Gardening magazine. As summer gathers pace and the weather starts to warm, drought-tolerant plants really hit their stride. Monty Don shares some of his favourites from Longmeadow.
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Go on. Come on. Come on, then.
Hello. Welcome to Gardeners' World.
Well, after the hot hurly-burly of Hampton Court,
it's nice to be back into the cool of my Writing Garden
which, of course, is mainly white.
What is magnificent, and I've come home to, is this rose.
It's called Wedding Day,
it's a rambling rose that I planted two years ago.
The first year it didn't do anything.
Last year, I was very disappointed, it didn't flower at all
but, boy, has it made up for it this year!
An absolute treat.
But I'm not quite sure about that yellow evening primrose
and the pink opium poppy.
In the right place,
they're both lovely flowers that are more than welcome in the garden
but here, in the white garden?
I don't know, should I pull them?
Or just enjoy them while they last and then get rid of them?
This week, Carol is celebrating the formal planting combinations
of Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire.
Wow! Look at this.
Isn't it magnificent?
And away from creating gold medal-winning show gardens,
the designer Adam Frost tackles his own back yard.
I'm literally going to have hours of fun
just simply playing with these plants.
A few weeks ago, I laid this turf.
And it's growing strongly
and I reckon in about three/four days,
I can just lightly pass a mower over it,
be able to walk on it in a week, but it's looking good.
Now, this whole area has been long meadow grass
for the last 25 years or since we've been here
and so these are brand-new borders and I want to get shrubs under here.
This is a particular type of environment, it's quite shady.
This is effectively woodland planting
and I'm starting with this glorious hydrangea.
This is Hydrangea macrophylla, Lanarth White.
One of my favourite of them all.
And these great big petals give it its display
whereas, in fact, in the middle you've got the flowers
which are tiny and they are actually blue
which means they've been raised in acidic conditions.
Hydrangeas will respond to acidic soil by taking on a blue shade
and to an alkaline soil, that's a pH over seven, with a pink shade.
And we are just slightly alkaline here
so in this soil here, next year, they'll be pink.
I want these to be an accent plant on the corner.
I thought I would have them either side across here
and these will grow to about five/six feet tall.
As for planting them, easy-peasy,
because the soil is prepared,
it's been dug and garden compost added to it.
Hydrangeas do best in light shade.
By light shade, it means either dappled shade
or shade that is only for part of the day.
That's a little too deep, I want the surface of the soil in the pot
to be the same height as the surface in the ground.
Traditionally you would plant this somewhere between October
and March when it was dormant
but it's fine to do it now as long as you give it a really good soak
when you first plant it and you must keep them watered.
Often the situation when you're planting a young shrub
with large flowers,
the structure supporting it isn't yet woody enough to stop it
flopping all over the place so that may well need support
and then those big flowers will be held and poised
and not drag the branches down.
IT STARTS TO RAIN
Well, before the rain really gets too heavy to garden in,
I'm going to put in a couple of viburnums.
This is Viburnum plicatum, Summer Snowflake.
Now, Viburnum plicatum grows laterally,
you get these lovely tiers of branches
and the flowers sit on them in June and July,
white flowers, actually quite similar to a hydrangea,
but the thing that viburnum has which can beat any hydrangea
is this incredible autumnal colour.
The leaves turn almost a dark sort of plum colour
so fabulous autumn foliage.
And they are very, very tough, adaptable plants.
Perfect for this semi-shade,
quite happy in the soil.
And nothing could be simpler than just to pop that into the ground.
Firm it in well.
And there you go. Now, what I am going to do,
it may seem eccentric because it is raining quite steadily,
I'm still going to water them all in.
What I'm trying to achieve with these shrubs is to create
an informal planting style within these two parallel borders.
But Carol has been to visit a garden that is distinctly formal
and yet gloriously so.
And this is Wollerton Old Hall, an RHS Partner Garden in Shropshire.
I'm looking at the exciting and inspiring ways
gardeners are putting plants together.
A few weeks ago I saw how plants could be successfully combined
to achieve a wild and naturalistic effect.
But if you want a bit more law and order in your garden,
today I'm going to be looking at formal plant combinations.
The garden at Wollerton Old Hall is a formal feast for the eyes.
It's the creation of Lesley Jenkins, who, in 1982,
bought back her childhood home and began to create a garden
of interconnecting rooms around the property.
This garden has lots of features
that we all associate with formal planting.
It's got clipped obelisks and these beautiful domes.
Although there are these straight lines
and these tailored hedges throughout the garden,
they are all there to allow us to appreciate
the absolute, exquisite beauty of the planting.
So, what do we mean by formal planting?
Andrew Humphris, the head gardener at Wollerton Old Hall,
agrees that while the garden IS formal,
they use the formality to create a visual rhythm around the garden.
-Hello, Andrew. What a lovely way to come into a garden.
-Oh, hi, Carol.
Having catmint swishing around your ankles.
Yeah, it's beautiful, isn't it?
Oh, it's just such a gorgeous garden!
But this whole idea of formality, I mean, what does it mean to you?
Well, I think you've got to have the structure of the hedges
and the walls and that formality to set off the vibrant planting.
It's all about the height in the borders,
the rhythm of the planting, it's to do with the repetition
of things throughout the garden, which helps the garden flow.
It's all to do with having a garden that is not a series of just
individual rooms but trying to make the garden gel as a whole
and to flow as a whole,
having the taller things at the back mostly,
although we do try and bring height forward as well, and just trying
to get the planting looking good so that the plants look fantastic.
Every so often, you have to really squeeze between hedges, don't you?
-Is that deliberate?
Those narrow gaps, one is perspective
so you're looking particularly from the main house right through
and then you have a narrow gap
-so that again is making it look further than it is.
And it's also hiding those hot colours
cos the hot garden's behind that
and we don't want to see those hot colours,
that needs to be a surprise as you come out into that area.
Yeah, cos it's like being like that and then suddenly, there it is.
-Yeah, it's a brilliant idea.
Wow! Look at this.
Isn't it magnificent?
This planting is perfectly orchestrated.
From one end it runs through the whole spectrum,
yellow down there coming to here
with these gorgeous lavenders and cool pinks.
Look at the border. It's taller at the back,
it's shorter at the front with this straight edge of grass.
You have to walk along here, this is the emphasis
and then up into all these beautiful plants that you can truly appreciate
just walking all the way along.
How about that? Galega, such a straightforward plant.
Galega, His Majesty.
With these long, beautiful sort of racemes of a veronicastrum.
This one's called Pointed Finger.
And mounds of achillea too.
But I'll tell you what, nothing's strayed,
everything is controlled,
everything is exactly as it should be
and it is glorious!
Well, one of the many garden rooms here is formality personified.
You've got these beautifully matched symmetrical box,
clipped absolutely perfectly into these big domes
and then in the background,
look at this, this rose, Francis Lester.
I mean, plant combinations don't always have to be about what's
sitting in the border next to something else.
This is a beautiful plant combination
and just look at the rose, how symmetrically it's been trained
so that it just meets in the centre.
And just when you're thinking
what an incredibly formal garden this is, what do you come across?
This rectangle of meadow.
Perfectly mown edges
but inside it's just an explosion of grasses, daisies and buttercups.
It's utterly lovely and what's more it's funny
and we need a lot more of that in our gardens,
don't we, formal or not?
Symmetry, a key feature of all formal gardens,
could feel regimented but not in this garden.
Here subtle differences in the variety
and placement of these delphiniums, for instance,
make a formal planting a vibrant and fresh composition.
The formal layout of hedges, paths and structures
form the stage on which the whole drama of this garden takes place
and this theatre puts on one entrancing production after another.
I think you can tell from the way that Longmeadow's laid out
that I love that combination of extreme formality
with a loose, generous planting.
Now, having seen that, I want to go and see Wollerton Old Hall myself.
Now, it's that time of year.
Round about my birthday,
I always harvest the first new potatoes.
Potatoes come in three groups, first earlies, second earlies
and main crop.
The big difference between them is that new potatoes,
first and second earlies, taste best dug fresh from the ground
but they don't store very well.
Now, this is a variety called Belle de Fontenay,
one of my favourites,
quite similar to Charlotte.
It's French obviously, as the name suggests,
and now's the time to harvest.
Also I want the bed to plant up this fennel.
Now, when you're using a fork, go gently, don't just dive in
because you can guarantee you'll spear a spud or two.
There we go.
How about that?
You don't want these to be too big.
Is that not beautiful?
Immaculate, golden little pebbles of joy.
People have often asked me how you know when to harvest potatoes.
Well, there are a number of indicators.
The first is that, in general,
first earlies are not ready for about 80 days,
second earlies 90-100 days
and main crop for 120 days.
That's after planting.
But that's a very general thing
and it depends on what the soil is like and what the weather is like.
The second thing is if they've flowered,
after flowering they will be ready.
A variety like Belle de Fontenay can be left in the ground
and just dug as you need them or you can harvest them all,
and if you do harvest them, keep them in a cool, dark place.
Potatoes are a really good crop for cleaning up a piece of ground.
If you've got a new allotment, plant potatoes.
The roots get in, it suppresses the weeds
and it's really good then for following with another crop.
That's a good basketful of spuds.
I'll put the horns, the top growth on the compost heap.
And I plan to plant up this bed to use the space
with a secondary crop.
And I've chosen Florence fennel.
Florence fennel makes delicious,
aniseed-y tasting fleshy bulbs,
which are actually overlapping leaves.
I've been growing them here in pots.
The roots are growing fine.
But you can see that there's still plenty of room within the
pots for them to grow and I'm just wondering if it might be better...
..to leave these.
If you plant it out and the soil that it has been
potted into just falls away, then that's quite a shock to the system.
What you want, ideally, is that when you take it out of the container,
the roots just hold the soil in shape.
I think good horticultural advice would be to leave these
for at least three or four more days, if not another week.
So that's what I'm going to do.
And I'm very happy with my spuds.
Come on, you. Come on. Come on!
Off you go.
One of the bits of the garden that I like most at this time of year
is here in the grass borders.
The thing about the grass borders in July, is that the grasses
themselves are starting to take control.
And the surrounding plants, which are packed in, work with them.
What's extraordinary about this part of the garden is
although there's so much energy and so much growth
and there's a sense of real vigour, it's a very calm place to be.
And if I wanted to just sit and be quiet for a moment or two,
this is where I come at this time of year.
A few weeks ago, the garden designer Adam Frost went for us
to Holt Farm to see the gravel garden there
to get ideas for his OWN garden back at home.
And now he's making a start on that project.
I spend most of my life creating gardens for other people
but this is really what I love.
Getting your hands into your own soil.
Having your own patch that you can work on and play with.
It's absolutely fantastic.
At home I've terraced out the garden
and I've been busy planting the lower terraces.
But there's an area at the top that catches the evening sun
and it's perfect for a gravel garden.
The key to this garden, I think, is the preparation.
I was worried about the clay soil and a lot of the plants that I've
chosen want those really free-draining conditions.
So, what I've done really is cover the whole area in compost
and then gravel.
As you dig over, you can really see that gravel
and the compost going in, bringing life to the soil.
The next step is to firm down the soil.
Then using a fork or rake,
get rid of any large stones and clods of earth.
I'm using a membrane to help suppress the weeds.
But more importantly, to stop the surface gravel that I'll be
mulching the beds with later mixing in with the soil.
Now, the fun bit. We're going to get stuck in to the plants.
As you can see, I've got a little bit carried away.
I've got some fantastic plants to play with.
I think when you're choosing plants, it's not just about the colour.
It's about whatever else they give you in the garden.
Maybe it's the form, the structure of the plant, the texture.
And plants I wouldn't get away with normally
that need slightly drier conditions.
For instance, things like lavender.
The scent is fantastic, so wonderful grey foliage,
but if you plant this somewhere where you are going to walk past,
you're just going to brush, and...
that scent is going to come up, which is absolutely beautiful.
Against things like sedum.
A completely different leathery leaf
with a great autumn flower,
so this is going to give me wonderful autumn colour.
And then look at things like the eryngium.
The structure of this plant stands alone but if I plant this and
it's poking through other plants,
the spike is really going to stand out.
Look at that. It looks sort of tropical, in a sense.
Really spiky and different.
And we've got things like the stachys,
the little lamb's ear, which is really soft in texture.
This will scramble around the ground.
Great ground cover, this plant.
And then colour.
They're just going to pop up all over the place,
right through this gravel garden.
These are the plants people react to instantly.
And stipa, oat grass.
I found this down at Holt Farm
and it looked beautiful moving in the wind.
And the light on this in the evening
is absolutely stunning.
As you can see, I've had a fantastic time.
I'm literally going to have hours of fun just playing with these plants.
When I'm laying this gravel garden out, what I'm trying to do is
bleed the outer garden in.
The first thing I've done is introduce the grasses.
They all sit on the outside borders.
After that, it's putting in key plants,
so I've used the verbascum, which are big, tall, strong plants
and really built the garden off that.
Don't be afraid to take stuff in, move it out, take stuff in,
move it out.
Doesn't really matter if it takes two or three days to get this right.
And eventually, you put them in the ground.
Because I'm using the membrane,
I can't dig out like you normally would
and just keep placing it on the side cos I'll make a complete mess.
So what I've got is a bucket here.
I just keep feeding the soil in and out.
Gravel, that's for my grey leaf plants.
On my clay soil, these might suffer a little bit,
so all I'm literally doing
is feeding a little bit in the hole
and that will really help them drain away.
These do not want to be sat in the water in the winter.
And last, but not least on a day like today, a bucket of water.
That's a bit like me, wilting at the moment.
Just give that a little soak like that, just before you've planted.
And that's all she needs. Drain her off a little bit.
Out she comes. And then...
..in we go. Feed a little bit of soil back round there.
End of the day when I've finished everything, this garden will
get a really good watering in.
And by tomorrow morning, everything will be bolt upright.
I really love doing this bit.
Just working the gravel in between the plants.
The gravel I've chosen really works with the local stonework.
And this gravel literally comes from 15 miles down the road.
Cor, have I looked forward to that?!
Probably not my best idea to create a gravel garden in a heatwave,
but it's fantastic.
This is just the beginning.
It will evolve and it will change but I really love it.
I designed this to enjoy that sun going down at the end of the day and
that's exactly what I have achieved, so I am so pleased with this.
Looking at Adam's gravel garden, he's got heavy clay soil
just like mine and yet he's very confident that he can grow
those plants that need free drainage.
So it's a good inspiration for anyone to try.
I have a letter which typifies a question
I get asked an awful lot about.
This is from Sue Braisby in Barnsley, and Sue says,
"In April this year we espaliered an apple
"and a pear against our garage wall and they've taken very well.
"The apple has a central branch and then two tiers."
"And they're each about five foot."
She wants to know if she should cut back
and if so, by how much or should she leave it alone?
That is just one example of a lot of queries I get
about pruning in general and summer pruning, in particular.
And if you are making an espalier or a cordon
or a fan, you're going to need to do your really important pruning
in summer rather than winter.
When you prune in winter you encourage regrowth.
When you prune in summer, you stop the growth.
By playing those two factors off, you can shape a plant
exactly as you want.
These espalier pears are a quarter of a century old.
They're getting less and less productive
but you can see there's lots of new growth here which has grown
since about April, none of which is bearing any fruit.
So if you don't want that as part of the structure of the plant -
and I don't cos they're espalier,
we don't want them to grow out this way - then that's got to go.
The fruit itself is produced on spurs,
so I'm going to prune back to old growth to create a spur.
Doesn't matter what you are pruning.
There is one law that always applies and that is prune back to something.
Don't just put your secateurs in and hack away.
So, in this case we want to remove this and we come back
and there we've got the beginnings of a spur,
so I'm just going to prune above that leaf there,
I do these every year and it does two things.
It retains the shape, it crisps them up
and importantly lets light into the fruit so they can ripen better.
This is the end of the espalier.
That's the branch growing much too long.
I want to shorten it.
If I pruned this in winter, there would be a mass of regrowth.
By pruning it now, it will do the job.
So I'm going to take that off there. Bang!
I hope that's helped you, Sue.
And anybody else who is trying to maintain established espaliers
or create them.
And if you've got any other questions which would help you
in your garden, please contact us.
You can do so by e-mail and go
to our website and get the address
or go to our new Facebook page
and contact us that way.
Now, even if you have no intention of espaliering anything,
then here are some other things you can do this weekend.
Comfrey makes an ideal feed,
especially for promoting roots,
fruits and flowers.
Cut the plant, the leaves and the stems,
and pack it into a bucket.
Chop this up with a knife to increase the surface area
and then fill the bucket with water.
Set it well out of the way
because it smells pretty bad as it decomposes,
but in three weeks' time
you can strain it and use the concentrate to make a foliar feed.
Don't forget that in order to keep a regular supply of lettuce,
it's important to sow small quantities
regularly throughout the summer.
Whether you're sowing them
in seed trays or directly into the soil,
sprinkle them thinly, keep them
watered, and they should be ready for harvest at the end of August.
Roses are still blooming well
but you can extend their flowering period
by deadheading regularly.
The important thing is not just to tidy up the plant but to prune it.
Use a pair of secateurs and cut back
to the next leaf or flower bud.
This will stimulate regrowth and new buds.
I like deadheading. I like the meditative quality of it.
And it is a really good thing to do
because it does prolong the flowering an awful lot.
Something I've noticed while I was away at Hampton Court
is on my return, the garden has shifted its palette.
Once you get into July, there's a richer, more velvety palette.
The plum colours, the magentas and purples.
It's all to do with the way the garden constantly sings
the song of every season.
As the summer gathers pace and the weather starts to warm up, drought-tolerant plants really hit their stride. Monty Don shares some of his favourites from Longmeadow, and garden designer Adam Frost shows us how to build a gravel garden from scratch.