Episode 26 Gardeners' World


Episode 26

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Hello and welcome to Gardeners' World.

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Now, we do tend to think at this time of year that winter is coming

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and the garden is collapsing and it's all getting very autumnal.

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But if you stop and have a look, the garden is looking great.

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Full of colour.

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And that colour is all coming from a group of plants that

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tend to come from nearer the equator, that don't respond to the

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fading light, but are really happy as long as it stays warm.

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And it's still really mild here at Longmeadow,

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so you've got Cannas, Zinnias, Dahlias,

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Cosmos, the Fuchsias are having a really enthusiastic

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second flush of flower.

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And they'll go on flowering until we get the frost.

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So on today's programme we're going to celebrate what's looking great

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about the garden, as well as getting on with jobs to keep it

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looking good right through into next spring.

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This week, Joe visits the eminent furniture designer John Makepeace,

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who has created his very first garden and has used only grasses.

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Wow!

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What I really like is the graphic way you've used these plants, you know,

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big bands of them and drifts of them and blocks of them,

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a real designer's eye coming through there.

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And Carol goes to RHS Wisley to celebrate a '60s classic.

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Heathers have long fallen out of fashion,

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but as she discovers, can still look fantastic.

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I think the thing that people really forget is these are so versatile,

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they are completely hardy, we've normally got flowers from autumn

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right through to spring, and they're a great foil for other plants.

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And as well as clearing my greenhouse

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and planting some crops for winter salads, I'm going to be moving

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some plants around so that they will look at their very best.

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Come on.

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The Lime Walk is one of the key parts of Longmeadow.

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It's the first piece we made, and is the link, the main link,

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from the house and the garden.

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So it's always been very important.

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It changes across the seasons of course.

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It starts off quite open and then you get the bulbs coming through.

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Particularly tulips look great.

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And then as the foliage grows on the limes

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and the hornbeam hedges underneath them, it gets darker, and darker.

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But over the 20 years since we first made it, what's interesting is

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the roots have grown, and it's not only got darker

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because everything's got bigger, but also it's got much, much drier.

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So the planting has changed. We've started by putting ferns in,

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and we've got two types of Dryopteris -

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filix-mas and affinis, they've been in about a month,

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and they're looking great.

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The next phase is to add to that planting.

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And at the moment, a bit bitty.

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So I want to simplify it, move some plants, add a few others,

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but adapt it to the way that it is, rather than what it used to be.

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Now, Cyclamens adapt well to shady places.

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They're Mediterranean plants,

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but in the Mediterranean, their natural home, they tend to grow

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down in the valleys, in slightly moister, more shady areas.

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And what they like is really well drained soil,

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but also, they don't mind quite high rainfall.

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And they're certainly going to get that here at Longmeadow.

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What I'm doing is moving the white Cyclamens

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to the Writing Garden, and I'm going to be planting more pink,

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just to simplify it down, and relish what the pink Cyclamen are doing.

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Now, these are Cyclamen hederifolium.

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And they're good and hardy. Not all Cyclamen are.

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So if in doubt, go for them.

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Cyclamen coum, which flower a little bit later in the winter,

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will also survive anything that the weather can throw at them.

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And now is a really good time to plant Cyclamen.

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You can grow them from the dry tubers,

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but it's difficult, and can be very slow.

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Much better to get a plant in leaf or in flower

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and put it into the ground.

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And you can move them at the same time.

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The idea is not to damage the tubers but just dig them up -

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which is why I am fiddling around a bit here -

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and transplant the whole thing.

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Right in amongst the roots of the tree.

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There she comes. There we go. Out you come, there we are.

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And look at the way you get these coiled stems, there.

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Really beautiful, bent-back petals. Like arms flung back.

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And, of course, open to pollination.

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Get in under that.

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There we are. That's got a nice root system.

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Cyclamens spread really fast. They spread by seed.

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And you put a few plants in, spread them a couple of feet apart,

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quite quickly they will form a solid display.

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Another very good reason for delaying till this time of year is

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I had to wait and see what colours the flowers were.

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Because the foliage of a white-flowered Cyclamen hederifolium

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and a pink-flowered one looks identical.

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And the ones I'm going to plant have got a really strong,

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slightly magenta touch to the pink that will shine out of the dark.

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Now, a plant like that costs a couple of quid.

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It's the price of a cup of coffee. So they're good value.

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They will last for years and years.

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They will spread really easily and they will give you colour

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at a time of year when a lot of other things are starting to fail.

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And also they will thrive in a position where a lot of other things

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simply won't like it at all.

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There's another plant I want to move now which won't flower

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until next spring, if it flowers at all.

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Now, the reason why this may not flower is because it's not happy.

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It's a Camellia. It's called Cornish Snow.

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And it has real charm,

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and if it had flowered well here it would have fitted in very nicely.

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But the problem is it is too dry.

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The shade from the trees,

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the moisture is being sucked up by their roots,

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the rain isn't getting through,

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and for a Camellia to form its buds properly in late summer

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it needs plenty of moisture there, August, September and October.

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Now, this little plant has hardly grown in the couple of years

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it's been here, so it shouldn't have too big a root system.

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If it was really big, I'd have to cut it down.

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Now, this is a good time to plant evergreens.

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With deciduous plants, you wait till they're dormant.

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The leaves fall off, then you move them.

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But evergreen plants are never dormant.

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October is about the nearest they ever get to dormancy.

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They're not growing, but not producing flowers,

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so by moving them now you've got the safest time.

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That has got a very small root wall.

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The roots have gone down, and it's bone-dry.

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The top layer isn't too bad.

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And you've got fresh roots coming through.

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I want more moisture than that.

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So I'll move this from the Spring Garden here, to the Writing Garden.

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And, of course, the theme of the plants there is white and frothy.

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So when it gets established, when it gets happy,

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the white, frothy flowers will be perfectly at home.

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When I was a child, heathers were very fashionable.

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They were planted everywhere,

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and particularly as a labour-saving plant.

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And then they went out of fashion,

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and I guess they've never really come back in.

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But Carol has been out to celebrate them,

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and see them at their very best.

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Despite the wholesale urbanisation of our islands,

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there are still wild places to be found.

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Heathland and moorland.

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And more than anything else, one plant in particular personifies

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this sort of place, and creates that special magic.

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Here on Chatley Heath in Surrey, our native heather,

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Calluna vulgaris, stretches as far as the eye can see.

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The poor, sandy, acid conditions here suit it down to the ground.

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Mankind has always had a close association with heather.

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It's been used for thatching, fuel, bedding, and for making brooms.

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In fact, the Greek word "Calluna"

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means to brush or clean.

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But just a stone's throw from here is a wondrous collection

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of all sorts of different heathers.

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RHS Wisley holds the national collection of heathers.

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The work here helps preserve this fascinating group of plants.

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I think the thing that people really forget is these are so versatile.

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They are completely hardy.

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They will give you a long season of interest.

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You've normally got flowers from autumn right through to spring.

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They hug the ground, so minimum weeding.

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And they're a great foil for other plants.

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I mean, I suppose so many people, me included,

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associate them with that kind of era.

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You know, where they were used so extensively

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and were just an excuse for doing no work.

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Shove in a few conifers, and that was it! Yeah, maybe so.

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I don't remember that era... Of course you don't!

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All I see now is something like this, Daboecia.

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Huge flowers, really good, clean leaves there.

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So how many different heathers have you got in the collection?

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The collection is massive.

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We've got just under 1,000 different heathers,

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made up of three different groups, Callunas, Ericas, and Daboecia.

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I just love the way the sunlight plays with this Calamagrostis,

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and it just rises up out of your heathers.

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You're not expecting it, are you?

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No, I mean, it's quite an unusual association,

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you wouldn't always expect to have grasses through heathers,

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in the wild it does actually happen.

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And you've got more of it over here too. That's a beautiful planting.

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It's really nice.

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It just shows we're doing something a bit different,

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with the grass seed heads, and I just love those dwarf pines,

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they're like heads of broccoli, they're absolutely fantastic.

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Look at the variety in here! This is a perfect example,

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one of the Callunas in front of us, this is Helen Gill,

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really nice, frozen grey foliage,

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and it keeps that colour throughout the year as well.

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I think it looks very, sort of, misty, especially now,

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covered in these white flowers,

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I mean, when do most of them flower, the Callunas?

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Kind of late summer, early autumn time. It's quite a long period.

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And is this one of the ones that must have acid soil?

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They do better on acidic soil,

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and that's similar for the Daboecia as well.

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They are better with a slightly lower pH.

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I think, to really illustrate this, that I really love,

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is you can see... I mean, this has been in flower for weeks already,

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and you can see the flowering spike, as it extends with more flowers.

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There's a score of flowers on that little piece. Just wonderful.

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Third group is the Ericas. They kind of take us late winter into spring.

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And they've got a much more needle-like leaf,

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just give them plenty of water when they first go in,

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and they should give you a good show.

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Now, heathers are some of the easiest plants to propagate.

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You can take little tip cuttings, and they will root within weeks.

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But if you want a lot of plants, fast, why not try this?

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This is drop-layering.

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This is a plant that Matthew was going to do this to anyway,

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but I've beaten him to it.

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This heather is old and leggy. But rather than risk cutting it back,

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it's perfect material for a very particular method of propagation.

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I've just got to make a much deeper hole, to replant the heather.

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So I'm making sure that each of these shoots

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is in close and intimate contact with the soil.

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You mustn't leave air pockets.

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And within a matter of months

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these shoots will have produced new little roots close to the surface.

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Wait till the spring and you'll see bright new growth coming up.

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And that's your sign to move some of the soil aside,

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get in with your secateurs, sever those little pieces,

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and you're going to have dozens of new heather plants.

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What the heather garden here at RHS Wisley demonstrates

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is that heathers are no longer stuck in the '60s.

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Providing you use them creatively, they are plants with a bright future.

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Even if I wanted to grow heathers here, I couldn't.

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Or at least not easily, because this soil is pretty neutral.

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Which, of course, is perfect for Cyclamens,

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because Cyclamens will grow

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in slightly acidic, slightly alkaline soil,

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with great happiness, as long as they've got good drainage.

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So I'm adding drainage to the planting hole here.

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And remember that they are tubers,

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so they do need to sit a couple of inches below the surface

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of the soil, and then the leaves and the stems will go up through.

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Of course, I'm being really careful with this plant,

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because I don't want to damage the flowers.

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Now, I've brought the Camellia here.

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Camellias, like heathers, like an acidic soil.

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But my soil, which is neutral, means that I can grow Camellias -

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I just need to treat it with a little bit of special attention.

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The first thing to do is dig a generous hole.

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And I'm taking out more soil than I need to

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because adding leaf mould will help the plant.

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Camellias like a nice, loose root run.

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Leaf mould is the perfect material.

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And if you can't get any, then use something to lighten the soil

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but not feed it too much.

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So definitely not manure.

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Maybe some garden compost.

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And I'm going to plant that not too deep.

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If anything, I want it to be slightly proud of the soil,

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so if I lift it up a little bit

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and then fill back under it...

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That will do.

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Well, let's hope that it's happier here in its new home

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than it was in the Spring Garden.

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I've still got one really important job to do,

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which I'll do sometime between now and next March,

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of giving it a generous mulch of the ericaceous compost.

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But here are some jobs you can do right now.

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Any cuttings that you took in summer will have established roots by now.

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However, they will need potting on, into a richer compost.

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Put them individually, and put them somewhere protected,

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and then leave them there over winter.

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Next spring they'll be ready to grow again strongly and plant out.

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By planting spring cabbages now,

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their roots will get established while the soil is still warm.

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You won't see a lot of top growth before next spring, but when

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they do grow, they'll grow fast, and be ready to harvest in April or May.

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Now is the time to move alpines growing in terracotta pots or pans.

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They don't mind cold weather, but they hate wet.

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So put them somewhere dry, with as much light as possible,

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and lots of ventilation.

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I've got a letter here from Chris Goodwin at Stoke-on-Trent

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and he says, "Will it do any harm in moving some perennial plants

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"at this time of year?

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"I'd like to move some in a border that I planted up earlier this year

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"to make space for bulbs next spring

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"and they include Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm',

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"Miscanthus 'Zebrinus', daylilies and Monarda."

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The fact that they're young plants and haven't got too established is good.

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It means that they will move more easily,

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and as a rule, any herbaceous perennials can be moved in autumn.

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Not a bad thing to do at all.

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However, you also mention Miscanthus

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and it is a really bad idea to move grasses in autumn.

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Wait till spring, otherwise there's a real risk -

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not only will they not do well, but they may well die on you.

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Anyway, this is the season to relish grasses.

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I think they're amongst the loveliest thing

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in the autumnal garden.

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'And it seems that I'm not alone.

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'Joe went to visit the world-famous furniture designer

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'John Makepeace, who shares my passion for grasses.

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'He and his wife Jenny have his-and-hers gardens

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'that reflect their very different styles.'

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'Jenny's gardened for years and on her side of the garden,

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'the style is typical country cottage, but John -

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'a relative newcomer to the joys of gardening - has other ideas.'

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Your collection of plots are great. It's quite fun, isn't it?

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Is this your sort of thing, John, gardening-wise? Eh...no!

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HE LAUGHS

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No, Jen is such a plants person and I'm not.

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Do you appreciate them?

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I am appreciative, I can admire it, yes.

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So, Jenny, what do you think of John's garden next door, then?

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I think it's brilliant. I mean, I really mean that.

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There was a moment when I thought I'd kill him

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because I wanted that space and then he really got into it

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and I thought, "No, this is a very determined man,

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"I'd better go with this," but, no, I think it's...

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I think it's a triumph, really.

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For somebody who doesn't garden, it's a triumph.

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Jenny's cottage garden is a riot of blooms,

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but John takes a very different approach.

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Wow, this is...

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This is very, very designed and it looks very smart, I have to say.

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It wasn't what I was expecting at all. Why grasses?

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Well, I think I like their purity

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and I'm not fond of seeing grasses mixed in with other plants.

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You know, Jenny tries to get me to plant other things in here,

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or has tried and I've said,

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"No, no, no, I actually want to see these forms

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"without that compromise."

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What I really like about them is their architectural quality,

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and so in selecting grasses

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everything had to have a very distinctive form.

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Most of these plants came into the garden in tiny pots.

0:20:360:20:39

They are beginning to mature now, they are becoming stronger,

0:20:390:20:42

they are spreading, and, of course, there's going to come a point at which I'm going to have to thin.

0:20:420:20:46

I'm not looking forward to that. That's called gardening!

0:20:460:20:49

Yeah, I know!

0:20:490:20:50

Cos there are other plants in this garden and you've got the evergreen structure.

0:20:500:20:53

I mean, you've got a pretty good...

0:20:530:20:55

This topiary, I mean, it sets the tone, doesn't it? Doesn't it?

0:20:550:20:58

Yes, yes.

0:20:580:20:59

# Why do you whisper, green grass?

0:20:590:21:05

# Why tell the trees what ain't so?

0:21:050:21:09

# Whispering grass... #

0:21:090:21:11

What I really like is the graphic way you've used these plants.

0:21:110:21:14

You know, big bands of them and drifts of them,

0:21:140:21:16

and blocks of them, a real designer's eye coming through there.

0:21:160:21:19

Which are your favourites? This is a delight.

0:21:190:21:22

It's Molinia arundinacea 'Transparent'.

0:21:220:21:24

But the way you see through it,

0:21:240:21:26

it's absolutely stunning, isn't it?

0:21:260:21:28

I mean, it's just so beautiful. Yeah, it's gorgeous.

0:21:280:21:32

The Poa has a very strong form and I like that.

0:21:320:21:34

It starts the season very clipped and tight

0:21:340:21:37

and then it springs these shoots

0:21:370:21:40

so that over the summer it becomes a really big spreading plant.

0:21:400:21:43

And then the Miscanthus, of course, so wonderful structurally,

0:21:430:21:46

as is the Stipa gigantea, which forms the avenue against the wall.

0:21:460:21:50

A whole hedge of them, really...

0:21:500:21:52

creating the seclusion as well.

0:21:520:21:55

# Whispering grass, don't tell the trees

0:21:550:22:00

# Cos the trees don't have to know... #

0:22:000:22:03

This fantastic bridge, which...

0:22:030:22:06

This is your forte when it comes to design, this sort of thing, isn't it?

0:22:060:22:10

It's beautiful.

0:22:100:22:11

And what I like about it is right at the sort of hump,

0:22:110:22:13

the high point, we are looking down, it gives you a whole new perspective

0:22:130:22:17

on the garden, cos we're looking down on the planting, into the pond area.

0:22:170:22:22

The tenuissima look lovely from above.

0:22:220:22:23

And that's the way it should be planted in my opinion -

0:22:230:22:25

a big block like that.

0:22:250:22:27

It creates that texture, doesn't it?

0:22:270:22:29

The fluffiness. It's always alive, it's never still.

0:22:290:22:32

Can we cross your bridge? Is that all right? If you dare, if you dare.

0:22:320:22:35

There's no handrails!

0:22:350:22:38

Is this a summer house, or studio?

0:22:390:22:41

No, it's not a studio,

0:22:410:22:43

it's a place for switching off rather than working.

0:22:430:22:46

Yeah, it's fantastic from here as well,

0:22:460:22:48

just looking at the banks of the grasses

0:22:480:22:50

and the variation of height, and feeling like you are really

0:22:500:22:53

in amongst the planting here, it's gorgeous.

0:22:530:22:55

Yes, one of the benefits of having a clear foreground is,

0:22:550:22:57

of course, you can get so much more background.

0:22:570:22:59

The water enables you to see

0:22:590:23:01

so much more of the surrounds without any break.

0:23:010:23:04

And if someone asked you to design their garden

0:23:040:23:06

and you being the garden designer, would you take that on board?

0:23:060:23:09

I'm not sure. They'd be very brave to do it!

0:23:100:23:14

THEY LAUGH

0:23:140:23:16

And it'd have to have grasses in it, right? Yeah!

0:23:160:23:18

By planting only grasses, John's made a very bold move.

0:23:200:23:24

What he's achieved here with his limited choice of plants

0:23:240:23:27

is truly inspiring.

0:23:270:23:29

It is hard to believe that this is his first garden,

0:23:300:23:34

but John's strong eye for design shows in every detail.

0:23:340:23:39

Overall, it creates a textural tapestry and a very strong mood.

0:23:410:23:46

Grasses don't have to play a supporting role in the garden,

0:23:460:23:49

they can be the stars themselves.

0:23:490:23:50

Now, the tomatoes are still ripening, but very slowly.

0:24:040:24:09

And the chances are that any tomato like this one that's still

0:24:090:24:13

completely green is not going to ripen this year.

0:24:130:24:17

So what I do every October, and I'm going to do now, is say,

0:24:170:24:20

"OK, this lot have done their stuff, they've been fantastic,

0:24:200:24:24

"but it's over."

0:24:240:24:25

Clear them out the way then use the bed to plant up

0:24:250:24:29

some salad crops which I've been raising since midsummer.

0:24:290:24:32

The first thing to do is to pick what tomatoes we've got

0:24:330:24:37

and I will eat the ripe ones and put most of the green ones

0:24:370:24:41

to ripen in a drawer or make green chutney out of them.

0:24:410:24:45

Now, cut them all free.

0:24:490:24:51

Now, I've been walking all over this.

0:25:010:25:03

As we've picked the tomatoes and tied them,

0:25:030:25:06

we've trod on the bed, it's compacted.

0:25:060:25:08

So although ideally you don't stand on a raised bed at all,

0:25:080:25:12

if you do, you've still got to dig it over

0:25:120:25:14

to get rid of the compaction.

0:25:140:25:16

Right, that's dealt with the compaction

0:25:260:25:28

and helped the soil's structure,

0:25:280:25:30

but this bed has worked really hard, it's produced pounds and

0:25:300:25:34

pounds of tomatoes, great big tomato plants and it needs some nutrition.

0:25:340:25:40

The best thing you can do to reinvigorate a soil,

0:25:400:25:42

give it new life, is give it a dressing of compost.

0:25:420:25:45

I have here some salad rocket, which was sown at the end of July,

0:26:000:26:05

the beginning of August.

0:26:050:26:07

Rocket's really good for a winter salad,

0:26:070:26:09

it doesn't mind cool weather and it will grow in low light levels.

0:26:090:26:12

It stops growing round about the beginning of December

0:26:120:26:15

and then starts growing again at the beginning of February.

0:26:150:26:18

So it's a good idea to get it established in October in good time.

0:26:180:26:22

I have some endive - a type of chicory -

0:26:220:26:25

which you just eat like a salad crop, that will

0:26:250:26:28

grow well throughout winter, and a lettuce here called

0:26:280:26:31

Deer's Tongue, which I like to eat very much.

0:26:310:26:34

It's not particularly hardy, but it does well.

0:26:340:26:37

You can also... buy, essentially, summer lettuce,

0:26:370:26:42

these are Cos grown in plugs, which won't grow a lot over

0:26:420:26:47

the winter, but will give you a picking of salad crops.

0:26:470:26:50

The other good tip is to simply buy cut-and-come-again lettuce,

0:26:500:26:57

like this, which you can get from a supermarket

0:26:570:27:00

and if you take them out of the tray,

0:27:000:27:02

they are not designed to be replanted

0:27:020:27:04

but they will perfectly well -

0:27:040:27:06

you can break them up and plant them in groups

0:27:060:27:10

and they will grow away.

0:27:100:27:12

So, whatever you choose, use the space,

0:27:120:27:15

that's the important thing.

0:27:150:27:17

Don't waste any of the space, and give yourself

0:27:170:27:20

some fresh salad material even on the darkest days of winter.

0:27:200:27:25

And you would much rather have a fresh ball than a fresh salad, wouldn't you?

0:27:250:27:30

In the wheelbarrow.

0:27:320:27:33

Out the wheelbarrow.

0:27:340:27:36

In the wheelbarrow.

0:27:360:27:38

Out the wheelbarrow.

0:27:410:27:43

The fun goes on and on.

0:27:430:27:45

Now, I would stress that this is something to get on with.

0:28:030:28:06

Try and do it this weekend if you can

0:28:060:28:08

because the longer the plants have to grow,

0:28:080:28:10

and get a better root system,

0:28:100:28:13

the more you will be able to harvest from them,

0:28:130:28:15

and that growth rate will slow down dramatically over the next month.

0:28:150:28:20

Well, the rain is still falling. It's nice and dry here in the greenhouse,

0:28:240:28:28

so I know what I'm going to be doing for the next hour or so.

0:28:280:28:31

I'll see you back here at Longmeadow next week. Till then, bye-bye.

0:28:310:28:35

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:570:29:00

As autumn unfolds in the garden, Monty Don and his faithful sidekick Nigel have plenty to be getting on with, making the most of the season and preparing for the winter ahead.

Carol Klein is in Surrey looking at wild and cultivated heathers. Hugely popular in the 1970s, these plants had fallen out of favour but Carol meets a plantsman to find out why they are well worth rediscovering.


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