
Whatever the time of year and whatever the weather, I'm going to give it a really good soak.
I'll just tie that up first.
Good tie, so that can move around - that will help develop the roots - but it can't move far.
Last job is to mulch it.
I'm using garden compost which will give it extra nourishment.
But to be honest, anything will do
because the main purpose of a mulch for a young growing tree is to suppress competition.
Nothing limits its growth more than grass right up around it.
Or weeds of any kind.
You may not have an apple tree this Christmas,
but I bet you have a Christmas tree.
For all of us, there are two key questions.
Which type do we choose?
And how do we get that to look as good as possible,
not just over Christmas, but right through to Twelfth Night?
We went to see Andrew Ingram,
who is Christmas tree grower of the year, to get his advice.
People get a great deal of pleasure from a real tree.
It has a natural scent,
it has a good shape, not necessarily absolutely symmetrical.
It's just the real thing. That's what we want.
This is a Nordmann fir planted in 1989.
This is the tree that is going to be standing outside 10 Downing Street.
The perfect tree is a combination of three things.
It's got to be the right shape, the correct shape, perfectly conical shape.
It's got to be the right density,
ie, not too thin, not too open, but not too heavy.
And the colour's got to be right. You don't want a sort of yellow tree.
It's got to be a vigorous green-blue colour.
This is the traditional English Christmas tree. It's a Norway spruce, it's a very beautiful tree.
We've been growing it in this country for something like 100 years as a commercial Christmas tree.
It is slightly spiky and can lose its needles.
But if you look after it it's a perfectly good tree.
It'll last you well into January.
This variety is a Nordmann Fir, or nordmanniana.
It's often referred to as the non-drop tree.
There is no such thing as a non-drop tree. It's a matter of degree.
It holds its needles better than the traditional spruces.
The needles are very soft, they're not spiky like the Norway spruce.
It's a very good tree.
This is a Serbian spruce, or Picea omorika,
and, as you can see, it's a very fine, very narrow tree.
It's got a lovely grey underside to the needles.
The other thing about it, it has cones.
These cones will normally hang on till well after Christmas.
So it combines everything that a fir tree should have.
A six-foot tree would probably be between 10 and 12 years old.
The first two to three years, all we want is the tree to grow naturally
and stay alive. We don't want to stress it in any way.
From then on, it will be worked on every year, at least once, perhaps twice.
This Nordmann Fir, if left to its own devices, would be up here somewhere.
If you see on this leader here, there are a certain number of buds.
If this leader had been allowed to grow there,
there would still be the same number of buds
and these would therefore be spread much more thinly up the stem
and we get a much thinner, poorer tree.
What we are trying to achieve is a tree...
evenly spaced, but with intermediates and plenty of bulk and body to it.
In order to achieve that, we put a growth regulant on the leader
at a critical time of the year, which stops it going at that point.
If you look very carefully, it's got five buds here.
The centre bud will go out a long way.
In order to stop that, we have got two or three ways of doing that.
We can bud rub, just literally nip that bud out.
Or we wait until that bud has started to grow in the spring
and we will then snap it. Literally, go round the tree snapping.
Or if it gets a little bit longer and it gets strong, we will use secateurs.
When you get your tree home, treat it like a cut flower.
Take off, if you can, half an inch off the base with a saw.
It is dehydration that causes a tree to drop its needles.
Nothing more nor less.
If you can keep the moisture inside a tree, it should hold its needles.
Take it home, stand it in a bucket of water.
Don't bring into the house any sooner than you really need.
If you just want to make sure you get a good tree, stand it in the garden
or put it in the garage, keep it cool and moist.
That's the key to keeping a tree. You can keep a tree almost indefinitely.
# I'm the happiest Christmas tree
# Ho-ho-ho, hee-hee-hee
# Someone came and they found me and took me home with them. #
We do everything we possibly can
to make it a beautiful tree for people to take home.
After that, it's up to them how they decorate it
and make this beautiful object that's going to make their Christmas.
# ..I'm the happiest Christmas tree Ho-ho-ho, hee-hee-hee
# Look how pretty they dressed me Oh, lucky, lucky me
# I got shiny bells that jingle
# And lights that tingle... #
-How are you getting on?
-Good, but it's a lot of ground to cover.
Come on, you're slowing down.
-I finally found a wheelbarrow without a puncture.
I know, they're a bit short supply.
-It's easier than digging that holly out. That nearly killed me.
-You did a good job.
-I'll get another barrowload.
Well, I think that's looking really good. Set up for next year.
There's still so much to see in this garden right now.
We've got these fantastic cardoons that Monty has left standing.
All the seedheads, the fennel...
These really are nature's treasures. They're perfect for cutting
and taking inside and decorating your home.
A few weeks ago, I went to Oxfordshire to meet Rachel Siegfried,
an organic cut-flower grower and florist, to get some tips
in the art of creating gorgeous Christmas decorations.
Lots of seedheads here.
What are you looking for ideally?
Something like these lily seedpods would be beautiful to use.
And then something quite light, like this,
or the papery seedheads of the nigella over there.
-Shall we cut a few things?
I feel like we need some colour.
We have got some berries in the orchard. Let's go and have a look.
These crab apples will be really useful.
They're lovely, aren't they? They look like rubies.
Yes, they're so shiny.
There is no comparison between that and something fake
that you've bought in a shop. Absolutely gorgeous.
And I think we've got some privet over here that can be used.
I can't think of a much nicer thing to do on a crisp winter day.
Yes! Especially when the sun's out.
It's not just the garden where buried treasure can be found.
The hedgerow too holds its bounty.
Old man's beard, we love using this.
You can either cut it in nice long lengths
which you can then weave through the wreath.
Or we can take off some of these shorter pieces and pop those in.
-Is this something you did as a child?
-Yes, it was.
It's a good memory for me.
When I was quite small, we used to always go out
and forage all our arrangements of holly and ivy and things like that.
I do this now with my children and they love it.
What else can we...?
-What about some ivy?
-That's a good idea. Another lovely native.
And this is great, a mature ivy with all the berries.
Yes, and it's really good to have something evergreen in the wreath.
That is definitely a picture in a basket.
-I'm dying to go back and make something.
-Yeah, let's go.
How are we going to turn this into a wreath? Where do we start?
We'll start with a wreath ring.
I just get them from any good garden centre.
We're going to moss it up. I've gathered a little bit of moss.
Just tear off some quite nice large pieces.
Something that size is a good start.
And you just wrap it around like that.
..with your wire like that, just start to drop it round,
nice and tight. Pull it as tight as you can.
How can you keep it looking nice and green?
A good thing to do is give it, perhaps, a soaking every week or so.
-How long would it last?
-I would hope this would give you a good month.
So now we've got our base.
Then you want to get a little bit of a purchase into the moss there.
Getting a good foundation to your wreath,
that's the bit that takes the time.
The next thing we want to do is choose our embellishments.
-All the lovely things we've been foraging.
I'm going to go for a red and white theme. Quite Christmassy.
The crab apples, I'm definitely going to be using some of those.
Oh, I must do this. Chinese lanterns.
They're real showstoppers, aren't they?
I'm going to start with this ivy.
Yours is more delicate, I think this is more chunky.
I feel the need for a little bit more white in mine.
To balance out the red.
When you use flowers like this, it's a part that you can keep refreshing.
The moment of truth. Where it all falls off.
Brilliant. I think I'm not going to put a bow on.
I think it might just work as it is.
Well, it's got so much on it already. It almost doesn't need it.
-They're not bad, are they?
-Not bad at all.
# Zat you, Santa Claus?
# Gifts I'm preparing
# For some Christmas sharing
# But I pause because
# Hanging my stocking
# I can hear knocking
# Zat you, Santa Claus?
# Sure is dark out... #
-There we are.
-A few more of these.
-These originally grew in the walled garden.
-They look very good.
They're Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'.
And, look, your holly prunings. Perfect.
-How are you? Nice to see you.
-Oh, she's warm.
-Nice to see you.
Good timing. The work is done, the fire is lit.
-I think we deserve a drink.
-I've brought some Hackney wine with me.
They're not two words you associate, really, Hackney and wine.
-No, but honestly it's pretty good.
-There we go.
-Thank you very much.
-This smoke's getting in my eyes.
Cheers. Sorry, love. Can't miss you out.
Here's to Christmas and here's to the end of an interesting year.
It's been fun. I've had a good time, there's no question about it.
I've enjoyed it. It's been difficult, but what were your highlights?
Oh, Marqueyssac in France in the Dordogne.
I was on holiday. I never get up that early on holiday.
-But the light was incredible. The topiary pieces...
-It was worth it.
It was a real wow factor garden.
Beautiful. You just... sat and watched!
I saw that and I thought, I've got to go and see that.
Then there was Ken from Bournemouth -
-the dahlia king.
-Those dahlias - every one perfect!
-And that passion.
-That passion, not to say obsession.
Exactly. Nothing in his garden apart from dahlias - that's an obsession.
What was the highlight of your year?
I think just the usual things. Growing stuff that's new,
that's different, that you haven't seen before
and trying lots and lots of new experiments.
There was one plant that grew in my garden,
seeded itself, and I just thought it was out of this world.
And it was an aquilegia. There it was, this big splendiferous plant.
-So I've saved some seed and I brought some.
Thank you, Carol. Fantastic.
-What about you?
-I've done... Definitely going to Wisley.
I've been to Wisley several times during this series
and it's fantastic. I've met experts in different areas,
I've been doing pruning and all sorts of things.
That has been great. Also, I would say going to Roy Strong's garden.
-What a treat!
-It really was. And it's so much about the man himself.
You really feel very strongly it's his garden.
I think, for me, the highlight of this year was going to Giverny.
It was just wonderful. It was fantastic!
And I also went to Kirstenbosch which was wonderful.
Two big highlights.
But, certainly for me, it's what we do at home -
sowing your dahlia seeds, growing plants that turn out to be smashing.
-Just doing it.
-It is just doing it.
Well, we have got no more time to do anything.
This programme or this year.
But we'll be back at the beginning of next March. So until then,
have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year. Bye-bye.
ALL: Happy Christmas.
Here's to Gardeners' World.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
It may be frosty outside but there's still plenty to be getting on with in the garden and fun to be had in the great outdoors. In this Gardeners' World Christmas Special, Monty Don, Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Rachel de Thame celebrate the festive season from a gardener's point of view.
At Longmeadow, Monty and Rachel have a good clear up, cutting back some plants but leaving others for winter structure and wildlife. He also rejuvenates his rhubarb patch and introduces a local Herefordshire heritage variety apple tree to his orchard. Monty also enlists Joe's help to move a holly tree that has outgrown its situation.
Out and about - Carol Klein discovers some of Britain's best winter walks; Rachel de Thame gets tips on how, with a bit of ingenuity, anyone can make beautiful Christmas decorations from their own garden; and Joe Swift visits an urban vineyard, in Hackney, East London to find out which grapes you can grow at home. As a special Christmas cracker, Pam Ayres, poet and gardener, shows us how she encourages wildlife into her garden and provides for seasonal visitors during the colder months.
As the programme draws to a close, Rachel, Joe, Carol and Monty gather round the brazier for a glass of wine and to reflect on a fabulous year's gardening and to toast Happy Christmas to one and all.