Episode 21 Gardeners' World


Episode 21

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Hello. Welcome to Gardeners' World.

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Now, I know we're coming to the end of August

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and the school holidays are coming to an end,

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and summer is disappearing.

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But September's coming and I love September.

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It's one of my favourite months. You still have glorious weather,

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but cooler nights, and that lovely light

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which just makes everything seem as though it's lit from within.

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But, here at Longmeadow, it is the driest month of the year.

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Because it's so dry here, we have to water.

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And this is the harvest season.

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We want to keep things going for as long as possible.

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But it is important to water wisely.

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Don't worry about brassica at this stage, or even root crops.

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But water plants like courgettes, or lettuce, or sweetcorn,

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where the moisture will actively benefit the condition

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and quality of the harvest. And, also, never sprinkle.

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Water in a jet, if possible, with a watering can or a hosepipe

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at the roots,

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so all the water goes into the roots and then into the plant.

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Finally, if you can, water in the morning or the evening.

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This week, we meet a gardener in Derbyshire who's been growing

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and showing gladioli all his life.

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The world of gladioli showing can get very competitive.

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But those rivals are some of my best friends.

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And Carol is at Glebe Cottage,

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celebrating that late-summer jewel, the crocosmia.

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How could you resist growing something like that?

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Perfection.

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I shall be taking cuttings from pelargoniums to make sure

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I have a decent supply for next year, and also I've come up

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with a solution to that age-old problem of dry shade.

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SHEEP BLEATS

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We tend to think of bulbs as something that belongs to spring.

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And we're soon coming up to the time when we'll have to be planting our spring bulbs.

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But there are autumn bulbs, too.

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Now, I've got here a bag of bulbs of colchicums

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which flower September time.

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This is Colchicum speciosum "Album".

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White flowers for the white garden, or Writing Garden.

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The meadow saffron, which is Colchicum autumnale,

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is our native colchicum. SHEEP BLEATS

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And... Thank you very much, noises off.

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..and that grows in meadows

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but tends to be eliminated because it's poisonous to stock.

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If those lambs ate this, they really would be very unwell indeed.

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In fact, after you've handled colchicums, wash your hands.

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Now, they're not a bulb at all. In fact, they're a corm

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but really singular because they've got this tail,

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or rudder, at the base.

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And these are whoppers.

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Speciosum "Album" is especially big and it's a good plant

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because not only has it lovely, white flowers, but it's robust.

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And one of the problems with colchicums is that they tend

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to be really bashed about by weather.

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But if you want just one that's a bit more robust,

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Colchicum speciosum "Album" is a good 'un.

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What they really like is sunshine.

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They open out in the sun, so if you choose a site,

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whether it be grass or a border, make sure it does get plenty of sun.

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Now, here in the Writing Garden, the sun is very bright

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and it comes through. It's slightly shaded by these apples,

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but I'm going to give these a bit of a prune in winter.

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So, if I plant these on this side,

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I think they should perform really well.

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Now, these corms are enormous.

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But they do need to be buried deeply.

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At least four inches above the top, and six inches is better.

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So, you need a spade, not a trowel.

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And they're quite expensive, but not ridiculous.

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They're about £1.50 to £2.00 or plus, each one.

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By planting these today, they will flower this autumn,

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so if you want to get some, get them in the ground quickly

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and then you can enjoy them this year.

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The soil needs to be rich and quite moist.

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So although they like sun, they don't like very dry soil.

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So if you've got very dry sandy soil,

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add some leaf mould or garden compost.

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But the cycle is very much a question of growth of foliage

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in spring and early summer that dies back to nothing,

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and then the flowers emerge.

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And because the flowers emerge without any foliage,

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their old-fashioned name was Naked Ladies.

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# There was Adam

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# Happy as a man could be

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# To leave God a-messing with that old apple tree

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# Ain't that just like a woman

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# Yes, that's just like a woman... #

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So, put the tail in the ground. Acts as an anchor.

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And that will go on growing for years and years.

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With many bulbs, a cluster or a group often looks much better.

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But with these colchicums, you do need to give them room.

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I would allow at least 12 inches between them

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because they've fairly broad foliage.

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# Ain't that just like a woman

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# Ain't that just like a woman

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# Yes, that's just like a woman

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# They'll do it every time. #

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Well, I think these will thrive here.

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The sunshine, there will be more

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when I've done my winter pruning, they're sheltered

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so they won't get too bashed by the wind and rain,

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and, of course, they've got marvellous white flowers

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that will look great with the other white flowers in the Writing Garden.

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And the great thing about colchicums is they are a marker of the season.

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They say "autumn".

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One of the celebrations of late summer, August, for me,

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are gladioli.

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They are a plant that I find works well by using the richness

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and the diversity of their colour range in borders,

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but we went to visit a grower

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who grows them on their own, by the hundred.

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And he's a champion gladioli grower.

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It's having that colour and brightness in my life

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that gladiolis can provide that is the attraction.

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It's the little tiny ones that are an inch and a half across.

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There are big beauties that are eight inches across.

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Every colour you can imagine. Dark purples, dark red, pure white.

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You've got everything that you could really want.

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I've been growing gladioli now for close on 30 years.

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The buzz for me is actually growing them to the best of my ability

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and to the best of the flower's ability.

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I think the first large show I did, I went to Harrogate.

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And then that's when things really started taking off.

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To be comfortable, they need a light, sandy soil, really.

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They also need quite a bit of water because one of the criteria

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we're looking for is the amount of buds on the actual flower spike.

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The perfect show-flower will have a nice proportion of open flowers

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and flowers in bud, and appears in a nice teardrop sort of shape.

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A little trick of the trade to sort of try and achieve that

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is you can actually get a little piece of cotton wool

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and just pop it behind the floret and position it

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so that it faces the right way.

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And to actually accentuate the size of the flower,

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you can actually pop some into the centre, there,

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do it very gently in the warmth of the day,

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not in the early hours of the morning,

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because the petals'll crack, and that'll be the flower ruined.

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Just spreads the petals out,

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gets a good size onto the actual open floret.

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Leave it for a couple of hours, take it out

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and then it'll actually stay in that new position

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and form part of what will hopefully be a championship bloom.

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Years ago, we were always told that gladioli weren't hardy

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and you should dig them out every winter.

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For the show grower, that is still the case.

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They dig them out every winter

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but you can actually leave your gladioli in the ground

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and you might get one bad winter where they may get hit,

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but the rest of the time, they should come up, year after year.

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This one's Andy O This is a small flower variety.

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It is a personal favourite. I've been growing it for about 20 years.

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It's not very widespread at all.

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One of the reasons for that is it's quite prone to diseases and viruses.

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And for every five you plant,

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you may end up losing two or three throughout the season.

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In a way, it's like a personal conservation project.

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I like to keep it going. On top of that,

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it really riles one of my rivals when I've got this one.

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The world of gladioli showing can get very competitive.

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But those rivals are some of my best friends.

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We meet up probably every weekend during the summer months.

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We like to see a good flower, whether it's our own or somebody else's.

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Over a year, I grow 500 plants in the allotment,

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but I've also got a small stash on my next door neighbour's garden.

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A chap called Reg. Everybody should have a Reg.

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He's kind enough to let me grow my Primulinus types on his garden.

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They're little beauties, really.

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And they're probably the closest thing to what exists in the wild.

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I like them, A, because they're so different to the big blowsy ones,

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but they're a type of flower that really has disappeared

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out of commercial use now, and they've been kept going

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by hybridists, so I sort of half grow them just to keep them

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ticking over and keep them going so that they're still there.

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There's two secrets to growing gladioli

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successfully at a national level. One is TLC - tender loving care.

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You need to put the time and effort in.

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And the second one is a very, very understanding family.

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They know it makes me happy,

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and I suppose that rubs off on the rest of the family as well.

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Seeing Nigel's gladioli in their rows

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with their intense colour reminds me - actually,

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I'd forgotten this for years -

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that my mother used to grow gladioli as cut flowers.

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And they were always grown in the vegetable garden,

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each with a single stake in rows

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and then cut in these sprays that used to be brought in. NIGEL WHINES

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What's the matter? Oh, the ball's in here. Sorry.

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Well, it's over here, Nige. There. Good boy.

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Now, gladioli must have sunshine.

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And one of the most common problems,

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the most common letters we get here is the lack of sun. Shade.

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What do you grow in deep shade? I've got a few letters here.

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And these are just a small representation.

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"I've got a small patch of garden approximately 2ft by 3ft long

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"at the side of my house.

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"And it's in shade for most of the year, except in high summer.

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"I feel I'm not using it to full potential.

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"Can you tell me what to grow there?" And that's Jane Shephard.

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"I've got a spruce tree in my garden which has a protection order on it

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"and underneath is total shade. Can you help please?"

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Well, yes, I can.

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Because we have exactly this problem here at Longmeadow.

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This area, which is called, rather grandly, the Lime Walk,

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and that's simply because of the lime trees that I put in there.

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We had tulips here in spring, and then in summer,

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it was followed by... It tended to be bedding plants,

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but for the last three, four years, it's got shadier and shadier,

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and nothing really thrives. I mean, you can see. This is it.

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High summer. This is the display.

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I want to restore it so it looks really good.

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But to do that I've got to grow something

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that will thrive in dry shade.

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Ferns are the answer.

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What I've decided to do is completely change

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the feel of this part of the garden. This is not something to do lightly.

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I thought about this for ages.

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The Lime Walk is becoming Fern Alley.

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And I've chosen two particular ferns,

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so we have Dryopteris filix-mas

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and then the very similar but subtly different, Dryopteris affinis.

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In terms of growing, Affinis will tolerate more light.

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Dryopteris filix-mas you can grow in almost total shade.

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And both will grow about twice the height of that.

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So, they'll get up to about 3ft tall.

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And the reason why I've chosen this and the other Dryopteris is

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because they're so architectural.

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And with the fronds creating their shuttlecock shape...

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..and catching the light, this will look fantastic!

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This is an opportunity rather than a problem.

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The border is very narrow. The hedge has grown out,

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the lime trees have grown, the roots are sucking up all the moisture.

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Of course, if you have only a small area, 2ft by 3ft,

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you could fill it with ferns.

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There's no need to feed it. No need to add any compost.

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If your soil is very heavy clay,

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then maybe adding a bit of leaf mould will help,

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just to lighten the root run and increase the drainage,

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and remember to water them in,

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and if they look particularly dry,

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until next spring, just give them another water.

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These plants are not evergreen,

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so that they will die back and get a bit ragged.

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Ferns always get a bit beaten about by the weather

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but then they can be tidied up and of course the new fronds will appear

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in spring, and what I realised this is doing

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is it's changing part of this garden.

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It's becoming something else and I think that's exciting.

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And it's all part of the fact that ferns are not second-class citizens.

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They're strong, beautiful plants and should be celebrated as such.

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And of course, the perfect answer

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to what seems like a really tricky part of the garden.

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Now, you might not be planting ferns this weekend

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but here are some other things you can do.

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Unlike redcurrants, which are best pruned in spring,

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I like to prune blackcurrants immediately after fruiting

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and certainly by the end of summer.

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The idea is to prune out the oldest growth,

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cutting right down to the ground,

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which leaves more room for the first and second year shoots

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that will bear the most fruit next year.

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Spring cabbage needs to be sown as soon as possible if it's to stand

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any chance of growing into healthy, young plants.

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Sow them thinly into a seed tray or individual plugs,

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and put them somewhere warm to germinate.

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They can then be potted on

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before transplanting to their final position later in October.

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Another job that is small but well worth doing

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is to dead-head buddleias.

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This not only improves the appearance of the plant

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but also encourages a second flush of flowers which will provide

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an important source of nectar for bees and butterflies.

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The Jewel Garden really comes into its own at this time of year.

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At the end of summer, all the colours are richer and more intense.

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That's partly for the choice of plants,

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whether it be the dahlias and the cannas,

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buddleias and crocosmia, these all intrinsically have rich colours

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but it's also to do with the light,

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because the light at the end of August and throughout September

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is lower and it picks up the velvety richness of these tones,

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and it is important when you're planning the colour scheme of a garden

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to think the light that hits it is going to affect it just as much

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as the choice of colour itself.

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Talking about brightness and colour, there's scarcely a colour

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at any time of year in any kind of garden that is brighter

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than the crocosmia Lucifer.

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Down at Glebe Cottage,

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Carol is celebrating crocosmia in all its glory.

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As summer progresses, the garden develops.

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Everything becomes richer, fuller, riper.

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The soft pastels of June and early July are replaced by fiery reds,

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sizzling oranges and brilliant yellows.

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Crocosmias have arrived.

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Crocosmias come from South Africa and they just remind us

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of the debt our gardens owe to plants gathered from all over the world.

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This is Crocosmia "Gerbe D'Or",

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sometimes called Coleton "Fishacre".

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Just look at these glowing golden flowers

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and these beautiful bronze leaves.

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If you rub the leaves, they smell of saffron

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and that's where crocosmias get their name.

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From "krokos", Greek for saffron.

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They have this wonderful wandering habit.

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It's very gentle but it fits in perfectly

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with a naturalistic approach.

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They just want to be themselves

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but how could you resist growing something like that?

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That's "Emily McKenzie". Perfection.

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Mark Walsh has been captivated by crocosmia for almost 15 years.

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He's been collecting, growing and hybridising new varieties

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at his nursery in Cornwall,

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and made frequent trips to see the species growing wild in South Africa.

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What did you feel like, the very first time you saw a crocosmia?

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I had a shiver down my spine when I saw them.

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After growing them for so many years in my own garden

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and then finally going to see them in the wild, nothing better.

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Have you brought any of them back with you?

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Seed has been sent for me.

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I go to photograph them and then later on of course the seed comes,

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so maybe a year or two later some seed will arrive,

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and a few years after that you'll get them into flower.

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There's one crocosmia in particular that's got a bit of a bad reputation though.

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You'll be talking about Montbretia, won't you, or the common name.

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It was bred back in late 19th century by a chap called Victor Lemoine

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and he's down in Nancy in France,

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and he brought together these two.

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This one is one called pottsii,

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with its pretty little tubular flowers,

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it doesn't even really look like a crocosmia. So dainty.

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Beautiful. So somebody collected this and sent this to you?

0:20:580:21:02

Yes, they did, and then the cross was made with this one,

0:21:020:21:05

which is a wide, different flower.

0:21:050:21:07

This lives in the forests of South Africa.

0:21:070:21:10

So graceful. Is this aurea?

0:21:100:21:13

Aurea, yeah.

0:21:130:21:14

What did each of them contribute to Montbretia?

0:21:140:21:18

Well, this one is an incredibly vigorous plant

0:21:180:21:21

and that's what brought the vigour into Montbretia,

0:21:210:21:24

but this one brought the beautiful large flowers,

0:21:240:21:26

and it was a combination of the two that created what we know today.

0:21:260:21:30

So as much as Montbretia is notorious,

0:21:300:21:33

I suppose the most famous crocosmia is Lucifer.

0:21:330:21:36

It certainly is, and if you see any other crocosmia in somebody's garden

0:21:360:21:40

then it's sure to be those bright fiery red flowers of Lucifer

0:21:400:21:43

standing at the back of the border.

0:21:430:21:45

So what are its parents?

0:21:450:21:47

You know, they came from two different species in the wild.

0:21:470:21:50

One of them is this one here, this is paniculata.

0:21:500:21:53

Sometimes it's golden or sometimes it's red, like this one here,

0:21:530:21:57

but both of them always have these burnt ember-type buds and also

0:21:570:22:01

these elegant flowers, very different to the others we've looked at,

0:22:010:22:05

and those flowers are shaped just the same shape as the beak of the

0:22:050:22:08

Malachite Sunbird, which flutters around them and pollinates them.

0:22:080:22:12

It's a wonderful sight to see.

0:22:120:22:13

The other parent that created Lucifer was this one here - masoniorum.

0:22:130:22:17

Just look at the shape of the flowers.

0:22:170:22:19

This time you've a long arching stem with up to 30 buds on there.

0:22:190:22:23

Just a gorgeous plant, ready to grow in the garden.

0:22:230:22:26

And all opening in succession from the base stem.

0:22:260:22:29

If you really want your crocosmias to perform,

0:22:390:22:42

then it's essential to carry out a very simple operation

0:22:420:22:46

every couple of years.

0:22:460:22:48

Crocosmias make chains of corms.

0:22:480:22:50

The new one builds on top of the old one.

0:22:500:22:54

You do this in March so there wouldn't be any shoots there,

0:22:540:22:57

but the corms would be big and fat and raring to go.

0:22:570:23:02

Here are the old corms, probably two years old, three years old.

0:23:020:23:06

On top of that, a new one was made that produced last year's flower

0:23:060:23:11

and all you do is literally snap that top one off.

0:23:110:23:15

Dig your hole, make sure it's full of good compost, sink the corm in,

0:23:170:23:22

cover it over, and plant them just a few inches apart,

0:23:220:23:26

so you get this lovely, natural, flowing effect.

0:23:260:23:30

Crocosmias have evolved for thousands and thousands of years

0:23:300:23:34

in their native South Africa,

0:23:340:23:36

and they bring brilliant colour to the late summer border.

0:23:360:23:41

Just when you think it's all over, they say "it's just getting going".

0:23:410:23:47

This is the best time of year to take cuttings.

0:24:050:24:08

That's because plants have put on new growth,

0:24:080:24:10

so it's got lots of energy, they've hardened off enough

0:24:100:24:14

so that they don't just wither and die within minutes,

0:24:140:24:17

but they've got enough freshness in them to react

0:24:170:24:21

if they're put in the right conditions to produce roots

0:24:210:24:23

and what's good about taking cuttings now

0:24:230:24:26

is that they will root and then you can store

0:24:260:24:28

quite small plants over winter, ready for growing next spring.

0:24:280:24:34

Whereas on plants like pelargoniums,

0:24:340:24:36

storing them in any quantity can take up a lot of space.

0:24:360:24:41

The secret of taking pelargonium cuttings is to take your cutting

0:24:410:24:47

as near to the growing tip as possible.

0:24:470:24:49

There's no virtue... If you have this, this is Lady Plymouth,

0:24:490:24:52

one of the scented leaf pelargoniums,

0:24:520:24:55

and just for your benefit, you'll have to believe me...

0:24:550:24:58

That smells wonderfully fragrant.

0:24:580:25:00

Fantastic.

0:25:000:25:01

Lemony, musky - fabulous.

0:25:010:25:05

And if I took a cutting, this is new material here, right down to there

0:25:050:25:11

I'd have a big cutting but it wouldn't necessarily give me a bigger plant.

0:25:110:25:14

What we're looking for is new, non-flowering growth,

0:25:140:25:18

and as near to the top of the growth as possible.

0:25:180:25:22

So if I just snip this off there.

0:25:220:25:26

Like that.

0:25:300:25:31

And if I left it like that, there's an awful lot of leaf

0:25:330:25:37

and that's going to lose moisture, so I need to reduce

0:25:370:25:41

the amount of leaf to give it a fighting chance until

0:25:410:25:45

it's produced roots, which then can feed moisture back into the plant.

0:25:450:25:50

So, as ever, with a sharp knife, I take that leaf off there...

0:25:500:25:54

..and this one off here.

0:25:570:25:59

Now that's fine.

0:26:030:26:04

We've got plenty of foliage to feed it, but not so much to stress it

0:26:040:26:09

and strain it before it's got roots.

0:26:090:26:12

Now the compost mix for any cuttings wants to be very free draining.

0:26:120:26:16

What I've mixed up here is some compost mixed with grit

0:26:160:26:20

and vermiculite. Take a pencil.

0:26:200:26:23

And pop that in the edge there, like that.

0:26:230:26:28

And I would expect that to root.

0:26:280:26:30

Now, if I take another cutting from here, like that.

0:26:300:26:36

I'm just going to cut this below the leaf.

0:26:400:26:43

In my experience - that will take easily.

0:26:460:26:48

However, I have been told that to boost the striking rate and also

0:26:480:26:54

the root growth of pelargonium cuttings, you can use vitamin C.

0:26:540:26:59

And all you do is take a vitamin C tablet,

0:26:590:27:02

the type of which you can buy almost anywhere.

0:27:020:27:06

Pop it in some water. So it dissolves.

0:27:070:27:11

And then dip your cutting into the water.

0:27:140:27:17

What I'm going to do is do one whole pot of identical cuttings

0:27:190:27:23

that have used vitamin C, and one pot that hasn't.

0:27:230:27:26

We'll monitor and see which one grows better plants.

0:27:260:27:29

This pot, they've been dipped in vitamin C.

0:27:410:27:44

This pot, they haven't had anything at all. We'll see.

0:27:440:27:48

Now I shall water those but put them somewhere warm and dry

0:27:500:27:54

because it's important to keep the roots moist when they form

0:27:540:27:59

but the leaves dry,

0:27:590:28:01

so don't put them in a polythene bag or a mist propagator.

0:28:010:28:05

Then, when you see new growth, we can think about pricking them out

0:28:050:28:08

and growing them on.

0:28:080:28:10

But that's it for this week, and we're not on air next week

0:28:100:28:14

because there will be athletics instead.

0:28:140:28:16

However, we are back in a fortnight's time,

0:28:160:28:19

so I'll see you here at Long Meadow then. Bye-bye.

0:28:190:28:21

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:430:28:46

As August draws to a close, Monty Don turns his attention to autumn and tackles that perennial problem of what to grow in the shade of a tree or shrub. He also takes cuttings of his favourite pelargoniums - an essential task at this time of year.

Carol Klein takes a closer look at that late summer jewel, the crocosmia, and we meet a gardener in Derbyshire who has spent a lifetime growing and showing gladioli.


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