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.
Browse content similar to Episode 11. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
RAIN FALLS BIRDS TWITTER
Whoops! You're going to have to move, Nige!
Welcome to Gardeners' World.
Now, this is the banana, the Abyssinian banana.
Ensete ventricosum Maurelii.
And I got it last summer after I'd
seen it growing at Hampton Court Flower Show.
I just loved this plum-coloured, chocolaty stems and foliage
and the way that it's so dramatic.
Put it into the jewel garden, I got a couple, and they were fabulous.
But they are tender. They won't take any amount of cold, so
ever since the beginning of October, this has been stored indoors
and then in the greenhouse, where it's practically touching the roof.
I'm dying to get it out into the garden.
So I'm going to keep them out here to harden off
and then they can go out in the garden and after that,
they're on their own and I can enjoy them in high summer.
Now, as well as enjoying the exotic luxury of bananas,
we pay our final visit to South Africa this week, where we
go into the forests at the Drakensberg Mountains to find
growing one of the UK's favourite house plants.
What we have here is Streptocarpus johannis.
One of the most exciting Streptocarpus species.
It's got an open face which looks at you.
And Joe's been discovering some hanging baskets with a difference.
-Beautiful, isn't it?
-And is there a kokedama for every situation?
Christmas time, you can make kokedama out of hellebores.
I've even known people that have kokedamaed an almond tree.
Well, just as I put the bananas outside, it started to rain heavily.
That won't hurt the bananas at all, they don't mind wet,
in fact, they need lots of moisture, it's just cold you have to
worry about, and too much wind, because that will rip the leaves.
So if it gets really windy and stormy,
I'll have to bring them back in.
But before I do, there's a chance now they're out of the way
to look at the vine that I planted a couple of years ago.
This is a Black Homburg grape, it's a dessert grape.
And the first year it grew just up to here,
last year, we had four bunches of grapes, you can
see the black which is last year's growth, reached down to about there.
This year, I'm training two long arms, if you like,
from which grow rods, or cordons, and they carry the fruit.
So I've put up one, two, three more wires,
and eventually it will go right up on both sides
and then the fruit will hang down.
Now, the crucial thing when you're growing a vine,
is not to overstress it too quickly,
you're looking for one bunch per foot
and for this year, which is its third year, just one bunch per rod.
And that will do.
So, if I go along here, I've got a bunch there,
I'm going to take this bunch off.
It's cruel, but that goes.
And then here, I've got a bunch, we'll take that one off, too.
Of course, you don't need a greenhouse to grow grapes.
You can grow them outside, you can grow them in a pot,
you can train them against a wall.
They're very, very tough, adaptable plants.
Now, it really pains me to take these potential grapes away,
because they are delicious.
But it's really important in the early years of a vine,
and by that I mean the first up to six years,
you go for quality, not quantity.
Now, these are Streptocarpus.
One of the most popular house plants and really easy to grow
IF you give them the right conditions.
I bought these at Morven last year
and they flowered continuously, from last May until the end of March.
So, now they're going to a dormant period.
But they will need repotting from time to time.
You can see that's a mass of root,
but when you're potting on anything, don't be tempted to put it into
too big a pot thinking, "Oh, great! It'll become a great big plant!"
Doesn't work like that.
The old rule used to be go the next size up.
Well, you may not have the next size up, but just a little bit more.
An inch all round is plenty.
So if I take this size pot, that will be plenty big enough for it.
What I'm using is simply leaf mould.
You can buy proprietary compost, but the important thing is
it mustn't be too rich in nutrients.
So that will sit like that, and then...
Put this round here...
And these, literally, are rotted leaves and nothing else at all.
And the perfect place for them is a north-facing windowsill.
They really don't like direct sunlight, that scorches them
and does them no good at all.
Don't soak them too much,
let them dry out completely in between watering
and then make sure you don't get the leaves too wet.
Having potted these on, I won't need to feed them.
In fact, you should only feed them when you've potted them on,
when you see the roots coming out of the bottom of the pot,
and that would be for another month or so, and in fact,
I feed these monthly, no more than that.
Give them a dilute, high potash feed
and you can have high potash liquid seaweed, a tomato feed,
home-made comfort feed, these will all do the job.
And these are a plant that, if you give them what they want,
they'll be completely happy.
But to find out what any plant wants,
the best thing you can possibly do,
is see it growing in its native environment.
And we went to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa
to do precisely that.
South Africa is famous for the sun-loving flora that inhabits its
coastline and exposed mountain slopes.
But there is another very different habitat that's home to
a very familiar species.
And subtropical woodland is their ideal habitat.
The trees in this ravine provide shade and shelter
for the plants and animals that inhabit it.
And keep the forest floor moist and humid.
In winter, temperatures here never fall below freezing
and the rainfall is at best, infrequent.
So these plants never experience the cold and wet
that we are familiar with in Britain.
Martin Kundhardt has been studying
South African Streptocarpus for decades.
What we have here is Streptocarpus rexii, which was the first
Strep to be introduced to the United Kingdom back in the 1800s.
The Streptocarpus is found further south than any of the other species
and they have a very wide temperature and climatic tolerance,
that is why it's been used so widely in hybridisation.
These plants don't like being over-watered.
And in fact, if they're under-watered,
they actually do better for you.
These Strep rexii are basically lithophytic at the moment,
because they're growing on rocks.
They're not sitting in water all the time. The water's always flowing.
What you can see these plants growing on here, is sphagnum moss.
And it shows you that the plants do not require soil to grow in.
The plants will have lots of airspaces, use lots of oxygen,
and that's exactly what Streps like.
One of the characteristics you will notice among Streptocarpus,
especially as the weather starts getting cooler,
is abscission line, which is a yellowish line that will move up the
leaf with a paler section of the leaf being below the abscission line.
The plant isn't diseased and the reason for the abscission line
is because the soil temperature is too cool
and the plant cannot absorb nutrients through its roots,
so it will reabsorb the nutrients up its leaves.
But when it does start to warm up, the soil temperature will be
warm enough for the roots to start absorbing nutrients.
That's the time that you can start feeding your plant.
Streptocarpus are found all over this forest.
Some take root on the rocks, whilst others are epiphytic,
which means that they grow on trees.
The constantly humid environment of these subtropical forests
provides perfect growing conditions for these plants which rely
solely upon the moisture and nutrients from the warm, damp air.
But the forest floor is also rich in plant life.
What we have here is Streptocarpus johannis,
one of the most exciting Streptocarpus species.
It's got an open face which looks at you
and it's a magnificent little rosette of leaves.
It's only a terrestrial plant,
in other words it doesn't grow in the trees, it doesn't grow on the rocks.
All the decomposed leaf mould and bits of bark and things like that,
that's exactly what the Streps are growing in,
that's their ideal medium.
This one for the hybridisers is very exciting,
because Streptocarpus johannis produces numerous flower stems
per plant, it's really an amazing plant to use in hybridisation.
Streptocarpus flower for months in these forests.
And of course, it's this protracted flowering that has made
generations of gardeners covet them.
When the flowers are fertilised and then fade,
a long, twisted fruit capsule forms.
When the Streptocarpus seed pod dries,
it dries and it opens and masses and masses
of small, little seeds, tiny little seeds, will float away
in the wind and get deposited on layers like moss,
and there, they'll germinate.
Streptocarpus species are usually very isolated colonies
and those isolated colonies, because they are so separate,
they've never developed something to impede the hybridisation of them.
That's what's so exciting for us breeders,
because you can take different species and start hybridising.
When we start introducing colours into those hybrids,
that's when you open Pandora's Box.
And Pandora's Box is exciting.
For centuries, Streptocarpus have excited
and entranced gardeners around the world.
But sometimes, they can prove a little tricky.
However, recreating the complex conditions in which
these beautiful plants will flourish,
is both fascinating and richly rewarding.
I remember when we were filming Around The World In 80 Gardens,
going to the Drakensberg Mountains, and it was a very hot day
but there was a terrific thunderstorm.
So we ran into this gully for shelter, with trees over it,
and whilst the rain was pounding down, we noticed that the bank
that we were sheltering against was covered in Streptocarpus.
So exactly that environment, moist, warm, shaded.
And there is no doubt that if you see any plant growing
in the wild, you know instantly how you should grow it in your garden.
Well, it's not warm and wet here, it's cold and wet,
but thank heavens for a potting shed,
because that means that I can get on with sowing some seed.
And now is the perfect time to sow biennials.
Now, biennials are short-lived plants that
span their lives across two growing seasons.
So the seeds have set and fall from late spring to mid-summer.
And wallflowers are a good example, setting the scene now.
They fall to the ground, they germinate and grow a young plant.
But they don't flower in the same year.
They overwinter and then they flower the following spring
and they set seed, and so it goes.
Now, I mentioned wallflowers and I want to sow some.
And I always like grow lots, because it's a very cheap way
of making a dramatic statement.
If you want to have a blaze of colour,
you'd need to buy at least dozens, if not hundreds of plants.
It will run into a fair amount of money.
Whereas a couple of packets of seed, and there's your hundreds of plants.
So, take a seed tray or a pot, like this, a seed mix,
and you can buy special seed mixes or you can use
a general-purpose compost or you can make your own as I do.
But the difference between a seed and a potting mix
is essentially it's lower in nutrients.
It's got a nice, open root run for little seedlings to work out into.
And if I take a packet of seeds, this is Blood Red...
So there you have the seed and each one of these is potentially
going to make a nice, strong beautiful, sweet-smelling plant.
Just sprinkle it relatively thinly,
because each of these are going to make a seedling
that's got to be pricked out.
Now, just cover that lightly with a layer of soil,
and it can be very light.
That will do.
OK, that's just wallflowers, but there are plenty of others.
Foxgloves are one of my favourite biennials.
I collected seed from the white foxglove Alba, and the wild foxglove.
And you can see I just collected up the seed heads
and put them into an envelope.
And there are thousands of seeds there!
And it is amazing to think that each of those tiny seeds
is going to make a spire of flower, perhaps three, four foot tall.
The other day I saw foxgloves for sale, individually,
for three, four pounds each.
So it can save you so much money, growing from seed.
So, the regime is to water these,
leave them to germinate, which they will do in a week or two.
When they're big enough, prick them out into plugs.
Let them grow on, and that can happen outside,
it doesn't need any protection for that.
And then when they're robust little plants, either plant them
where you want them to grow...or put them
somewhere where they can be lined out in the soil, grow on and
then go into their final position, in autumn, to flower next year.
These are easy, tough plans to grow.
And by planning ahead, you're guaranteeing a really dramatic
display next spring,
at a fraction of the cost of buying plants.
Now, that's sowing biennials.
But here are some other jobs you can be doing this weekend.
If, like me, you've sown climbing beans,
but grown them under protection because it's been a little
cold to plant out, you can safely put them into the ground now,
placing one plant against each support.
If you haven't sown any yet, there's still plenty of time to
sow the seeds direct into the ground,
where they will germinate quickly.
Late flowering clematis are growing practically in front
of your eyes at the moment,
and it is important to keep this growth
tied into the support.
Otherwise it can form an unruly tangle,
which can then hide the flowers when they appear in about a month's time.
At this time of year, fresh, new growth will make excellent
cutting material, putting on new roots very quickly.
Place your cuttings immediately into a polythene bag...
and then put them into a free-draining compost,
stripping off any excess foliage.
Either place a bag over the top to trap evaporation,
or else miss them at least twice a day
to keep them moist.
You'll know they've produced roots when you see signs of fresh growth.
Those rosemary should root very quickly
and be ready to prick out in a matter of weeks
and planted into the garden round about the end of summer.
Now, last week, Joe started a quest to see
if he could learn to love hanging baskets,
and this week he finds that perhaps the Japanese have the answer.
They're bold, they are bright and they bombard us with colour,
and I know that millions of people love them, but I'm not one of them.
Am I missing something when it comes to hanging baskets?
Granted, they bring a welcome flash of optimism to our home fronts
and high streets,
but I'm far from being convinced I'm ready for one in my own garden.
So in a bid to like, or who knows, even love these creations,
I'm digging deeper.
Actually, this one is quite nice, simple and white.
Maybe I'm turning.
For me, hanging baskets usually bring to mind clashing bundles
of pansies, geraniums and petunias,
but I'm told there's more to them.
Florist Thomas Broom has been perfecting a more radical
approach in his garden shed. So what have we got here, then?
So these are kokedama, or otherwise known as
Japanese string gardens.
I really like the way you've laid these out. These are very sweet.
-They are very...
-A lovely composition, different heights
and lots of different plants. So what have we got, mint?
So this is calla mint, so that is a sort of wild flower,
but again, when it flowers, beautiful, little blue starry-like flowers.
-And what have we got here on the corner?
-So this is diascia. A great container plant,
but it looks fantastic in a kokedama, something quite different.
It is beautiful, isn't it? Yeah.
And is there a kokedama for every situation?
Absolutely. Christmas time, you can make kokedama out of hellebores.
I've even known people that have actually kokedamed an almond tree.
-What about maintenance, are they a lot of work?
-There is quite a lot of maintenance involved,
depending on what you plant in them.
Things like these annuals will require daily
watering in the height of summer,
and I do that by dunking them in a bucket, and then leave it to drip over night.
So what got you into them in the first place?
I used to work for a Japanese airline, and...
one time I had some time down route on my own
and I found a florist who actually had kokedama hanging outside.
So I was quite intrigued because to me they looked unique and very
different, and since then it has been something I have always done.
-And is it really catching on over here?
As sort of a younger generation of people are becoming
interested in gardening,
and particularly people who have smaller gardens, it has become quite modern
and funky to have, particularly in the sort of contemporary setting.
So much so that Thomas now holds regular kokedama workshops
-at a London nursery.
-I'm going to make loads.
We're just doing the garden, so I want to hang them
-all around the garden.
-They are very freeing, very creative.
They're just so strange and they are mystic,
they are quite majestic looking as well.
So chuffed with that.
If hip, young Londoners are getting involved, being one myself,
I should really give it a try.
So there are two types of compost you need.
You use two parts bonsai compost to
one part multipurpose compost.
OK, what is in bonsai compost?
There is quite a lot of sand, so it is very good free draining compost.
But actually the mixture of it, with the multipurpose compost
and water, it forms a sort of clay.
-I don't know if you want to get your hands...
I'm a gardener, I want to get my hands dirty! I thought
-you would never ask. Come on then.
-So just stir it around.
-A bit like you're making a Christmas pudding mixture.
Now you need to really... compress this.
You will see all the water dripping out. OK, fine...
-Next thing is to add the plant.
I am going to go for this asparagus fern.
the little textural number.
You're not going to harm the plant,
but take off as much of the compost around the plant as possible.
How you going to get that into that? They are about the same size.
This is the magic.
-So, take your sphere.
-You basically have to twist the ball
and separate, so you should have two halves of a sphere.
-There we go.
-Not bad, eh?
-Just place it here, and then the other one on top.
-And push together.
So the next part is to put moss.
Yes, let's get the moss on, hold the whole thing together.
You can't forage for moss in forests, or anything like that,
because it is against the law. So you can get this from garden
centres or from florists,
but not from anywhere in public spaces.
-So if you put some at the bottom.
-Oh, very delicate.
-Then some around the edge.
-It is a bit like wrapping an apple in pastry.
-So far, so good, yes?
-Is it a good shape?
-Yes, good shape.
-You've got that sort of spherical shape.
So the next part is the string.
It doesn't matter what direction you go in.
It doesn't have to be in any sort of pattern.
We just keep it all in.
-Yeah, it feels more and more solid.
-Look at that!
-See, it is looking great.
-And do I just chop that and tighten it?
-Chop that. OK.
-I'm going to use a little, swifty reef knot, we call it.
-Hey! What do you think?
-Yeah, I think that is fantastic.
-I'm quite pleased with that...
-Yeah, you should be.
-..I have to say.
I think that was incredibly satisfying and rewarding.
Well, I'm not sure these are the future of hanging baskets,
but I've really enjoyed making my first kokedama.
And I like them a lot.
I like the way they are really natural, just the moss,
the plant, and some jute string around them.
These kokedama couldn't feel more different from the baskets
I looked at a couple of weeks ago.
But now I that know anything is possible, I'm going
to create my own take on a hanging basket next time.
Well, I confess that I'd never heard of kokedama before.
And they do look interesting, if a little bit like a sprouting coconut.
And I'll tell you what,
how lovely to see Joe Swift getting his hands dirty.
Now, I'm going to get my hands dirty and plant something that is about
as far removed from kokedama, or a hanging basket,
as could possibly be.
Last year, I cut down a quince tree
that was blighted. And it has created an open space, which I wanted.
Light and air coming in.
But it is a problem site, because all the planting around the pond is
lush and likes fairly wet, rich soil.
But here, raised up above the pond, it is actually bone dry in summer,
so I've got a plant here that will fill the gap but not
overwhelm it. It is a cranbe. Cranbe cordifolia.
Cranbe maritima, it's cousin, is sea kale...
that we eat. Cordifolia is not edible...
a slightly larger version.
The foliage of cranbe actually doesn't give you any
idea of what the flowers are going to be like,
because these great big cabbage leaves -
and remember, it is a kale -
spawn a lovely froth of delicate
white flowers in the end of May,
in June, that shimmer
and float above the ground,
and can get up to about six feet tall.
So it gives good architectural qualities,
and then you cut it back in mid or late autumn, it disappears...
and then will reappear again in spring.
So a really statuesque plant
that is adapted beautifully to
growing almost anywhere, or grow in practically any soil.
It will grow in full sun, in part shade.
The one thing it's got to have is good drainage.
So I've loosened the soil at the bottom of the hole.
Now, if you look at the plant I've got...
..that's a hand span in depth,
and I've dug a hole that is much too
big. And it is really important, when you plant it, that the crown,
the point at which the leaves sprout from, is above ground level.
I don't want to plant it like that, but about like that.
So I will put the whole of this grit into the hole.
And sit the roots directly on top of the grit.
So it is sitting slightly proud off the surrounding soil,
and any water will drain away fairly quickly.
has slightly fallen out of favour, in the sense that not
so many people grow it.
And I think more people should grow it, it's a fabulous plant.
There we go.
Over to you now.
Do your stuff.
Sometimes, and at some moments in the year,
plant combinations just work.
And today it's here.
This is the Viburnum plicatum Mariesii,
with these lovely tiered white flowers.
And I love the way it hangs over this hosta. This is albomarginata.
The variegation around the outside picks up the white of the viburnum,
and also the way that the leaves' shape
are actually reflected by the hosta.
We think of hostas as great big sort of plants, and dramatic.
Sometimes they can be really subtle,
and the green of the osmunda fern in the background, shining out of the dark.
Exactly at this time of year you get that sort of intensity.
Now, that is deliberate, but sometimes things can be
just as good when they are an accident as well.
This viburnum, I cut to the ground three years ago.
Wanted to get rid of it.
Couldn't be bothered to dig the roots out there and then. In spring it started to grow back,
and, look, it has grown back hugely,
and makes a really good composition.
And there, popping through its branches, a self-sown angelica.
Sometimes you just have to say, "Nature does it better than
"you possibly could."
Well, that's it for today.
I'll back here at Longmeadow next week, at the same time.
So join me then. Bye-bye.
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.