Gardening magazine. Plants that have a head for heights come under the spotlight this week, and a unique collection of Himalayan plants is discovered at Craigieburn Garden.
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Come on, here!
Hello, welcome to Gardeners' World.
Well, the orchard is dominated by giant umbellifers -
hemlock and hogweed.
And they are both weeds,
I don't really want them to get too invasive.
But for the moment, they look fantastic,
because they have these white umbels of flower,
made up of tiny florets,
which of course are fabulous for insects and look superb.
But as soon as those flowers fade, I don't want them to set seed,
so next week, the big mower is coming out and I will cut the lot.
This week, we're looking at plants with a head for heights,
as we visit an alpine grower in the Pennines.
Everybody likes little things in miniature, don't they?
Can't quite believe how small some of them are,
and so perfectly formed as well.
And we visit an extraordinary Himalayan garden
in the Scottish Borders that came about as the result
of a life-changing experience in Nepal.
Well, later on, I'll be putting on my waders
and getting into the pond to do some deep water planting.
But first of all, just have a look at this.
Remember, some weeks ago,
a swarm of bees was introduced into this top bar hive?
Now, you can count one, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight and nine natural combs.
And if they stay happy and stay busy, there is
a real chance that I could collect some honey later this year.
Now, that does depend upon them having a source of food.
Just bees alone aren't going to make you honey,
they've got to be able to forage constantly.
And so, the more bee-friendly plants,
insect-friendly plants, in fact, not just bees, that we can get
into our gardens, the better it is for us and for wildlife in general.
I'll close that up and leave them to it.
The whole garden here at Longmeadow
is filled with plants that insects like.
But I have, this year, started to make this corner
into one that is specifically geared
to getting wildlife, so, that includes a pond, it includes lots of
cover and I have also planted plants that are particularly good for bees.
This agastache is Agastache Blackadder,
beautifully tall, and that's why I've chosen it,
because it gives some height,
and it's good to have different layers,
so that bees can find them and get them,
and also, these tiny little flowers, which they'll just dip into.
And honeybees have short tongues, so they don't like deep, long tubes.
Bumblebees, on the other hand, can cope much better.
So, I'll plant these out.
I've got three, because
in principle, I like to plant in threes.
But obviously, ones will do.
This is a perennial and this will flower for weeks.
Let's pop that in there.
And I'm not going to plant them in a clump,
I like the idea of the bees just drifting from plant to plant,
sipping a bit here, tasting a bit there.
I'm not going to plant these for a moment,
because I want to stand back and look at it.
It is important when you are trying to attract as much
wildlife as possible, you don't forget that it's a garden,
and you have planted it
and it must be beautiful for you, as well as the animals.
I have this Salvia Caradonna, and salvias, again,
have these small flowers with the basal plate and the curving petal
over the top, which the insect lands on the bottom
and that pulls the top down and brushes the pollen onto it.
And the salvia, when it flowers, is blue,
just with a touch of mauve, so there is a colour theme evolving here.
Finally, I've got some borage.
Borage, which is an essential part of Pimm's, and is a really
good example of a simple, open flower shape, which bees love.
Well, I'm happy, and I think the bees will be happy,
so let's get them in the ground.
Borage can become fairly invasive.
Now, I don't mind that and I certainly won't mind if we have
too much here, because it's easy to pull up,
and a lovely, beautiful plant.
Of course, the art of mingling carefully chosen plants
that you grow as well as possible,
and what effectively are weeds, like these nettles,
is one that you have to make choices about.
These nettles coming out of the hedge will be
wonderful for caterpillars, and that applies throughout the garden.
We've got comfrey spilling down into the water here.
I'm happy with that for the moment, because bees
and bumblebees just love it and the bumblebees can get in those
tubular flowers and just drink as much as they possibly can.
Actually, some bees have trouble with comfrey.
These flowers are a little long for them.
But they have a technique of getting in there.
And what they do is that they nibble
through the base of the flower,
a bit of smash and grab,
gets its nectar and it's away.
Come on, Nige. Come on!
I'm a novice when it comes to growing alpines.
I get a lot of pleasure from them, but I've had some trouble,
particularly with the two troughs here in the Cottage Garden.
I suspect that the plughole in this trough has got blocked,
so the water has built up and they have rotted, and the one thing
with alpines you really must have is good drainage.
Now, I'm very happy to confess my own lack of knowledge about alpines,
I'm learning and I'm enjoying the learning process hugely.
But we went to visit a real expert, Michael Mitchell,
who gardens at altitude at Hebden Bridge.
We are at Slack Top, which is 925 feet above sea level,
right in the middle of the Pennines on a north-facing slope.
Not the ideal place, you would think, to grow plants at all.
Alpines are some of the toughest
and easiest plants that you can grow in your garden.
If you consider where they actually grow in the wild -
in mountainous, cold, exposed places like
the Alps and the Rocky Mountains, Himalayas - and if they can survive
places like that where it's cold and wet and windy, then
there should be no problem in being able to grow them in your own home.
This little yellow daisy here,
which is called Erigeron Canary Bird,
I think it is possibly one of my favourite alpines.
It flowers for ages.
March, April is when it starts
and then you get repeated flushes of flowers
all through the season until October, November.
Likes a sunny spot and well-drained conditions, like most alpines.
This one actually needs a bit of cleaning up.
If I just... I'll just take a few of these spent flowers off.
Everybody likes little things in miniature, don't they?
Can't quite believe how small some of them are,
and so perfectly formed as well.
And the colours are really intense, really brilliant.
They often don't look like they are going to be hardy
and that you can actually grow them outside, but you certainly can.
Stone alpine containers are either very expensive to buy,
or you can't find them any more these days.
I'm going to show you how to make a container
out of just a sand and cement mixture.
The first thing you need is some kind of a mould.
It's just a plastic tub and I've cut it in half, as it were.
I use two different kinds of sand.
One is what they call a red sand, and then another sand,
which is a grit sand, and then obviously, cement.
Put a little bit of grit or gravel in as well,
it just helps add to the texture of it.
I aim to put round about an inch and a half of mixture in the base.
Make sure there are no gaps around the edge of the trough mould.
We need something with which to make the drainage hole in the trough,
so I've just got some bits of polystyrene.
We now need the inner mould. And then, simply start filling.
Bit by bit.
So I think that's about finished. It's hopefully got all the air out.
After about 24 hours, it's cured.
In winter, you probably need to leave it two days.
So, hopefully, once the trough has been finished,
it looks something like this one does here.
Within a year or so, it should start to weather
and look a lot more like a proper stone one.
In order to stop the compost from falling in there
and clogging the drainage hole up,
we need to put something over it first.
I just use the bottom of a plant pot
that's got lots of drainage holes in.
It's worth putting a layer of gravel or chippings on the top of that.
Compost is the next thing.
Try not to use multipurpose compost, use one that's got soil in it.
So, three parts of John Innes No 2,
one or two parts of grit,
mix that together.
Bits of stone in there will help prevent
one plant encroaching onto another.
There are so many alpines you can choose from, some will be
far too vigorous and completely fill the container,
swamp everything else.
So I put a campanula and a saxifrage in there.
Also, try and, if you can, spread the flowering season out as well.
I know most of the plants here are all in flower now,
but that's because they tend to be really long-flowering ones.
The centaurium here, Centaurium scilloides, starts flowering
at the beginning or the middle of June, continues well on into August.
Got this wonderful little toadflax
that's also really long-flowering,
and it will just grow over the edge of it.
The compost should usually last a couple of years, and then,
if you find that perhaps they are not really growing as you
would like, put on something like a tomato food,
and always half strength,
half the recommended dose.
It is a tiny little world on its own!
The last thing to do before we water it is to put some gravel
and some grit and chippings on the surface, which act like a mulch.
So, we get the last bit of grit in
and it's pretty much finished, really.
It's a really fun, easy thing to do, making your own containers
and planting up your own little alpine world.
Provided you get the basics right,
we should have something that lasts many years, lots of pleasure.
It really is a fascinating branch of plants to have a go at.
I've got some additions for the big pond.
One is a deepwater plant,
which is a water hawthorn.
It comes from South Africa and flowers twice in the year,
sort of May, early June.
It then takes a rest during summer and flowers again
in September and October.
And it has got curious flowers that smell of vanilla.
I've got two marginals. Next to me is the pickerel plant,
and I like this for two reasons.
One is because it's got a good flower, it's got a good shape
and gives really good cover, it's just a handsome plant.
And also because the name, the pickerel, always makes me smile.
There was a pub when I was a student at university called
The Pickerel, where occasionally - obviously, only for research -
I used to go in and refresh myself,
and I remember some happy times there.
Finally, a flowering rush, butomus,
which has got really good structure,
and I need, towards this end of the pond,
to get some height, and then that will flower and look really good.
This butomas is planted in an aquatic basket,
which is fundamentally a pot full of holes, like a mesh.
And that lets water in and to a certain extent, lets roots out.
And it is heavy.
That's because it has been planted with aquatic compost,
which acts as much as anything else as an anchor.
It weighs it down.
You can buy aquatic compost or you can use soil just as effectively.
What you don't use is normal potting compost or any
kind of improved soil because most of the nutrients are going
to come from the water and the soil is really acting as ballast.
And this is a marginal plant that really does like to stay wet,
to have the roots in the water the whole time.
So put it somewhere where it can stay submerged,
but not completely to the top.
Now the pickerel plant, and I have put it over here,
and this will go in a much shallower position.
It needs to be wet, but does not need to be submerged all the time.
And this side of the pond is shallower.
There's a lot of weed in here.
A lot of this is the hornwort,
which I put in as an oxygenator and has multiplied hugely.
In an ideal world, for the sake of the plants,
you'd like half the water clear at any one time,
but it is a good idea sort of once a week to scoop off
as much of the duckweed and algae as you can and
if you get too much of the oxygenator, like hornwort,
have a clear out and compost it
but only after you have left it on the side of the pond for a few days
for any small creatures in there to crawl out
and go back into the water.
Now this is the rather sad looking water hawthorn and what it wants is
to be submerged, so when you plant it,
don't worry if it disappears out of sight.
It will grow back to the surface.
And that means me creeping round and going into the depths...
Oh, big frog, can you see?
There he goes. OK. It's very slippery under here.
It seems rather drastic,
but I'm just going to drop this down in here and let it
work its way to the surface, but I will clear some of the weed.
Go on, then. May you grow well. There we are.
And the leaves are just at the surface, which is perfect.
And they will quickly grow to the light and hopefully,
they should be flowering properly by the end of summer.
The beautiful thing about all these plants,
whether they're deepwater aquatics, marginal bog plants,
is they've evolved over long periods of time to make the most
out of very specific conditions.
And Matthew Wilson has been to Craigieburn Gardens on the Borders
of Scotland to see a garden that has been made to specifically
recreate the environment of the Himalayas.
The moment you arrive here at Craigieburn, you know
you are in for something pretty extraordinary.
The garden is reminiscent of Nepal, it's swathed in prayer flags,
but the story of how it came to be is just as extraordinary.
20 years ago, Janet Wheatcroft was on a plant collecting expedition
Whilst crossing a river, she was caught in a landslide
and would certainly have died,
had it not been for the bravery of her guide and Sherpa, Dawa.
The moving thing was not the fact that he had saved my life,
which he did, but the fact that if he couldn't save my life,
he was jolly well going to go down with me.
He'd been told to look after me and that's what he was going to do.
Because of my job and my responsibility,
I always want to do the best. I just want to do my duty, my job.
So, you met in very dramatic circumstances.
How did you end up here together, making this garden?
Dawa came over on holiday because I thought I owed him something
and he just started to help me a bit
and I realised straight away that he had a real natural talent.
Having discovered a shared love of gardening,
they formed an even greater bond
and came up with the idea of making a Himalayan garden together.
So Dawa and his family moved to Scotland.
20 years later, Dawa's pride and joy is what he calls his Sherpa garden.
He doesn't really like me having a lot to do with his Sherpa garden.
-Is that right?
Well, you must show me this Sherpa gorge.
I really want to see the plants in there.
-Can we go and have a look?
-You lead on.
The gorge has similar micro-climatic conditions
to Dawa's homeland in Nepal.
And he immediately saw it was the perfect place to
create his Himalayan garden.
I always wanted to make one Sherpa garden.
I said, I am going to make a Sherpa garden here,
I am going to get every single plant from my home.
I finished this in about four months,
no machine, no any special tools.
-Just using Sherpa power.
-Yes. Using my power.
I've grown food in the mountain, this is nothing for me.
Not only was it hard physical labour in a very tricky location,
but some of the plants were notoriously difficult
to grow in Britain.
Every single plant I brought from home, I never lost one single plant.
-The arisaemas are amazing, aren't they?
They are coming very, very strongly.
And they are just spreading by vegetation, are they?
-Sending out runners.
-No, they are tuba.
One jewel of the Sherpa garden is the meconopsis,
the Himalayan big blue.
It's notorious for being difficult to grow
but in Dawa's garden it's prolific.
There is no other colour like it in the flowering world.
Unsurprisingly, they are incredibly desirable plants and people
want to grow them, but it does require quite specific conditions.
Moist atmosphere, so it's not just about the rainfall,
it needs that moisture as well and I can feel that here in the gorge,
coming off the stream.
It also needs well-drained woodlandy soil and semi-shade as well,
so as desirable as it is, if you don't have those conditions,
it's possibly not the right thing for you.
Now, what do you think this is? A geranium?
That's what I thought it was.
It actually a primula and I've never seen this plant before.
It's absolutely gorgeous.
This wonderful, delicately cut foliage, beautiful pink flowers.
Great ground cover.
You know, what's so lovely about Craigieburn is it's packed
full of all these little treasures, every little nook
and cranny seems to be full of something interesting
and exciting and things that I haven't seen before.
The gorge is unique, but you can't underplay the rest
of the garden at Craigieburn, where Janet's love of plants is evident.
I love that paeonia emodi there.
Yeah, it's a beauty, isn't it? Lovely thing. Really beautiful.
I've been really taken by the meconopsis
and the arisaemas because you can't fail to be taken by...
-They are supermodels, aren't they?
-They ARE supermodels.
But equally, I've been just as taken by the ground cover
because it's so effortless, it all sort of merges together.
There's a particularly glamorous blue clover, it's a
-bit short of flowers.
-The colour and the intensity...
I mean, I've never seen a blue clover
-and I can imagine very few people would have.
-You see on river banks in Nepal..
There is a very beautiful strawberry in the gorge with really
glossy leaves and I just love the glossiness.
I don't think anybody else in this country grows that.
It's Fragaria daltoniana.
And I think that came back as a passenger with some
plants that we brought from Nepal because it's a little spreader,
like most strawberries, and we didn't know we had it, I think,
until we put the plants into quarantine when we got back
and it sort of popped up.
For me, the most interesting gardens are the ones that combine
beautiful planting and a real sense of atmosphere
and Craigieburn has both, but it's also shot through with
the personalities of the people who made it.
And the planting is exquisite.
Go on, then. You can have it and it's very nice, there we are.
I do love meconopsis.
I'm going to try growing some here in the new borders.
We've got dappled shade, we've got plenty of rainfall, but the
problem is not moisture in the ground, it's moisture in the air.
That is the key to it.
Now, as a very successful grower of them once said that the ideal
way to grow meconopsis is to plant them on a dead sheep.
In lieu of a dead sheep,
they are not that easy to buy down at the average garden centre,
garden compost and leaf mould, absolutely perfect.
And I'm going to fork in quite a lot into this area, here.
You don't have to dig it in too deep, by the way.
Remember, the feeding roots tend to be relatively near the surface.
I grew these from seed,
from the meconopsis sheldonii.
In fact, these were a hybrid called lingholm and very likely,
if you buy meconopsis sheldonii, it will be lingholm.
It took quite a while to germinate
and they were tiny plants for about eight months.
In fact, I've got some here which are over a year old,
so you have to be very patient.
And then these, we have potted on
and these are now two-year-old plants
and they won't be ready to flower for at least another year and
perhaps two, but they're precious and they are worth the trouble.
I used to feel that the pH had to be ericaceous, below six, to
grow meconopsis but it's generally reckoned that that isn't the case.
I mean, if you're growing on chalk, probably not a good idea,
but if your pH is around about neutral, there should be no problem.
But if you are going to mulch them,
and you should because that will help keep moisture into the soil,
keep weeds down and also feed them, use a pine bark mulch.
I will mollycoddle these plants,
but not by giving them any extra heat or shelter.
What they really want is moisture. Particularly in summer.
And moisture to the air.
You can see the leaves are bristly, they've got these hairs,
and that will trap the moisture and hold it in.
Well, they are out in the world but I will look after these plants
with all the care and anxiety of a mother
watching her child go off to its first day at school.
But here are some jobs that you can do at home,
a little bit more easily, this weekend.
Although an apple tree will try
and produce as much fruit as it can, for the gardener,
what you're looking for is quality rather than sheer quantity and to
achieve the best results reduce the number of fruits per spur to two.
This will seem harsh but the result will be two fine apples
that you can then pick and store and enjoy in winter.
If you planted garlic last autumn, it should now be time to harvest
them, especially if the foliage is starting to yellow and die back.
Don't tug at them but ease them out of the ground with a fork.
Clean the soil off and leave them to dry out on the ground,
although if heavy rain is forecast,
bring them indoors where they can be completely dry
and it's important to let them dry thoroughly before taking
the foliage off at the roots and storing them.
The time to prune plums and cherries is now in midsummer.
And this is especially true if you're training them to shape,
as I am these morello cherries, which I want to grow as fans.
Cut any outward facing growth
and then tie in any shoots that will follow the pattern
and establish a framework that you want to see in the finished plant.
Plants that have a head for heights come under the spotlight this week. At Craigieburn Garden in the Scottish Borders, Gardeners' World discovers a unique collection of Himalayan plants and visits a nurseryman in Hebden Bridge who has been growing alpines since he was a teenager.