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Hello, welcome back to a new series of Gardeners' World.
I can feel spring flexing its muscles.
The garden is just beginning to come alive and the sun is shining.
Now, this year, I shall be mainly gardening here
in my own garden at Longmeadow.
As well as some regular visits to her own home,
Carol will be travelling the country, looking at plants
that originated abroad but that have made themselves at home here.
This week, she is celebrating the brightest
and purest display of the season.
The very first snowdrop you see announces that winter
is on its way out and spring is on its way in.
Joe begins this year with a four-week masterclass
on planting design.
Each week, he will be exploring a different style,
starting with the gentle romance of the cottage garden.
And Rachel is in Cambridge,
visiting one of the country's very best winter gardens.
When you come here, I mean, it always looks beautiful,
but you get this light and the whole place just fizzes.
The truth is, it's been a pretty difficult winter here at Longmeadow,
because it's been so wet,
and that, coupled with the rain we had in the summer,
meant that the ground has been absolutely saturated.
Floods have come and gone,
and yet this brown water lapping through the plants,
it leaves behind a sort of muddy smear on all the foliage,
it snowed, and the long and the short of it is, there have been
very few days when we could crack on with any real gardening.
But we did have a chance and the time to make some rose beds.
And now they are finished. I think they look fantastic.
More importantly, they will be really practical,
because they've got good, strong, deep sides, and that means,
if we do get another wet year, they will drain much better.
And hopefully, now we can grow vegetables that will have
more topsoil, they will warm up quicker and have better drainage.
So that's been exciting.
That looks really good and I intend to make some more later in spring.
There was one other job that we got done.
We've made a brand-new path. What's not to like about a path?
Always an exciting thing in any garden.
This one in particular is shaping up very nicely indeed.
It has been made in dribs and drabs across the winter,
on a dry day here and there.
Made out of brick, these are old bricks, a funny old mixture.
But it has so far got exactly the right feel, I'm very happy with it.
So I just want to finish it off.
Of course, you can make a path out of any material, it can be lovely
Yorkshire stone, concrete slabs, cobbles, bricks, whatever you like.
But the technique remains very much the same, whatever you use.
The first thing to do is dig out what amounts to a trench.
Underneath all the brick paths in this garden is a really good trench,
about two, sometimes three foot deep, backfilled with hardcore,
just to improve the drainage, take the water away.
On top of that, a layer of this.
This is scalpings.
This establishes a base layer that you get roughly level,
then you lay your material on top of it.
Bang that down, nice and firm.
Now, if you are making any path, there is one system
that I have used right across the garden that works well,
which is to establish the edges and then infill.
If you are making a straight path, you can do that using boards.
Put in and then infill with brick.
If it is curved, it is much more difficult.
To get the curve, cemented bricks, on edge,
in a mix of sand and cement, three to one.
Normally, put both sides down at once and then infill.
But I've got a funny old mixed bag of bricks - you can see,
just taking two at random here, they are different colours,
slightly different sizes and every single brick is an individual.
So therefore, they have to be laid individually.
What I have found helps is to cement in one side
and then, working off it, working off the next and the next,
you can then finish with your sand and cemented edge.
It can be a bit wonky, but you can soften that with planting.
And I do know that within a month or two you won't notice it
and it will just look seamless.
So, put some sand down, like that, using a trowel.
You can use a dab of sand and cement, but personally
I feel no need. Much easier to replace them
if they get frost damage, too, if they are just on sand.
Put some more sand down.
Then the next brick will cover this gap, and therefore create a bond.
Not only will it look more pleasing to the eye,
it will also be stronger.
This is a much narrower brick with a bit of an angle on it.
But, of course, old bricks give instant character.
Just like the rest of us, as we get old and a little bit crinkly
and a little bit wobbly.
We may not be as beautiful as we once were,
but we have perhaps got a little bit more character in us.
And that's what I like from using recycled materials.
Having got the bricks laid, I'm infilling between them
with a really coarse sand, and this will do two things.
One, it will bind them together, stop them moving sideways,
and two, improve the drainage.
There is a sense of preparing for spring to come,
getting ready for the excitement of summer.
But gardens can look really good now
and there are plenty that you can go and visit to give you ideas.
Rachel has been to Cambridge
to see one of the best winter gardens in the land.
The famous winter garden in Cambridge was
one of the first of its kind, and its plants are all placed
very carefully to make the most of that low winter sun.
This has always been a really important garden for me,
because I discovered it when I was retraining in horticulture,
quite some time ago now.
And I am now developing my own winter border,
so I thought I'd get inspiration.
And what can be better than starting with these fantastic daphnes?
This is 'Jacqueline Postill', and the flowers,
not only are they beautiful, but the perfume - you walk along here,
it just fills the air, you don't even have to go to it to smell them.
It's nice and compact, so you can grow it in a small garden.
And it's a knockout.
Some 30 years ago,
the gardeners here really studied how the sun
moved across the garden, then they hollowed out a one-acre area
to make a bowl that actually captured that light
and made the best of it.
The man currently in charge of all this winter colour is
Dr Tim Upson, the curator at the Botanic Garden.
I think, when you're talking about colour in a winter garden,
it's these dogwoods, this sort of epitomises how you can get
-that strength of colour.
And they are one of my favourites for the winter garden.
OK, they might be common, but even on the darkest, dullest,
grey winter day, there is some colour there, too.
This is what I want, you see, when I do my winter border,
this is what I want.
When you come here, I mean, it always looks beautiful, but you get
this light and the whole place just really fizzes, doesn't it?
It does. Light is the most important thing in a winter garden.
Particularly so when you can use it to backlight some of the subjects.
One of my favourites is the Japanese wineberry here,
planted so it's got those wonderful bristles on it, almost as if
it's got this fuzzy furriness. Takes it to another plane, it really does.
Like sort of giant, furry spiders, almost.
The way that those stems arch down.
So, how else do you utilise that light so you get the maximum impact?
Well, it's no mistake that this wonderful paperbark maple,
Acer griseum, was planted where it is.
It's a great tree in its own right, that cinnamon-brown,
flaking bark, but put the sun behind it and suddenly,
that peeling bark is illuminated, it takes it to another dimension.
It's just such a lovely shape as well
and you really see that with the bare branches.
Beautiful tree, fantastic for a small space if you're looking for that.
It just goes to show that, even in the coldest months,
you can have a garden full of colour and texture and scent too.
The fragrance of honeysuckle fills the air here.
It's not the most beautiful shrub in the world,
you wouldn't grow it for its looks.
But I'd always give it garden space just for that perfume.
You're absolutely quite right, the perfume on this can be sensational.
It is a robust plant.
Probably don't grow it in deep shade, though,
because you won't get the flower.
And then you don't get the bees.
I think what you get from visiting a garden like this at this
time of year is not only that you might fall in love with a plant
you don't know, but it is also about how those plants are put together
that inspires you, and you can adapt those ideas for your own garden.
And if you were to plant just one of those winter flowering shrubs
with their fragrant flowers and put it near to a path
or by the back door, then every year you will get that perfume.
And this season is going to be one to relish.
Come here. Go on!
There are quite a few flowers for winter months.
If you want to see a list of them,
plus gardens you can visit to see them in, then go to our website.
-Come on, Nige!
At the beginning of March, just as spring takes over from winter,
you have the perfect moment to prune those plants that
produce their flowers on new wood. I'm talking about buddleias,
late flowering clematis, plants that will give us a really good display.
But this applies to plants that you want for their foliage
as much as their flowers.
I've got a number of elders in the Jewel Garden
which we grow just to maximise the intensity of the leaves.
We don't worry about the flowers at all.
This is a Sambucus 'Sutherland Gold.'
And if I let it grow, the foliage will be fine,
it will grow well, but by cutting it back we give it extra vigour.
Now, I could take this right down to the ground here.
And I would get really vigorous regrowth.
The problem with that in the middle of a border is that
that new growth is shaded out by surrounding plants as they grow up.
It has to compete for light and also, even if they grow well,
you don't see them so well. So I want them at eye level.
This is last year's growth
and that is really what I want to repeat next year.
I think I'm going to take it down to about this level here.
So you can see I've got a bud there, just cut above it.
Go down in there...
Right. That's very, very simple. That's going to do two things.
It's going to stimulate lots of fresh, vigorous new growth.
And in turn, that will give us fresh, vigorous colour,
which is what I really want.
The second thing it will do is actually make for bigger leaves.
So I've got purple hazel in the border, where
we get great big purple foliage, as a result of cutting back hard.
So we're setting this up to perform really well.
And that is really exciting.
That's part of all the positive things that come from spring,
rather than the tidying up jobs.
But all this is about preparation, about making sure the garden
looks as good as possible in the next few months.
But Carol is in Oxfordshire,
celebrating the very best of the moment.
Come on, Nigel.
The very first snowdrop you see
announces that winter is on its way out
and spring is on its way in.
But you never talk about lone snowdrops.
They always create these magnificent drifts, these huge,
runny swathes, because there are always so many of them,
they are the most sociable of plants.
But turn up one flower,
whether it's the double one, like this,
or a simple single one,
and each flower is utterly fascinating.
Snowdrops are such a familiar sight,
and we all tend to assume that they must be one of our own wild flowers,
but they're not.
Nobody really knows when the snowdrop arrived on our shores,
but there are certainly records of it from Medieval times,
growing in gardens and in monasteries and priories.
It's always been associated with innocence and purity
and for the feast of Candlemas,
when the image of the Virgin Mary was taken down,
in her stead was sprinkled handfuls of snowdrops.
But snowdrops don't believe in staying where they're planted -
it wasn't long before they left the confines of the churchyard,
climbed over the wall
and spread themselves out into the countryside.
This is exactly the kind of place that snowdrops love.
Under the branches of the trees,
they're relishing this rich, dark soil.
Really damp and moist under here and incredibly fertile.
They exploit this particular window of opportunity,
flowering and setting seed
before the canopy of the trees fills in overhead.
At first sight, this flower looks so dainty, so fragile,
but not a bit of it.
It's extremely robust.
It's perfectly evolved to cope with the time of year that it flowers
and the sort of situation it's going to find itself in.
No matter how hard that wind blows,
these flowers will dangle perfectly from this little pedestal,
this fine, flexible stem, from which it's suspended.
And at the same time, within the flower,
these three inner petals protect all the workings,
all the stamen and the stigmas of the flowers.
And pollinating insects are lured in
because it's two degrees warmer inside that bell
and this beautiful perfume permeates the air.
Once they've received their nectar treat
and the flower's pollinated,
the stem gets thinner and more brittle
and falls to the ground as the seed pod swells,
or its seeds are carried away, distributed by ants.
No wonder there are so many of them over such a wide area!
In all this profusion, now and again nature creates rare variations,
which are seized upon by snowdrop addicts -
All over Britain at bulb auctions like these,
true galanthophiles go to great lengths
to secure their favourite snowdrops.
Real rarities can cost hundreds of pounds for a single bulb,
like 'Elizabeth Harrison' here,
auctioned last year for a record-breaking £725.
Luckily for the rest of us,
there are plenty of fantastic snowdrops for our gardens
that won't break the bank.
This is Galanthus 'Atkinsii',
it's one of the earliest to flower.
It's tall, it's elegant, it's very self-possessed.
But this is what's possibly my favourite snowdrop,
it's Galanthus 'S Arnott'.
Not only is it a treat for the eyes, but for the nose too,
because it's got the most beautiful perfume.
On warm sunny days when these flowers open up,
this honeyed perfume drifts all over the garden.
Who could ask for anything more from a snowdrop?
It really is difficult to resist snowdrops.
Cos some people become obsessed by them
and love all the different varieties.
Mine, though, are just a local snowdrop.
I was given a wrap of newspaper
with a little clump of snowdrops inside them.
I planted them, then over the years I split them, they spread by seed,
and now is the best time to either buy them or get them from somebody.
I've got these from a local specialist grower
and it's a variety called 'Magnet'.
They're over 100 years old and they're exceptionally big.
Now, with any snowdrop,
what they like is light shade and quite moist conditions.
So, if you've got very free-draining soil
it's a good idea to add a little bit of compost.
Now, this is actually a very wet spot,
so there's no problem with that.
These will go in fine, there you are - perfect.
Just slotted into place and then let them dry out.
And that's all you have to do.
Let them perform and then maybe next year
I can divide them up and spread them about,
because what you're trying to do when you plant anything
is create a style and a character and a feel,
and this year Joe is doing a series of masterclasses
on how to structure and plant your garden
so you get exactly the effect you want.
And this week he's looking at cottage garden planting.
From cottage, to formal, to contemporary -
giving your garden a definite style
is all about getting the right plants in the right combinations.
Over the next few weeks,
I'm looking at great examples of different styles of gardens
and identifying the key elements of their planting design
that all help make them a success.
I'll show you a way to choose and arrange your plants
to make sure your garden matches your vision.
This week I'm starting with cottage gardens.
This is a great example of cottage planting.
We've got the height with the shrubs at the back
and then the planting tiers down to the front here.
And all the plants are intermingled together,
there's some clematis growing through the shrubs,
we've got a mid-storey of roses and perennials,
and then this ground cover at the front here softening all the paving.
There's not a bare patch of soil to be seen.
You need plenty of height in a cottage garden.
Trees and evergreen shrubs give the space permanent structure.
Another great way to introduce height and add a lovely romantic feel
is by using climber-covered walls or archways and pergolas
all draped in flowers and all intertwined.
Clematis, roses, honeysuckle,
and even better still if they have a scent.
When it comes to foliage in this style
we're really looking at plants that complement each other,
not contrast with each other,
so we're not looking for lots of variegated plants,
purple foliage plants mixed in with greens.
Something like this,
where lots of mid-greens just work their way together,
creates a harmonious feel together which really sets off the blooms.
Colour choice is a personal thing,
but the key to success in a garden like this
is to choose a colour palette and stick with it.
All the plants here are from the cooler side of the spectrum,
so we've got whites, pinks, blues and purples
and that makes for a very romantic, indulgent feel.
You can get colours into a border in so many different ways,
and I love this border, it's really well thought through.
We've got the red cotoneaster berries,
and then moving onto this maple which is just turning red now
and there's even red stems on the Viburnum davidii at the back there
and then at the front here, Molinia 'Transparent'.
Again, there's a purply-reddish tinge to the seed heads.
It's very subtle, but it's beautifully done.
It's important to think of a border as an all-year-round composition.
These borders have lots of summer flowers
and now as we turn into early autumn there's lots to come.
We've still got really good foliage colour, plenty of berries
and into winter good evergreen structure with the shrubs
and some plants where the seed heads look fantastic
right through the winter, such as the Acanthus and the Verbascum.
So there we go, we've got 12 months covered.
So using what I've seen as inspiration,
I'm going to design a small cottage bed.
So the first thing we're going to put in this planting scheme
is a small tree.
I've decided to go for a hawthorn - Crataegus 'Prunifolia'.
There's one in this garden and it's fantastic.
So now I'm going to look for
my mid-storey shrubs and taller perennials
and I think I'll start with a nice rose,
blooming at around eye level,
and then balancing that out on the other side with something evergreen.
I'm a big fan of Sarcococca.
They're grown in dry shade, fantastic sweet scent in January.
So now right at the front of the board, I want a bit of structure,
and you can't beat a box ball,
which will just hold that corner beautifully.
So I've got plenty of structure in there, plenty of height,
and I'm going to think about climbers as a backdrop for the planting.
So things like honeysuckle, clematis, climbing roses,
would be absolutely perfect.
I think I could squeeze in another climber on the side,
something like an evergreen, something like ivy is really good,
it will be a backdrop to the rose in front of it
and a good balance between deciduous and evergreen there.
So, with that background texture in place,
I can move on to the mid-storey planting of perennials for colour.
In the shade of the tree,
the Japanese anemones,
in this garden they look absolutely stunning.
And then in front, balancing out on the other side,
something a little bit lower, something like Astrantia,
I would definitely go for one of the whites or pinks.
And then I think three lovely blowsy peonies
and under-plant those with a really good foliage plant,
a good ground cover, such as Pulmonaria.
And now working towards the front.
Hellebores are a must, great spring interest.
Something with a bit of a stronger colour, like a burgundy.
And then over to this side, something like Alchemilla mollis,
lovely frothy flowers of Alchemilla mollis, self-seeds in all the gaps.
Then there's a huge block of ground-cover geraniums.
I've got a good combination of foliage towards the front.
And now thinking about seasonal interests,
we can pack even more into our design by adding spring bulbs.
Some love purple Alliums,
and they could just be dotted pretty much all the way through.
And there you go - every plant in there's been chosen
and it will really earn its keep.
That will mingle together, it will fill out
and that is a good scheme for a really classic look.
But how can I plant things if that's there? Go on, out the way.
Now, if you want to see Joe's planting plans in more detail,
you can see them on our website.
Next week, he will be looking at contemporary planting designs.
Now, you may not be making a new garden, contemporary or otherwise,
but here are some jobs that you can be getting on with this weekend.
Summer fruiting raspberries
produce their fruit on canes made the previous year.
So they're pruned at the end of summer and then left.
Now is the perfect time to prune autumn-fruiting raspberries,
because they produce their fruit on current season's growth.
Cut away all the top growth,
right down to the ground.
Clear it away and then give it a good mulch.
As the new growth comes through,
that will provide the framework for this year's harvest.
The beginning of March is the perfect moment
to prune late-flowering clematis.
These are the clematis, like the Viticella Group
that produce a mass of small flowers in late summer and into autumn
and, if you're not certain,
just remember the rule - if it flowers before June, don't prune.
When you do prune it, be ruthless.
Cut right down to the base, leaving just a few buds.
Remove all the top growth
and then you will have a mass of new, vigorous shoots,
that will be smothered in flower later in the year.
There's no great hurry to sow seed, so don't panic,
but if you are going to sow anything,
chillies are something that should be done first,
because they're slow to germinate
and the seedlings are slow to develop.
Scatter the seed thinly on a seed tray of normal seed compost
and then cover them lightly.
And put them somewhere warm,
because they do need a temperature of about 20 degrees
in order to germinate.
Well, that's it for this week,
and I'll see you back here at Longmeadow next Friday.
Till then, bye-bye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The first signs of spring herald the start of the new gardening year and the start of a new series of Gardeners' World.
In the seasons to come, Monty Don will be in his garden, Longmeadow, and along with Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Rachel de Thame, will have a host of practical tips and inspirational ideas to help viewers improve their gardens.
Monty Don reveals the changes he has made to his garden over the winter, tackles timely pruning tasks and shows us the best way to lay a new path.
Snowdrops are lighting up the winter garden and Carol is out and about in Oxfordshire celebrating their staggering diversity and the length to which some gardeners will go in order to get their hands on the latest varieties.
Rachel visits Cambridge Botanic Garden, which has one of the country's most celebrated winter gardens, to find inspiring plants and planting combinations that not only look fabulous now but that can also provide year round interest.
Over the next few weeks Joe will be helping viewers achieve the garden of their dreams by offering up simple planting design plans for four very different styles of garden. He starts off with the romance of a cottage garden.