Episode 18 Gardeners' World


Episode 18

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Hello. Welcome to Gardeners' World.

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The thing I love most about gardens in August

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is they have a lushness

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and a ripeness that you never get at any other time of year.

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This is great for gardeners, but it's also wonderful for wildlife.

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And as part of the BBC's Summer of Wildlife, in today's programme

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we'll be particularly looking at the ways that we can celebrate

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all the different wildlife in our gardens, and also the ways

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we can attract as much as possible into every back yard.

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This week, we visit the home of the naturalist and cameraman Simon King.

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I've always had a passion for the natural world.

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I can't remember not being fascinated by other living things.

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And he shares the secrets

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of the amazing diversity of wildlife in his garden.

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Do you hear someone in the background there?

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I'll tell you about who's making that sound in a minute.

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And Carol celebrates the pea family,

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which plays a vital role in the countryside and gardens.

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These brilliant little yellow flowers are bird's-foot trefoil.

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It's so-called because of these wonderful seed heads,

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which are arranged just like a bird's foot.

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And we'll be visiting a small suburban garden

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which is a haven for bees and butterflies.

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And I'll be looking at something which is at the heart

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of every good garden, and certainly close to my heart.

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And that's compost.

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Well, here we are, well into August,

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and my hostas haven't even been nibbled.

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That's nothing to do with my skill as a gardener.

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All I do is try and grow healthy plants and give them the conditions

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that they'll thrive in. But it has a lot to do

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with the balance of wildlife here at Longmeadow.

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Because yes, we have slugs and snails,

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but we also have lots of thrushes, and blackbirds, and hedgehogs,

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and toads, and frogs, and beetles- all of which eat slugs and snails,

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which eat the hostas.

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You have prey and you have predators.

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You have a whole ecology that looks after itself.

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Nothing gets out of control.

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Everything is in a state of subtle balance.

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And I think that if you can get a balanced garden,

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then you'll have a beautiful, healthy garden as well.

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There are over 22,000 insects in the UK,

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and less than 1% of those cause any harm in the garden at all.

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Your lovely garden actually depends on having

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a really rich range of wildlife.

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Now, as amateur gardeners,

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we get a huge amount of pleasure from wildlife.

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But the professional wildlife film-maker Simon King,

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who's been right across the globe

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and seen and filmed almost every creature, is also a gardener.

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And we went along to see what his garden looked like.

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I've always had a passion for the natural world.

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I can't remember not being fascinated by other living things.

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And I've had the great good fortune to indulge it

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in my career as a naturalist and wildlife film-maker.

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But people say, "Where is your favourite place?"

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And certainly way near the top of the list is home.

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When we first moved, it was represented by three meadows,

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and they are cut in half, if you like, by a brook.

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And that really was the foundation stone for the decision to move here.

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Straightaway, I rigged cameras to see what was living on my doorstep.

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And it wasn't long before dippers, kingfishers,

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even otters made an appearance.

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This is the most formal part of my garden,

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and I can't take any credit for it whatsoever. I inherited this.

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It's beautifully planted with a succession of perennials,

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and there is almost always some flower.

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HARSH CHIRRUPING BIRD CALL

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Can you hear someone in the background there?

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I'll tell you who's making that sound in a minute.

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But there is always something in flower and, as you can see,

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there's varieties of foxglove,

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I particularly love those, the digitalis,

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which are great nectar plants for bumblebees

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and other nectar-loving insects.

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And over time, I shall adjust this bed a little bit

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to make sure that everything in here

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has a strong nectar value for bees and for other pollinating creatures.

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The sound that I mentioned earlier?

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Well, that comes from a kestrel nest. Would you believe it?

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We've got kestrels nesting IN the house.

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And it was the chicks you could hear calling just then.

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So I'm going to leave them alone and go round the back.

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I'm now at the back of the house,

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and this is the other more formal bit of the garden.

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But it's really dominated by this magnificent weeping willow tree,

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and clearly I didn't plant that one. It's been around a long time.

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What a beauty!

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And on that tree, come over here and have a look, one of our nest boxes.

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We've got nest boxes all over the garden.

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Probably just about spot it, looks a bit like a tree.

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In that nest box are tree wasps.

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Now, everybody gets freaky about wasps.

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Why? They're fabulous creatures, they're magnificent.

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One of the best pest controllers can have in the garden.

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Because those little fellows are buzzing around picking

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caterpillars off leaves, coming back, feeding the larvae.

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They're doing the job for you. You don't have to get out with sprays,

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they're doing it. Come on down here.

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Lots of flowers here, some of which we have put in,

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some of which we haven't.

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Actually what I tend to do here is just toss wild flower seed

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and every now and again all sorts of surprises pop up.

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You know, it really doesn't matter how big your garden is -

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having some standing water completely changes the profile

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of natural players that you're likely to see.

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Even the smallest pond will attract life.

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Now, I've inherited this pond. It's got some management issues.

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In this instance, it's water soldier.

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It is a native plant, and remarkably vigorous.

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So it's time to get muddy and wet.

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My aim here is to open up areas of the pond, because there

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are some dragonfly and damselfly that prefer open water to lay their eggs.

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I'm not going to clear it all because the plants are useful

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both as a food source and as a resting place

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for all kinds of insects and other mini-beasts.

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Wow. Wow! Everything!

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Water boatmen.

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People go pond dipping with their kids - so they should -

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but it's good fun! You can do it when you're grown-up!

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Brilliant.

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And a baby newt! You can see that this one sweep is full of life.

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I mean, heaving with life.

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So the best thing you can do,

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when you are going to do a little bit of pond management and clearance,

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is to first of all, do it slowly. Don't get in and just hammer it,

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because nothing has a chance to get out of your way.

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And anything you do take out, put it on the edge.

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Just touching the water.

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It looks manky, smells a bit, but it gives quite a lot of life -

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the snails, the newt larvae and others - a chance

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to make their way back down into the pond after you've done the work.

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Water is of course essential for wildlife.

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But I'm also lucky enough to have large areas of grassland.

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And that attracts even more creatures.

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If you're thinking, "It's all right for him, he's got a meadow,"

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you don't have to have a big patch of ground.

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You can do this sort of thing on a really small garden.

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And in amongst those grasses are wild flowers.

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It's got so much richness, and as it matures,

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you've got things like skipper butterflies

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that depend on this sort of habitat.

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And as far as birds are concerned, perhaps one of the most

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beautiful birds in Britain, certainly for me, barn owls too,

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and they hunt here.

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The reason - because of the long grass meadow.

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What you do right here in the British Isles, in your own back yard,

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does make a difference to the health of the natural world

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and we're all stewards of that land and everything that we do to

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help the health of living things on our own back yard is good.

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It's good for us, it's good for the future,

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and it's definitely good for our kids.

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I love Simon's garden and particularly love the way that

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it's so natural and, of course, has such amazing wildlife.

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But you don't have to do have a wild garden to have wildlife.

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In fact, any border full of plants from all over the world can be

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a really, really rich source of food for wildlife

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and therefore encourage it in.

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At this time of year, as we go into August, September,

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there's a new range of plants,

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many of which come from North America but

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flower later and add a fresh burst of colour and of food for insects.

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One of my favourite of all of these are heleniums.

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Now, heleniums are essentially glorified daisies.

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Now, if you think of their prairie homeland,

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that gives you an idea of what heleniums like

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as regards position. So, sun basically.

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They can take some shade, but not too much.

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They also like a fairly rich, moist soil. They need good drainage.

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If you can afford it, get three or even five,

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and the idea is that they will grow together.

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You can see that these are slightly pot-bound -

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the roots have outgrown the pot they're in.

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Where you get this situation, just break them a little.

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We're not trying to untangle them, you'll never do it anyway.

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By breaking them, you're stimulating the roots to grow afresh -

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and when they grow afresh they are going to grow out into the soil.

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So, it's just waking them up, really.

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I like planting in August. Now, you can buy the finished

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plant from a garden centre or nursery and put it in the ground.

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The reason I like it is because you can see what it looks like.

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You can see the colour, you can see the height, and as long as you

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really water it in well and keep it watered, it'll be fine.

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One real problem of planting this time of year, especially

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if you are a clumsy oaf like me, is collateral damage.

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You're in the middle of a border, and every move is snapping

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a flower head off here, crushing a plant there,

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but I try.

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I try to do as little damage as I can.

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Let's give these a drink.

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One of the reasons why these are particularly good for insects

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at this time of year is because they've got nice open flowers.

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And that means that they're easy to get at, it's as simple as that.

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And in fact, that's true of all members of the Asteraceae family.

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The rudbeckias, asters, all the daisy family,

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have got nice open flowers, brilliant for insects...

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as well as looking lovely in the garden.

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# I'm a little prairie plant

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# Growing wild at every hour

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# Nobody cares to cultivate me

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# So I'm as wild as wild can be. #

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I've been talking about the Asteraceae family,

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which largely comes from North America,

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but Carol is looking at the legume family, the peas,

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which have a really important role to play, not just in our gardens,

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but out in the countryside, too.

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This is Pilsdon Pen, it's one of the highest points in Dorset.

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We're almost 277 metres above sea level.

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It used to be the site of an Iron Age fort.

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That's all gone now

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and all that remains is close-cropped grassland,

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full of wild flowers. And in amongst them

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is a tiny little flower which is really worthy of closer inspection.

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These brilliant little yellow flowers are bird's-foot trefoil.

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It's so-called because of these wonderful seed heads

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which are three pods arranged just like a bird's foot,

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and those pods tell you straightaway which family they belong to.

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It's a pea.

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On its roots it has special nodules which free up nitrogen and make it

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available to itself and other plants, so the whole place is enriched.

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And these brilliant yellow pea flowers are an incredibly rich source

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of nectar for all the pollinating insects that are buzzing around here.

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They love it.

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The pea family is diverse.

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It includes lots of plants that, at first sight, look very different.

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From elegant wisteria

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to spiny, evergreen gorse

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that provides nectar for insects and dense,

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thorny cover for nesting birds.

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In our gardens,

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probably the most celebrated member of the family is the sweet pea.

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Here at Forde Abbey in Dorset, the walled garden is filled with these

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wonderful flowers.

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At first sight, this magnificent plant bears very little

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resemblance to our bird's-foot trefoil.

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This is tall and magnificent but once you look at an individual

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flower, you can see the resemblance straightaway. It's a pea.

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And this is one of the first sweet peas that was ever grown.

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This is Lathyrus 'Matucana'.

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It's scent that draws bees to the pea flower,

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whether it's our showy garden varieties or the bird's-foot trefoil.

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The weight of the bee opens up the flower to reveal a nectar treat.

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The display at Forde Abbey is masterminded by Alice Kennard.

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What a wonderful show!

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I want a proper sniff because that's

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the whole point about sweet peas, isn't it?

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-It's lovely.

-Oh, just so beautiful, they really are. They're fabulous.

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-A wonderful scent, yes.

-Isn't that the best bit?

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How many sweet peas have you got? They're all over the place!

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Well, I try and plant about 70.

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How long have you been doing it, though?

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This is our third year. We've always grown a line of sweet peas.

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I thought "Right, we'll go big time."

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-Yes, go for it!

-Go for it!

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So, what do you think is your favourite one?

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The Black Knight is lovely, it's good, it's reliable.

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-That's this one here?

-Yes.

-It is lovely.

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It is, and that lovely dark colour.

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Colour is one thing, but for me, just like the bees,

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it's the scent of the sweet pea that is its biggest lure.

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And I don't think I'm alone.

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What is it, do you think, that you love about sweet peas best?

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The scent. The diversity

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and that reaction you get from the public when they just go,

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"Oh, lovely."

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-It is that. And we all do it, don't we?

-You can't help it, can you?

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No, you can't help it.

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Now, you can't have a wildlife special without including compost.

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Compost is probably the richest source of wildlife that any

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garden could have as some of it is quite visible.

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Now, if I lift this up...

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It's a bit tight. There we go.

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If I disturb that, I'm sure we'll find a few little brandlings,

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which are the worms.

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There we are.

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You see, these little fellows - there will be

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tens of thousands in this heap,

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munching their way slowly through it and digesting it.

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And the little scurrying creatures are woodlice,

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there are beetles, I've got a spider running up my ear.

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But the more you look, the more you see,

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but the REALLY interesting wildlife in a compost heap,

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however hard you look,

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you'll never see with the naked eye,

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and that's what we want to

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nurture and the best way of doing that is to make really good compost.

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Now, this is how I make my compost.

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It works every time.

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You can apply this principle to any garden of any size,

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whether you are making your compost

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in a small container or great big bays.

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The first stage is to gather the material.

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This is a holding bay, this is not a compost heap.

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It is, if you like, an assembly point and it could be a bucket,

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a bay, anything you like.

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What we are looking for is a combination of dry material,

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like these dried stems,

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and green material, like this cabbage leaf.

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Now actually the green is high in nitrogen

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and the brown is high in carbon.

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So you mix your material up, it could be from the kitchen,

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it could be from the garden.

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The only thing I never include is cooked material, meat or fat,

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because that attracts rodents.

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When we've got that, it then gets shredded.

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Now, if you've got a shredder, that's great.

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But you can bash it, you can chop it, you can mow it.

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Anything you can do to break it up is a good idea.

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It's got a bigger surface area apart from anything else.

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Now, this is the working compost heap. If I get up in there...

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..you will see that we've got box cuttings, we've got all sorts.

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And if I open it out...

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you might be able to see a bit of smoke, that is hot,

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that's really hot in there.

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Wow. It is like a fire. I can heat my hands on it.

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And that's because it's starting to work,

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it's starting to make into compost.

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And that heat is not so much the rotting process,

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it's actually being produced by millions and millions of creatures,

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digesting it.

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It's the energy coming from the digestive system

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of bacteria by the trillion, of fungi, of nematodes and then

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worms and beetles and slugs all eating it and digesting it.

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Now, when this is full, in order to keep that energy going,

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it needs oxygen and a certain amount of water.

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It's very important not to let it get too dry.

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And the best way of getting oxygen into it is to turn it.

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Now, there are different ways of turning it.

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You can just chuck it out and chuck it back in.

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But what we do is put it on to the next heap which is here.

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But you will need a minimum of two bays, or two dustbins, or two bags,

0:20:570:21:01

or whatever you make your compost in if you want to turn it.

0:21:010:21:05

Once you've turned it, you don't add any fresh material,

0:21:050:21:08

that's finished.

0:21:080:21:10

Actually, what we have here now, and this is about four months old,

0:21:100:21:14

is very usable as a mulch.

0:21:140:21:16

Normally, I would turn the compost three, maybe four times,

0:21:170:21:21

to get to the end result. But it varies.

0:21:210:21:24

No two compost mixes are ever the same.

0:21:240:21:27

And finally, you turn from there into here,

0:21:270:21:29

this has been turned and is now empty ready for that come in.

0:21:290:21:33

And your final product is here, and this is now finished compost.

0:21:330:21:39

And one of the definitions of finished compost for me

0:21:390:21:43

is does it feel good?

0:21:430:21:45

Does it smell good?

0:21:460:21:47

If the answer to both those questions is "no", it's not ready.

0:21:470:21:51

It needs more time and either needs turning again or just left.

0:21:510:21:54

But if it is nice to handle and feels pleasant,

0:21:540:21:57

it feels like a woodland floor, then that's ready.

0:21:570:22:00

And what I'm holding there is life.

0:22:000:22:03

It's trillions of animals that I'm going to feed into my soil

0:22:030:22:06

to make it alive.

0:22:060:22:08

Now, I hope I've inspired you to make compost.

0:22:100:22:14

But even if I haven't,

0:22:140:22:15

here are some other things that you can be doing this weekend.

0:22:150:22:18

Tomatoes are growing strongly, both as plants

0:22:210:22:24

and also setting fruits, but fungal problems can emerge at this time

0:22:240:22:29

of year and the best defence is good ventilation.

0:22:290:22:32

So strip off the lower leaves, at least up to the first truss,

0:22:320:22:36

and I like to go up to the second truss.

0:22:360:22:38

This will let air flow between the plants

0:22:400:22:43

and also more light will ripen the fruit quicker.

0:22:430:22:47

My early pea and bean crops are coming to an end,

0:22:490:22:53

so it's time to clear them away

0:22:530:22:54

so I can use the ground for another crop before winter.

0:22:540:22:58

These beans are going, leaving as much of the roots

0:22:580:23:00

in the ground as possible, raking it over lightly so I don't

0:23:000:23:04

disturb the roots which are adding extra nitrogen to the soil.

0:23:040:23:08

And sowing a mixed salad leaf crop which will be ready to harvest

0:23:080:23:12

in about six weeks' time.

0:23:120:23:14

To keep your dahlias flowering as vigorously

0:23:170:23:20

and as long as possible,

0:23:200:23:21

you need to deadhead them often.

0:23:210:23:24

Don't just take the flower head off, but take the flowering stem,

0:23:240:23:27

right back to a leaf node and cut it there,

0:23:270:23:31

and that will encourage fresh shoots.

0:23:310:23:34

And if you are confused about what to cut off, a bud is round

0:23:340:23:38

and firm, whereas a spent flower head is always conical.

0:23:380:23:42

Dahlias are lovely

0:23:450:23:47

but they are not really the most wildlife-friendly plant.

0:23:470:23:51

But we went to visit a small urban garden, packed with plants,

0:23:510:23:56

that attract in a fabulous array of wildlife.

0:23:560:23:59

I'm Jane, I come from

0:24:090:24:10

a long family of enthusiastic gardeners.

0:24:100:24:13

I'm Rob Hopkins and I love nature conservation.

0:24:140:24:18

I think gardening, for me, reflects that interest.

0:24:180:24:22

A garden is so many things, it's a place to relax,

0:24:270:24:30

it's a place to enjoy wildlife as well.

0:24:300:24:32

You can get close to wildlife.

0:24:340:24:36

And also, that sensory experience, it's hearing and smelling.

0:24:360:24:40

We are benefiting, hopefully local wildlife is, too.

0:24:400:24:43

-We arrived in 1992.

-Was that 21 years ago?

-Yes.

-Quite a while ago.

0:24:480:24:52

Then the garden was very different.

0:24:520:24:54

It was simply an oblong of mossy grass with a big eight by six shed

0:24:540:24:59

in the middle of it. About where we are sitting actually!

0:24:590:25:01

We had two small children at that point.

0:25:010:25:04

That wasn't how we wanted a garden to be, so over time it has evolved

0:25:040:25:08

and, gradually, all the grass has gone over the years

0:25:080:25:10

and we've just got flower borders.

0:25:100:25:14

The borders provide a lot of protection for wildlife.

0:25:140:25:17

Because there's a lot of leaves and foliage, if they want to

0:25:170:25:20

creep around the garden they can do that undetected by predators.

0:25:200:25:24

Most people find the idea of getting rid of your grass in the garden

0:25:260:25:31

quite shocking really, but then when they see how you can do it

0:25:310:25:35

and how you can have such fun with having more space in a small

0:25:350:25:38

garden if you don't have grass, and you don't have to mow it,

0:25:380:25:40

they can come round to the idea.

0:25:400:25:43

By accident, we've chosen a lot of plants

0:25:430:25:45

which are good for pollinating insects.

0:25:450:25:48

The Knautia macedonica that is out at the moment,

0:25:480:25:50

it is just stunning.

0:25:500:25:52

The richness of the red, it is like velour, it's gorgeous.

0:25:520:25:57

And this spiraea is quite good. It's only just come out recently

0:25:570:26:00

but you get quite a few bumblebees on that as well.

0:26:000:26:04

It's trial and error.

0:26:040:26:05

A lot of plants that you grow and you think, "Oh, gosh,

0:26:050:26:07

"look at all the bees on that!"

0:26:070:26:09

And you think, "I must grow that next year,"

0:26:090:26:12

or you see somebody else's gardens so you bring it back.

0:26:120:26:14

I think Rob has opened my eyes more to the wildlife aspect.

0:26:140:26:18

Having colour through a longer period of the year

0:26:180:26:21

as possible is important.

0:26:210:26:23

Not just a rush of colour in the middle of the summer,

0:26:230:26:25

it's from February into the autumn that there is colour of some sort.

0:26:250:26:29

With not having enough room in the garden and loving climbing

0:26:320:26:34

plants, particularly clematis and roses, you've got to go vertical.

0:26:340:26:38

There's no point just having one,

0:26:380:26:40

then you want to have another that covers the season

0:26:400:26:43

when that one isn't out, so you end up with a bit of a vertical forest.

0:26:430:26:47

In nature conservation, it's great to have things of different heights

0:26:470:26:50

and different structures, not all of uniform heights.

0:26:500:26:53

You'll get things flitting in and out and feeding.

0:26:530:26:55

I think the ponds have been a very big influence in the garden.

0:27:000:27:04

People see you can bring wildlife into your garden

0:27:040:27:06

simply by having a pond. It doesn't have to be a big one.

0:27:060:27:09

We made the big pond when my son was about 12 and he was very into fish.

0:27:090:27:12

He helped us dig it out and line it and it was really exciting actually.

0:27:120:27:16

When you see the see the first frog or frogspawn or newt and,

0:27:160:27:19

you think, "Oh!

0:27:190:27:20

"I had a part to play in that," and it really feels like an honour

0:27:200:27:23

that they've come into your pond and are going to live there.

0:27:230:27:26

Generally, friends and neighbours, when they come to the garden,

0:27:340:27:37

are surprised to see, I think, so many plants in a small space,

0:27:370:27:42

particularly with just the little narrow path in-between.

0:27:420:27:46

It's just a different way of gardening to what

0:27:460:27:48

a lot of people are used to.

0:27:480:27:50

But they, on the whole, really seem to like it

0:27:500:27:53

and sometimes they take ideas back from the garden and reproduce them

0:27:530:27:56

in their own garden, so that's the best form of flattery, really.

0:27:560:28:00

It'll hopefully demonstrate you can have a lovely garden which plays

0:28:000:28:03

a huge part in looking after our native wildlife,

0:28:030:28:06

which is nice to look at and is relatively low maintenance.

0:28:060:28:08

BIRDSONG

0:28:130:28:14

COWS MOO

0:28:140:28:16

Well, that's it for this week.

0:28:260:28:27

I hope that we've inspired you to bring in as much wildlife

0:28:270:28:32

of every kind into your garden as you possibly can.

0:28:320:28:36

And above all,

0:28:360:28:37

I hope that we've encouraged you to enjoy it.

0:28:370:28:40

So until next week, bye-bye.

0:28:410:28:43

This episode of Gardener's World was part of the BBC's

0:28:520:28:55

Summer of Wildlife.

0:28:550:28:57

And to find out more, you can visit the Summer of Wildlife website:

0:28:570:29:01

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:29:020:29:05

In a Summer of Wildlife special episode, Monty Don explores the secret life of his garden from the soil organisms underfoot to the birds that soar overhead. Naturalist Simon King shows us the wildlife that depends on our gardens, we visit a small space designed as a haven for garden creatures and Carol Klein celebrates a plant family popular with bees and butterflies.


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