Episode 11 Gardeners' World


Episode 11

Gardening magazine. With the hanging basket season under way, Joe Swift meets a florist with a modern take. Plus a trip to South Africa to learn about cape primroses.


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Transcript


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RAIN FALLS BIRDS TWITTER

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Whoops! You're going to have to move, Nige!

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Welcome to Gardeners' World.

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Now, this is the banana, the Abyssinian banana.

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Ensete ventricosum Maurelii.

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And I got it last summer after I'd

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seen it growing at Hampton Court Flower Show.

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I just loved this plum-coloured, chocolaty stems and foliage

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and the way that it's so dramatic.

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Put it into the jewel garden, I got a couple, and they were fabulous.

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But they are tender. They won't take any amount of cold, so

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ever since the beginning of October, this has been stored indoors

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and then in the greenhouse, where it's practically touching the roof.

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I'm dying to get it out into the garden.

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So I'm going to keep them out here to harden off

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and then they can go out in the garden and after that,

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they're on their own and I can enjoy them in high summer.

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Now, as well as enjoying the exotic luxury of bananas,

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we pay our final visit to South Africa this week, where we

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go into the forests at the Drakensberg Mountains to find

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growing one of the UK's favourite house plants.

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What we have here is Streptocarpus johannis.

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One of the most exciting Streptocarpus species.

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It's got an open face which looks at you.

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And Joe's been discovering some hanging baskets with a difference.

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-Beautiful, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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-And is there a kokedama for every situation?

-Absolutely.

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Christmas time, you can make kokedama out of hellebores.

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I've even known people that have kokedamaed an almond tree.

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RAIN FALLS

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Well, just as I put the bananas outside, it started to rain heavily.

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That won't hurt the bananas at all, they don't mind wet,

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in fact, they need lots of moisture, it's just cold you have to

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worry about, and too much wind, because that will rip the leaves.

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So if it gets really windy and stormy,

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I'll have to bring them back in.

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But before I do, there's a chance now they're out of the way

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to look at the vine that I planted a couple of years ago.

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This is a Black Homburg grape, it's a dessert grape.

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And the first year it grew just up to here,

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last year, we had four bunches of grapes, you can

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see the black which is last year's growth, reached down to about there.

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This year, I'm training two long arms, if you like,

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from which grow rods, or cordons, and they carry the fruit.

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So I've put up one, two, three more wires,

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and eventually it will go right up on both sides

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and then the fruit will hang down.

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Now, the crucial thing when you're growing a vine,

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is not to overstress it too quickly,

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you're looking for one bunch per foot

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and for this year, which is its third year, just one bunch per rod.

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And that will do.

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So, if I go along here, I've got a bunch there,

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I'm going to take this bunch off.

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It's cruel, but that goes.

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And then here, I've got a bunch, we'll take that one off, too.

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Of course, you don't need a greenhouse to grow grapes.

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You can grow them outside, you can grow them in a pot,

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you can train them against a wall.

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They're very, very tough, adaptable plants.

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Now, it really pains me to take these potential grapes away,

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because they are delicious.

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But it's really important in the early years of a vine,

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and by that I mean the first up to six years,

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you go for quality, not quantity.

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Now, these are Streptocarpus.

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One of the most popular house plants and really easy to grow

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IF you give them the right conditions.

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I bought these at Morven last year

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and they flowered continuously, from last May until the end of March.

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So, now they're going to a dormant period.

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But they will need repotting from time to time.

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You can see that's a mass of root,

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but when you're potting on anything, don't be tempted to put it into

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too big a pot thinking, "Oh, great! It'll become a great big plant!"

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Doesn't work like that.

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The old rule used to be go the next size up.

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Well, you may not have the next size up, but just a little bit more.

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An inch all round is plenty.

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So if I take this size pot, that will be plenty big enough for it.

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What I'm using is simply leaf mould.

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You can buy proprietary compost, but the important thing is

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it mustn't be too rich in nutrients.

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So that will sit like that, and then...

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Put this round here...

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And these, literally, are rotted leaves and nothing else at all.

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And the perfect place for them is a north-facing windowsill.

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They really don't like direct sunlight, that scorches them

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and does them no good at all.

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Don't soak them too much,

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let them dry out completely in between watering

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and then make sure you don't get the leaves too wet.

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Having potted these on, I won't need to feed them.

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In fact, you should only feed them when you've potted them on,

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when you see the roots coming out of the bottom of the pot,

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and that would be for another month or so, and in fact,

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I feed these monthly, no more than that.

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Give them a dilute, high potash feed

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and you can have high potash liquid seaweed, a tomato feed,

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home-made comfort feed, these will all do the job.

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And these are a plant that, if you give them what they want,

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they'll be completely happy.

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But to find out what any plant wants,

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the best thing you can possibly do,

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is see it growing in its native environment.

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And we went to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa

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to do precisely that.

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MUSIC PLAYS

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South Africa is famous for the sun-loving flora that inhabits its

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coastline and exposed mountain slopes.

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But there is another very different habitat that's home to

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a very familiar species.

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Streptocarpus.

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And subtropical woodland is their ideal habitat.

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MUSIC CONTINUES

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The trees in this ravine provide shade and shelter

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for the plants and animals that inhabit it.

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And keep the forest floor moist and humid.

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In winter, temperatures here never fall below freezing

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and the rainfall is at best, infrequent.

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So these plants never experience the cold and wet

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that we are familiar with in Britain.

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Martin Kundhardt has been studying

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South African Streptocarpus for decades.

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What we have here is Streptocarpus rexii, which was the first

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Strep to be introduced to the United Kingdom back in the 1800s.

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The Streptocarpus is found further south than any of the other species

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and they have a very wide temperature and climatic tolerance,

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that is why it's been used so widely in hybridisation.

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These plants don't like being over-watered.

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And in fact, if they're under-watered,

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they actually do better for you.

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These Strep rexii are basically lithophytic at the moment,

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because they're growing on rocks.

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They're not sitting in water all the time. The water's always flowing.

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What you can see these plants growing on here, is sphagnum moss.

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And it shows you that the plants do not require soil to grow in.

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The plants will have lots of airspaces, use lots of oxygen,

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and that's exactly what Streps like.

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One of the characteristics you will notice among Streptocarpus,

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especially as the weather starts getting cooler,

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is abscission line, which is a yellowish line that will move up the

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leaf with a paler section of the leaf being below the abscission line.

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The plant isn't diseased and the reason for the abscission line

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is because the soil temperature is too cool

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and the plant cannot absorb nutrients through its roots,

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so it will reabsorb the nutrients up its leaves.

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But when it does start to warm up, the soil temperature will be

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warm enough for the roots to start absorbing nutrients.

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That's the time that you can start feeding your plant.

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Streptocarpus are found all over this forest.

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Some take root on the rocks, whilst others are epiphytic,

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which means that they grow on trees.

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The constantly humid environment of these subtropical forests

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provides perfect growing conditions for these plants which rely

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solely upon the moisture and nutrients from the warm, damp air.

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MUSIC PLAYS

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But the forest floor is also rich in plant life.

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What we have here is Streptocarpus johannis,

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one of the most exciting Streptocarpus species.

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It's got an open face which looks at you

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and it's a magnificent little rosette of leaves.

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It's only a terrestrial plant,

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in other words it doesn't grow in the trees, it doesn't grow on the rocks.

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All the decomposed leaf mould and bits of bark and things like that,

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that's exactly what the Streps are growing in,

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that's their ideal medium.

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This one for the hybridisers is very exciting,

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because Streptocarpus johannis produces numerous flower stems

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per plant, it's really an amazing plant to use in hybridisation.

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Streptocarpus flower for months in these forests.

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And of course, it's this protracted flowering that has made

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generations of gardeners covet them.

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When the flowers are fertilised and then fade,

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a long, twisted fruit capsule forms.

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When the Streptocarpus seed pod dries,

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it dries and it opens and masses and masses

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of small, little seeds, tiny little seeds, will float away

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in the wind and get deposited on layers like moss,

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and there, they'll germinate.

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Streptocarpus species are usually very isolated colonies

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and those isolated colonies, because they are so separate,

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they've never developed something to impede the hybridisation of them.

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That's what's so exciting for us breeders,

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because you can take different species and start hybridising.

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When we start introducing colours into those hybrids,

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that's when you open Pandora's Box.

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And Pandora's Box is exciting.

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For centuries, Streptocarpus have excited

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and entranced gardeners around the world.

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But sometimes, they can prove a little tricky.

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However, recreating the complex conditions in which

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these beautiful plants will flourish,

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is both fascinating and richly rewarding.

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RAIN PATTERS

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Come on.

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I remember when we were filming Around The World In 80 Gardens,

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going to the Drakensberg Mountains, and it was a very hot day

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but there was a terrific thunderstorm.

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So we ran into this gully for shelter, with trees over it,

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and whilst the rain was pounding down, we noticed that the bank

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that we were sheltering against was covered in Streptocarpus.

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So exactly that environment, moist, warm, shaded.

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And there is no doubt that if you see any plant growing

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in the wild, you know instantly how you should grow it in your garden.

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Well, it's not warm and wet here, it's cold and wet,

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but thank heavens for a potting shed,

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because that means that I can get on with sowing some seed.

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And now is the perfect time to sow biennials.

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Now, biennials are short-lived plants that

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span their lives across two growing seasons.

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So the seeds have set and fall from late spring to mid-summer.

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And wallflowers are a good example, setting the scene now.

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They fall to the ground, they germinate and grow a young plant.

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But they don't flower in the same year.

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They overwinter and then they flower the following spring

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and they set seed, and so it goes.

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Now, I mentioned wallflowers and I want to sow some.

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And I always like grow lots, because it's a very cheap way

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of making a dramatic statement.

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If you want to have a blaze of colour,

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you'd need to buy at least dozens, if not hundreds of plants.

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It will run into a fair amount of money.

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Whereas a couple of packets of seed, and there's your hundreds of plants.

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So, take a seed tray or a pot, like this, a seed mix,

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and you can buy special seed mixes or you can use

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a general-purpose compost or you can make your own as I do.

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But the difference between a seed and a potting mix

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is essentially it's lower in nutrients.

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It's got a nice, open root run for little seedlings to work out into.

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And if I take a packet of seeds, this is Blood Red...

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So there you have the seed and each one of these is potentially

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going to make a nice, strong beautiful, sweet-smelling plant.

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Just sprinkle it relatively thinly,

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because each of these are going to make a seedling

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that's got to be pricked out.

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Now, just cover that lightly with a layer of soil,

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and it can be very light.

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That will do.

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OK, that's just wallflowers, but there are plenty of others.

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Foxgloves are one of my favourite biennials.

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I collected seed from the white foxglove Alba, and the wild foxglove.

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And you can see I just collected up the seed heads

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and put them into an envelope.

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And there are thousands of seeds there!

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And it is amazing to think that each of those tiny seeds

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is going to make a spire of flower, perhaps three, four foot tall.

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The other day I saw foxgloves for sale, individually,

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for three, four pounds each.

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So it can save you so much money, growing from seed.

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So, the regime is to water these,

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leave them to germinate, which they will do in a week or two.

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When they're big enough, prick them out into plugs.

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Let them grow on, and that can happen outside,

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it doesn't need any protection for that.

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And then when they're robust little plants, either plant them

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where you want them to grow...or put them

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somewhere where they can be lined out in the soil, grow on and

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then go into their final position, in autumn, to flower next year.

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These are easy, tough plans to grow.

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And by planning ahead, you're guaranteeing a really dramatic

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display next spring,

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at a fraction of the cost of buying plants.

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Now, that's sowing biennials.

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But here are some other jobs you can be doing this weekend.

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BIRD CHIRPS

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If, like me, you've sown climbing beans,

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but grown them under protection because it's been a little

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cold to plant out, you can safely put them into the ground now,

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placing one plant against each support.

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If you haven't sown any yet, there's still plenty of time to

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sow the seeds direct into the ground,

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where they will germinate quickly.

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Late flowering clematis are growing practically in front

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of your eyes at the moment,

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and it is important to keep this growth

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tied into the support.

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Otherwise it can form an unruly tangle,

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which can then hide the flowers when they appear in about a month's time.

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At this time of year, fresh, new growth will make excellent

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cutting material, putting on new roots very quickly.

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Place your cuttings immediately into a polythene bag...

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and then put them into a free-draining compost,

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stripping off any excess foliage.

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Either place a bag over the top to trap evaporation,

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or else miss them at least twice a day

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to keep them moist.

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You'll know they've produced roots when you see signs of fresh growth.

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Those rosemary should root very quickly

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and be ready to prick out in a matter of weeks

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and planted into the garden round about the end of summer.

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Now, last week, Joe started a quest to see

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if he could learn to love hanging baskets,

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and this week he finds that perhaps the Japanese have the answer.

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They're bold, they are bright and they bombard us with colour,

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and I know that millions of people love them, but I'm not one of them.

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Am I missing something when it comes to hanging baskets?

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Granted, they bring a welcome flash of optimism to our home fronts

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and high streets,

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but I'm far from being convinced I'm ready for one in my own garden.

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So in a bid to like, or who knows, even love these creations,

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I'm digging deeper.

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Actually, this one is quite nice, simple and white.

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Maybe I'm turning.

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For me, hanging baskets usually bring to mind clashing bundles

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of pansies, geraniums and petunias,

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but I'm told there's more to them.

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Florist Thomas Broom has been perfecting a more radical

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approach in his garden shed. So what have we got here, then?

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So these are kokedama, or otherwise known as

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Japanese string gardens.

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I really like the way you've laid these out. These are very sweet.

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-They are very...

-A lovely composition, different heights

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and lots of different plants. So what have we got, mint?

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So this is calla mint, so that is a sort of wild flower,

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but again, when it flowers, beautiful, little blue starry-like flowers.

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-And what have we got here on the corner?

-So this is diascia. A great container plant,

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but it looks fantastic in a kokedama, something quite different.

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It is beautiful, isn't it? Yeah.

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And is there a kokedama for every situation?

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Absolutely. Christmas time, you can make kokedama out of hellebores.

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I've even known people that have actually kokedamed an almond tree.

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-What about maintenance, are they a lot of work?

-There is quite a lot of maintenance involved,

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depending on what you plant in them.

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Things like these annuals will require daily

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watering in the height of summer,

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and I do that by dunking them in a bucket, and then leave it to drip over night.

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So what got you into them in the first place?

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I used to work for a Japanese airline, and...

0:19:370:19:39

one time I had some time down route on my own

0:19:390:19:42

and I found a florist who actually had kokedama hanging outside.

0:19:420:19:46

So I was quite intrigued because to me they looked unique and very

0:19:460:19:50

different, and since then it has been something I have always done.

0:19:500:19:54

-And is it really catching on over here?

-It is.

0:19:540:19:56

As sort of a younger generation of people are becoming

0:19:560:19:59

interested in gardening,

0:19:590:20:01

and particularly people who have smaller gardens, it has become quite modern

0:20:010:20:05

and funky to have, particularly in the sort of contemporary setting.

0:20:050:20:09

So much so that Thomas now holds regular kokedama workshops

0:20:090:20:13

-at a London nursery.

-I'm going to make loads.

0:20:130:20:16

We're just doing the garden, so I want to hang them

0:20:160:20:18

-all around the garden.

-They are very freeing, very creative.

0:20:180:20:22

They're just so strange and they are mystic,

0:20:220:20:24

they are quite majestic looking as well.

0:20:240:20:27

-Perfect.

-Yay!

0:20:270:20:28

So chuffed with that.

0:20:290:20:31

If hip, young Londoners are getting involved, being one myself,

0:20:310:20:35

I should really give it a try.

0:20:350:20:37

So there are two types of compost you need.

0:20:370:20:40

You use two parts bonsai compost to

0:20:400:20:42

one part multipurpose compost.

0:20:420:20:45

OK, what is in bonsai compost?

0:20:450:20:47

There is quite a lot of sand, so it is very good free draining compost.

0:20:470:20:52

But actually the mixture of it, with the multipurpose compost

0:20:520:20:54

and water, it forms a sort of clay.

0:20:540:20:57

-I don't know if you want to get your hands...

-Yeah...

0:20:570:21:00

I'm a gardener, I want to get my hands dirty! I thought

0:21:000:21:02

-you would never ask. Come on then.

-So just stir it around.

-Yeah.

0:21:020:21:05

-A bit like you're making a Christmas pudding mixture.

-Yes, lovely.

0:21:050:21:09

Now you need to really... compress this.

0:21:090:21:12

You will see all the water dripping out. OK, fine...

0:21:120:21:15

-Next thing is to add the plant.

-OK.

0:21:150:21:18

I am going to go for this asparagus fern.

0:21:180:21:21

the little textural number.

0:21:210:21:23

You're not going to harm the plant,

0:21:230:21:25

but take off as much of the compost around the plant as possible.

0:21:250:21:29

How you going to get that into that? They are about the same size.

0:21:290:21:32

This is the magic.

0:21:320:21:34

-So, take your sphere.

-Yeah.

-You basically have to twist the ball

0:21:340:21:38

and separate, so you should have two halves of a sphere.

0:21:380:21:41

-There we go.

-Not bad, eh?

0:21:420:21:44

-Just place it here, and then the other one on top.

-Yeah.

0:21:440:21:47

-And push together.

-Oh.

0:21:470:21:50

So the next part is to put moss.

0:21:510:21:53

Yes, let's get the moss on, hold the whole thing together.

0:21:530:21:56

You can't forage for moss in forests, or anything like that,

0:21:560:21:59

because it is against the law. So you can get this from garden

0:21:590:22:02

centres or from florists,

0:22:020:22:04

but not from anywhere in public spaces.

0:22:040:22:06

-So if you put some at the bottom.

-Oh, very delicate.

0:22:060:22:11

OK.

0:22:110:22:12

-Right.

-Then some around the edge.

0:22:120:22:14

-It is a bit like wrapping an apple in pastry.

-So far, so good, yes?

0:22:140:22:17

-Yes.

-Is it a good shape?

-Yes, good shape.

0:22:170:22:20

-You've got that sort of spherical shape.

-OK.

0:22:200:22:22

So the next part is the string.

0:22:220:22:23

It doesn't matter what direction you go in.

0:22:230:22:25

It doesn't have to be in any sort of pattern.

0:22:250:22:28

We just keep it all in.

0:22:280:22:31

-Yeah, it feels more and more solid.

-Yeah.

0:22:310:22:35

-Look at that!

-See, it is looking great.

0:22:350:22:36

-And do I just chop that and tighten it?

-Chop that. OK.

0:22:360:22:40

-I'm going to use a little, swifty reef knot, we call it.

-OK.

0:22:400:22:43

-Hey! What do you think?

-Yeah, I think that is fantastic.

0:22:450:22:49

-I'm quite pleased with that...

-Yeah, you should be.

-..I have to say.

0:22:490:22:52

I think that was incredibly satisfying and rewarding.

0:22:520:22:56

Well, I'm not sure these are the future of hanging baskets,

0:23:010:23:03

but I've really enjoyed making my first kokedama.

0:23:030:23:06

And I like them a lot.

0:23:060:23:07

I like the way they are really natural, just the moss,

0:23:070:23:10

the plant, and some jute string around them.

0:23:100:23:13

These kokedama couldn't feel more different from the baskets

0:23:140:23:17

I looked at a couple of weeks ago.

0:23:170:23:19

But now I that know anything is possible, I'm going

0:23:190:23:22

to create my own take on a hanging basket next time.

0:23:220:23:26

Well, I confess that I'd never heard of kokedama before.

0:23:410:23:45

And they do look interesting, if a little bit like a sprouting coconut.

0:23:450:23:49

And I'll tell you what,

0:23:490:23:50

how lovely to see Joe Swift getting his hands dirty.

0:23:500:23:53

Now, I'm going to get my hands dirty and plant something that is about

0:23:530:23:57

as far removed from kokedama, or a hanging basket,

0:23:570:24:00

as could possibly be.

0:24:000:24:02

Last year, I cut down a quince tree

0:24:020:24:05

that was blighted. And it has created an open space, which I wanted.

0:24:050:24:09

Light and air coming in.

0:24:090:24:10

But it is a problem site, because all the planting around the pond is

0:24:100:24:14

lush and likes fairly wet, rich soil.

0:24:140:24:17

But here, raised up above the pond, it is actually bone dry in summer,

0:24:170:24:22

so I've got a plant here that will fill the gap but not

0:24:220:24:25

overwhelm it. It is a cranbe. Cranbe cordifolia.

0:24:250:24:29

Cranbe maritima, it's cousin, is sea kale...

0:24:290:24:32

that we eat. Cordifolia is not edible...

0:24:320:24:36

a slightly larger version.

0:24:360:24:39

The foliage of cranbe actually doesn't give you any

0:24:390:24:43

idea of what the flowers are going to be like,

0:24:430:24:44

because these great big cabbage leaves -

0:24:440:24:47

and remember, it is a kale -

0:24:470:24:48

spawn a lovely froth of delicate

0:24:480:24:52

white flowers in the end of May,

0:24:520:24:55

in June, that shimmer

0:24:550:24:57

and float above the ground,

0:24:570:25:00

and can get up to about six feet tall.

0:25:000:25:02

So it gives good architectural qualities,

0:25:020:25:05

and then you cut it back in mid or late autumn, it disappears...

0:25:050:25:09

and then will reappear again in spring.

0:25:090:25:12

So a really statuesque plant

0:25:120:25:14

that is adapted beautifully to

0:25:140:25:17

growing almost anywhere, or grow in practically any soil.

0:25:170:25:20

It will grow in full sun, in part shade.

0:25:200:25:23

The one thing it's got to have is good drainage.

0:25:230:25:25

So I've loosened the soil at the bottom of the hole.

0:25:350:25:39

Now, if you look at the plant I've got...

0:25:390:25:41

..that's a hand span in depth,

0:25:440:25:47

and I've dug a hole that is much too

0:25:470:25:49

big. And it is really important, when you plant it, that the crown,

0:25:490:25:53

the point at which the leaves sprout from, is above ground level.

0:25:530:25:57

I don't want to plant it like that, but about like that.

0:25:570:26:00

So I will put the whole of this grit into the hole.

0:26:000:26:05

And sit the roots directly on top of the grit.

0:26:130:26:16

So it is sitting slightly proud off the surrounding soil,

0:26:160:26:20

and any water will drain away fairly quickly.

0:26:200:26:23

Cranbe...

0:26:280:26:30

has slightly fallen out of favour, in the sense that not

0:26:300:26:34

so many people grow it.

0:26:340:26:35

And I think more people should grow it, it's a fabulous plant.

0:26:370:26:41

There we go.

0:26:410:26:42

Over to you now.

0:26:440:26:46

Do your stuff.

0:26:460:26:48

Sometimes, and at some moments in the year,

0:27:020:27:05

plant combinations just work.

0:27:050:27:08

And today it's here.

0:27:080:27:10

This is the Viburnum plicatum Mariesii,

0:27:100:27:13

with these lovely tiered white flowers.

0:27:130:27:16

And I love the way it hangs over this hosta. This is albomarginata.

0:27:160:27:20

The variegation around the outside picks up the white of the viburnum,

0:27:200:27:25

and also the way that the leaves' shape

0:27:250:27:27

are actually reflected by the hosta.

0:27:270:27:30

We think of hostas as great big sort of plants, and dramatic.

0:27:300:27:33

Sometimes they can be really subtle,

0:27:330:27:35

and the green of the osmunda fern in the background, shining out of the dark.

0:27:350:27:39

Exactly at this time of year you get that sort of intensity.

0:27:390:27:42

Now, that is deliberate, but sometimes things can be

0:27:420:27:45

just as good when they are an accident as well.

0:27:450:27:47

This viburnum, I cut to the ground three years ago.

0:27:470:27:50

Wanted to get rid of it.

0:27:500:27:51

Couldn't be bothered to dig the roots out there and then. In spring it started to grow back,

0:27:510:27:55

and, look, it has grown back hugely,

0:27:550:27:58

and makes a really good composition.

0:27:580:28:00

And there, popping through its branches, a self-sown angelica.

0:28:000:28:04

Sometimes you just have to say, "Nature does it better than

0:28:040:28:07

"you possibly could."

0:28:070:28:09

Well, that's it for today.

0:28:090:28:11

I'll back here at Longmeadow next week, at the same time.

0:28:110:28:15

So join me then. Bye-bye.

0:28:150:28:17

Come on.

0:28:180:28:19

With the hanging basket season well and truly under way, Joe Swift meets a florist in Surrey who has perfected the art of kokedama - a modern take on the hanging basket.

House plants come under the spotlight too, as the programme pays a visit to South Africa to learn more about the ever-popular cape primrose.


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