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Hello. Welcome to Gardeners' World. Now, I've left Longmeadow today
and come to RHS Garden Wisley where they're preparing
for an anticipated 900,000 visitors this year.
Mind you, it has been as tough for them as it has been for all of us
with this harsh spring weather.
Nevertheless, there's lots going on here both inside and out.
And also this week -
Carol is lending a hand to an RHS Britain in Bloom volunteer who
is hoping to brighten up a former mining town with a community garden.
-Wow! Look at this!
Oh, it's plant wonderland, isn't it?
And Joe is in Wales visiting a garden filled with rare
and exotic species.
Stunning piece of architecture
and it's the home to some of the most endangered plants on our planet.
I shall be looking at the orchid collection here
and learning the best way to repot them.
I'll also be helping to sow some wild flower seed
and getting inspiration for my own garden from the alpine house.
I've come to this alpine house for two reasons really.
The first is it's got the best colour in the whole of Wisley
and even the great Wisley is slightly short of colour
after the spring we've had, but this is just rich with it.
And also, more selfishly, because I don't know much about alpines
and I want to grow more.
I want to really introduce them into Longmeadow,
so to get inspiration and knowledge, this is the place to come.
And Colin Crosbie the curator of Wisley is here to give me
expert advice on how to grow them.
Colin, I think it's fair to say that this has got more colour
in this one house than the rest of Wisley put together at the moment.
At the present moment it's just like a sweet shop,
-it's overflowing with colour.
-What defines an alpine?
It's one of those things that we all sort of think we know.
A true alpine is something that grows high up
in the mountains at high altitudes.
A lot of people think alpines are difficult.
They are not, they are so easy to grow and wonderful in the container.
And why are they grown in pots in here?
Why don't you just plant them straight into the bed?
Well, we grow them in clay pots which are plunged into the sand
because that again helps to keep the root system cool
and in the summer months, we soak the sand with moisture
so that the clay pot can take the moisture from the sand
into the pot, whereas, during the winter months
when you want the roots to be dry,
the sand pulls the moisture through the clay pot out.
Would you say that some of these plants are easier to grow
than others, or good for a beginner?
There are some that are very easy to grow. For example, over here
we've got some beautiful Saxifragas with lovely colour.
As you can see there's a mass of tiny little pink flowers
and then things such as Cyclamen coum -
-very, very easy to grow outside.
-And these will grow outside?
These will grow outside perfectly well, especially
when they're in a trough and you've got good drainage underneath them
and you can maybe use some pieces of tiles
or stones in there to add a little bit of architecture
to your trough as well.
I tell you the ones that I really like, are the tulips.
This one, humilis. That's SO pretty, isn't it?
Such wonderful colours and outside these are actually great at the
bottom of a sheltered south-facing wall where they get baked with the
sun and there just so vibrant when you see the colours inside them.
And unlike a lot of tulips,
-they will go on and on and on, won't they?
-These will keep flowering
for year after year so you don't need to keep replanting them,
but plant them fairly deep - sunny, south-facing wall,
a bit of shelter because you don't want that cold wind
battering them around and then you get this wonderful colour from them.
A lot of these can grow outside and stay outside
and it's putting them in the right conditions,
and buy six, seven, eight of those and you've got a nice trough, or
a big clay pot, and you've got
your own little miniature alpine garden.
I'm making a list which is not really a shopping list, more of an
inspirational list for plants that I would like to grow at Longmeadow.
And there's no substitute
when you're planning any kind of garden, be it a few pots on a
windowsill or a great big herbaceous plot, to going out and seeing
them growing, and building plant combinations of colour and texture
and size that you can then take back to your own garden at home.
And Joe has gone to visit a partner garden of the RHS
and partner gardens allow entry free to RHS members
at certain times of the year.
The one he has gone to is the National Botanic Garden of Wales,
which has an unusual glasshouse
not only on the outside but also on the inside.
Just look around you, where is the cherry blossom?
Were at the magnolia blooms?
For many of us, spring is unseasonably late,
but I've come to somewhere where it is well under way.
Here at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, I've been promised
wonders under this spectacular dome.
And it's certainly delivers.
It's a stunning piece of architecture,
a veritable Noah's Ark made of glass packed full of plants
and it's the home of some of the most endangered plants on our planet.
We all know about the threat to the rainforest but the plants here come
from some of the driest, most arid places in the world.
These Mediterranean plants are so rare
you'll struggle to see them anywhere else on earth.
They are known as Mediterranean plants
because of the climate they live in, but they actually come
from as far afield as California, Australia and even South Africa.
Look at this, this is absolutely stunning. This is the King protea.
The national flower of South Africa. It's absolutely beautiful, isn't it?
I've been lucky enough to see it in its natural environment
in Cape Town on Table Mountain.
They grow in the fynbos, which literally translated means the
fine bush, and it's a combination of flora that all
thrive off each other and live in this wonderful ecosystem,
but it's under threat through environmental change
and also man-made influences too.
Out of the 370 protea species, 120 of them are endangered
so it's just lovely to see it thriving away here.
Creating a specific habitat that allows these plants to thrive
is no mean feat.
This spectacular dome is the largest single span glass house
in the world and was designed by Sir Norman Foster.
Covering 3,500 square metres, its rocky terraces
and sandstone cliffs are contoured to reflect the natural environment.
Simon Goodenough is a horticultural curator here
and is passionate about protecting endangered species.
You've got some pretty rare plants here, haven't you?
McCutcheon's Grevillea I hear is here somewhere.
Yeah, it's not a looker
so you've probably walked straight past it and it's here.
It really is not going to win the beauty contest, is it?
Mind you, from a botanical point of view
and as a curator of a botanic garden, it gets my juices going.
I think this is absolutely really sexy,
-but we're not going to sell it to a lot of people.
-How rare is it?
In Western Australia there's ten of them in the wild, that's it.
The only reason this was found is
because somebody was deciding to drive a road through
a part of Western Australia
and quite by luck, a botanist took a look at it and said,
"Guys, I don't think we've ever seen this before."
Realised that it was a brand-new species to science.
We've managed to grow it, we can actually propagate it
and we've got probably more than there are in the wild.
We are keepers of genetic material if you like.
If ever there was a call to get material back, they know it is here.
I've been transported on holiday for a minute there.
Honestly, I am in the Canary Islands.
I love these Echiums, they are gorgeous
and I can't quite imagine that they're particularly endangered.
Things like the Echiums
are almost like weeds over there, aren't they?
Well, some of them are but a lot of them
grow in very specific niches
and those niches happen to be where we want to build hotels
and plazas, and so where they would naturally have grown,
they are being squeezed out, so it just needs somebody to decide
they want to build a multiplex hotel
-on the site of an endangered plant - end of story.
So it's all about keeping the habitat or growing them here,
but we're also growing them in our gardens in the UK as well,
when the winters aren't too cold.
There are three or four species that we grow in the British Isles
that are actually relatively easy to grow, and Echium pininana, the great
tall architectural plant that has graced many a London garden
where you've got the heat of the city, very easy to grow.
More people should have a go at it.
I've always wanted to grow one actually. Maybe this is the year.
Well, yes, give it a go because it's helping to preserve
the biodiversity of planet Earth.
I will do my little bit then.
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is fascinating.
It's huge, there's lots to see and I really recommend paying it a visit.
Of course, Wisley is pretty huge too.
It is broken down into lots of smaller gardens
and they're busy at work here despite the weather.
In fact, they were saying to me that they reckon
they are 20 days behind last year.
However, preparation is under way
and they're sowing wildflower meadows
not just in the great open spaces they have here,
but also in corners of the model gardens.
Now as part of next week's National Gardening Week,
we're all being encouraged to grow wild flowers.
It's a really good way to add colour
and texture to any corner of your garden and also has the huge
benefit of attracting lots of bees and other pollinating insects.
-Hello. How are you doing?
Now I gather you're making a meadow,
albeit in really quite a small space.
A very small space just to show what you can do on a small
scale in a domestic garden.
So having dug it over, what's the next step?
We now need to tread, consolidate the soil.
-Are you ready to get stuck in?
-Yes, I've got my treading shoes on.
Now you're preparing this like a lawn, to get rid of bits
and hollows. Why in fact?
It's just we need a settled seed bed to be sowing these into.
We don't want the soil settling once we've already put the seed down.
I know that the received opinion is that you need poor soil
for any kind of wild flower mix.
There's a couple of schools of thought here.
I mean, the more fertile the soil is the more vigorous any grass
will be that's within that meadow mix.
If you've got very poor soils then the grass is going to be far less
vigorous and it will be a happier combination between
wild flowers and grasses.
It's a perennial mix we're putting in here with foxgloves,
primulas, with some Galiums, that's known as bedstraw.
Is there any grass in the mix at all?
We're not going for grass in here. We've quite fertile soil in here
and I dare say the grasses wouldn't look so in keeping in a border
so we're going completely wild flower.
-So, presumably you want to rake that.
-We do, yes.
We'll need to get this down to a fine tilth now.
But just to take out any large stones or any twigs in here.
How critical is the timing of this?
I mean, it's still cold but presumably the soil is warming up.
What is really important this time of year is
we've still got moisture in the soil.
That moisture is there for the germination,
will help the flowers establish.
You could do this in the autumn
if you've caught quite a free draining soil.
If you've got a soil that is prone to waterlogging or quite cold,
like a clay soil, now, spring, is the time to do it.
-To get on with this.
-Right, that tilth is now a thing of beauty.
-It's firm. Ready?
-Yes, we're good to go.
As it's a small area we're actually going to mix the seed with some sand.
You should use a silver sand or a washed sand. You can
see your sowing and just to help distribute the seed.
And I'm literally going to simply sprinkle this in through the sand.
People tend to sow too thickly, don't they?
Indeed and we're kind of working on
around one gram per square metre here.
-Right. That's ready.
-This is good to go.
It doesn't take two to sew a little patch of seed like that. I'm going to watch.
It doesn't and it's actually a good point because even quite
a large area, just casting by hand is actually one of the most
effective ways and you simply just do a light sprinkling action.
This is where the sand comes in.
This is where the sand is so useful.
You can see where you've gone a bit too thick or perhaps a little
-too thin and you can easily go back.
-Do you leave or rake it?
-Very, very light rake.
Just the finest rake.
-And it is literally just a...
-Tickle, that's the word.
Also it takes out my footprints which look absolutely hideous.
-Just enough to settle the seed there.
-And one last thing.
Water, and really just in the first few months while this is
germinating, just to ensure the ground doesn't completely dry out.
And with a little bit of warmth,
-these will be germinating in weeks, won't they?
-We hope for that warmth.
-I'd give anything for that warmth.
Now, you may not be making a meadow,
but here are some other jobs that you can be getting on with at home
Mop head hydrangeas benefit from having their dead flower heads
left on over winter.
This helps to protect them against frost damage
but with the arrival of spring, it's time to remove them,
cutting back to the first strong healthy pair of green buds
lower down the stem.
Any thin, spindly stems should be pruned out too along with
dead branches, of course, and this will help open up the shrub
and improve its overall shape.
Apricots, nectarines and peaches all need pollinating
if they're going to bear a good crop of fruit,
but bees may not be active yet and if you grow them under glass,
may have difficulty getting to the flowers.
In both cases, pollinating them by hand is the answer.
Simply tickle each bloom with a soft brush
so the pollen is spread from one flower to the next
and if you can, it's best to do this in the middle of the day.
It's always a good idea to stake your herbaceous
perennials before they need it.
And at Wisley they have rather a nifty way of doing this.
Birch branches that they've gathered over
the winter are stuck into the ground around each plant.
These are then woven along the top by carefully bending
and twisting the twigs together.
The height of each support varies according to the plant concerned but
if you aim for a foot or so off the plants final height, you'll be fine.
I don't grow any orchids myself but when I was a child,
my granny did and I can still see clearly in my mind's eye these
extraordinary flowers up on the mantelpiece,
arching down like exotic birds.
I know lots of people get given orchids and grow them
and get the same sort of wonder and pleasure that I did when I was
a child, but to come here and see so many altogether really is special.
Wisley's orchid collection is one of its star
attractions at this time of year and I'm meeting Peter Jones to find
out how best to look after this most exotic of houseplants.
-Peter, how many different orchids have you got here?
Well it's pretty hard to put a figure on it
but we've got hundreds of orchids in our collection.
-It's pretty extensive.
Now a lot of people will be given orchids.
Was the first thing you need to do and where do you put an orchid?
I suppose you need to think about your orchid selection,
so, for example, if you had an orchid like a Phalaenopsis,
which is given very commonly,
that's an orchid which can take high temperatures
so it's ideal for a warmer room like say a living room,
and it also can tolerate lower light levels so it's ideal for say
if you've got more of a shadier room as well.
A lot of people will think this is an exotic plant,
needs a lot of heat and will put it on a radiator.
-Is that a good idea?
The thing with most modern houses is that they're all central heated
and it drives all the moisture out of the air and
the majority of these orchids come from very humid environments,
so they like moisture in the air.
So somewhere like above a radiator is not going to be ideal for it.
I know that a lot of people get anxious with orchids.
They grow them fine and they do their stuff,
but after a bit they either outgrow the pot or they stop flowering.
And repotting an orchid can be quite a daunting task.
We happen to be doing some at the moment,
so if you want to come this way.
This is a phalaenopsis, a moth orchid,
which is perhaps one of the most commonly given houseplants in the UK.
I see this is in a clear pot, why is that?
Orchids like phalaenopsis do quite like a bit of sunlight
on their roots to help with their feeding. But you also notice though,
we've got quite a few roots that are coming out of their pots.
This is completely normal and it's nothing to worry about.
This is something that they do.
You have non-clear pots here for the cymbidiums -
a different type of behaviour?
Exactly. These will put out roots slightly on the surface,
but they're not really requiring the light factor.
How do you know that that is ready for potting on?
I've got a good example here of one that shows how orchids with bulbs,
these are called pseudo bulbs, how they grow.
This bulb here was when the orchid was first potted.
It produces a new bulb every season.
As you can see, it has moved across the pot
from where it first started to the edge of the pot.
This one here is one that is ready for potting.
We'll start with the basics.
We want to get rid of this old flower spike.
You can see this orchid here, it's been in its pot several years.
We've got some pseudo bulbs here
and it's got quite a lot of roots that are just coming out of the pot.
Do you just put that into a bigger pot?
No. With this orchid, it's quite a small cymbidium,
it's not very big. I'm actually just going to tidy it up
and I'll put it straight back into the same pot that it came out of.
I'm going to be quite brutal with this orchid.
I'm going to take a third of the roots off the bottom.
We can see... we tease them out slightly,
-we can literally go in...
-And cut across.
We've taken our third of our roots off
and we'll just have a little tease around
and see if there are any damaged and dead ones.
We don't want to leave any dead ones in there that are going to rot.
How would I know if they are dead?
They would feel soft and as if they were rotten.
I am going to start by putting a bit of compost in the bottom there.
What I'm going to do is try and position this orchid
so that we have got the old bulbs at one side of the pot
and we've got the newer bulbs in the centre
because that is where our new growing tip is going to form
and it's going to walk towards the other side.
-Bringing it back in.
We've got a nice height there of the base of the bulb,
just below the rim of the pot. We are going to backfill.
I'm taking the bark and I'm pushing it
to just try to get it into the air gaps that may be inside the pot there
so just give it a bit of a tap as well.
And how often would you reckon to do this?
We normally say two to three years,
-or when the bulbs have started to reach the other side of the part.
Most of us come to Wisley
to see incredible displays like these orchids
and the most of plants and the biggest gardens.
And we don't try to copy that at home, we just get inspiration.
We take something from it.
But the RHS work is not just about Wisley
and the grandest and the biggest and the best.
It does reach right out to grass roots level.
And Carol has been up to Hartlepool to meet an RHS volunteer
who is hoping to breathe new life into his neighbourhood
by making a community garden.
On the windswept north coast sits the small town of Easington Colliery.
It takes its name from the coal pit
which, until 20 years ago, was the very centre of the community.
But in 1993, the pit closed down
and the whole locality felt a real sense of loss.
But one man is determined to galvanise local people
into making their town a much more plant friendly and colourful place.
I've actually come to take some divisions of your rudbeckia.
This is the right time of year to do it.
Michael Welsh is one of thousands of RHS Britain in Bloom volunteers.
Britain in Bloom is an RHS campaign
that encourages communities to brighten up their surroundings.
With the plants he collects from all over the neighbourhood,
Michael's aim is to create a large, community garden.
Thanks to the parish council,
land has been provided for Michael to start his community garden
and to provide a place for all those wonderful plants
that have been donated and propagated by local people.
The community garden, apart from being the hub of the community,
could actually be the heart of the community as well.
It spreads all over the place.
Especially if people do it in their own gardens.
As Easington gets more colourful, I think people's lives will be...
-Yes, that's it.
I want to give whatever help I can to Michael's endeavours.
Quite a few of these are looking really healthy. Look at that hebe.
Very loose, sandy compost. Good roots, look at those.
So they will need a few more weeks in here
until those roots have developed a bit more before you pot them up.
Cuttings are a great way to make more plants,
but Michael also has an abundance of seed that needs attending to.
The great thing about hardy annuals
is that although you can sow them the autumn before, or in the spring,
-in a cold year like this...
-Definitely, it has been that.
If you sow them individually, they are soon going to catch up.
By the autumn, you will have great big plants
and they will have flowered all summer
and you will be able to collect your seed.
It is a bit like an angler, when he catches his first fish,
he is hooked for life.
It is the same with the garden.
-When you see your first seed sprout or...
-Your first cutting.
Michael has got his work cut out.
There's lots of pots in here destined for the community garden.
Wow! Look at this.
It's a plant wonderland, isn't it?
It certainly is.
This time last year, there wasn't one plant in this garden.
Or the structure. It's all been done in the last nine months.
It's high exposure, but it's full light.
You've got lovely sandy soil by the look of it.
It's a really brilliant place to bring plants on and to have a garden.
When people are giving you things,
whether you have got a tiny garden or a huge great plot like you've got,
I think the most important thing is to get them in the ground.
You're making those divisions, splitting things up,
growing your seedlings on, so I think a nursery bed is what is called for.
Before the community garden is fully developed,
a nursery bed is the ideal place to put plants
before they're ready to plant out.
Creating one here is as simple as turning over the soil
and removing weeds.
I've brought my own contribution that is just right for this location.
This one is a Geranium oxonianum.
It's got these lovely chocolatey splodged leaves.
You could plant a piece that that straightaway.
Or you can make it even smaller.
You trim the roots with fibrous stuff like this,
just because it stimulates them to make fresh roots.
In it goes. Nestle it in.
And that's just going to grow away.
This is a very special plant.
It's my mum's white phlox
and this has actually visited the North East in its life
because we lived in Newcastle for a bit.
It's exactly the right time to take basal cuttings.
-Have you ever done this?
-I haven't actually done a basal one, no.
It's a really good way of propagating stuff that you can't grow from seed
and that doesn't come true from seed
and where you want exactly the same plant. Because it's vegetative.
You get clones of the original.
All you do is slide your knife right down into the basal here.
You do it by feel rather than sight.
And you just want a nice, short shoot like that.
Strip these bottom leaves off.
And just dibble them round the side of a pot.
Good old watering, grit on the top if you've got it.
I didn't bring any of that.
They take a bit of time,
but you'll be able to plant these cuttings out later on in the summer.
As well as taking basal cuttings from this phlox,
we can split it up into chunks to grow on in the new bed.
Finally, some stems of willow and cornus will root
and provide colourful new plants.
-This whole garden is going to be a resource.
-Yes, it is.
It's going to be the hub of all this wonderful activity.
-It's going to be the hub and the heart.
Well, I do wish them every success in the world with that project
because I know how a garden doesn't just bind people together,
it lightens up everybody's life.
I can tell you what's lightening my life at the moment.
It's this amazing river of daffodils. This is February Gold.
It is dainty, it is charming
and full of the light of spring.
And even though Wisley is perishing
and we have had a miserable, bleak few weeks,
spring is coming. It is getting better.
Don't forget, this coming week is National Gardening week.
Lots of events all over the country.
You can find details of those on our website.
I'll be back next week at home at Longmeadow.
Join me then. Bye-bye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
This week on Gardeners' World, Monty Don is at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey. He'll be getting the latest advice about how best to look after orchids, along with some top tips on how to create a mini-meadow from scratch. He's also keen to find out more about alpines with a view to growing some back home at Longmeadow.
Carol Klein helps a Britain in Bloom volunteer who's determined to bring colour to the former mining town of Easington Colliery. First time gardener Michael Welsh has begged and borrowed plants from all over to start a community garden. Carol uses her expertise to help him get even more plants for free.
Joe Swift gets an early taste of summer colour at the National Botanic Garden of Wales where they're hard at work conserving some of the rarest plants in the world.