Monty Don mulches the borders in preparation for spring and pots up dahlias for the year ahead. Carol Klein celebrates her plant of the month - the daffodil.
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Hello, welcome to Gardeners' World on the most glorious spring day.
It's as though winter was a distant memory
and it's extraordinary how the garden is responding.
There is this green energy that is growing almost in front of my eyes
in the garden and it is sprinkled and spangled
with lovely spring colours, so while this sun lasts, let's enjoy it.
This week, Carol will be selecting the plant
that she feels most typifies the month of March.
And Frances Tophill is in Barbados,
where she spent the winter brushing up on her botanical knowledge.
One of the jobs that I do every spring is to mulch.
Mulching is one of my favourite words.
It's one of those lovely, soft, squishy words
which is onomatopoeic because you're spreading a layer on the ground.
It doesn't matter what you use.
Organic material is ideal, but you could use stone or slate
if need be, because mulching has three functions -
it suppresses weeds by blocking light,
it keeps in moisture by stopping evaporation or at least reducing it,
and if you use an organic material - and, by organic,
I mean just simply one that will rot down -
it will improve soil structure
and, depending what you use, soil fertility.
Now, mushroom compost is something I've used a lot of
here at Longmeadow.
It's fundamentally manure mixed with lime and that reacts
and that breaks down the straw
and obviously the lime means it is alkaline
so if you're trying to grow plants that are ericaceous
and need acid soil, it's not suitable.
But on heavy clay like we have here, the lime breaks the soil down.
And what is important is to mulch thickly enough.
I would say 2" minimum.
If it's too thin, it won't suppress light
so the weeds will grow through it
and it won't keep the moisture in, so it's actually a waste of time.
When you're mulching around a woody plant like this callicarpa,
don't go right up round the base of the stems.
Leave a bit of space around it because there is a danger
that you might rot... If they get too wet and they stay wet and cold,
you could rot them a bit,
but what you want to do is mulch the roots.
On a herbaceous plant or these hellebores,
you don't need to worry about that so much
and if there are any bulbs coming up, they will grow through it.
What I would say is if you haven't mulched before
or you haven't got round to mulching this year,
something to do in the next week or so.
Now, talking about timely,
Carol is starting a new series of films looking at plants
that epitomise the qualities and characters of each month.
And now in March, we find her in the West Country.
As the calendar flips into March and we launch into spring,
one of our most familiar and well-loved plants pops up
all over the landscape in woodlands, parklands, churchyards
and, of course, in our gardens.
It's the Narcissus, or, as we all know it, the daffodil.
Native to western Europe,
it's been around for more than 25 million years.
The unmistakable daffodil really lets us know
that spring has arrived.
During the '50s,
trains were organised called "daffodil specials" to carry people
from the cities out to the fields in Gloucestershire
and Herefordshire, the Golden Triangle,
where they could feast their eyes
on fields full of these beautiful flowers.
The trains have gone,
but the commercial growers are still going strong.
The daffodil is now the county plant of Gloucestershire
and, of course, it's the national emblem of Wales.
The daffodil or Narcissus
belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae,
along with alliums, snowdrops and agapanthus.
It's a bulbous perennial.
There's a single stem, usually with one flower at the top,
although there are multi-headed daffodils, too.
These outside petals, the perianth,
are actually three sepals and three petals.
The inside, the corona or trumpet, is where all the action takes place.
In here is the stigma, the female bit which receives the pollen,
and the stamens arrange round its edge.
At their tops are anthers full of pollen.
At the back of the flower is the ovary, which eventually,
when the flower has been pollinated, swells and is full of seeds.
When it comes to growing your daffodils,
nothing could be more straightforward.
They're really easy. You plant them as dry bulbs during the autumn.
They're not really fussy about soil.
They'll grow in dappled shade or right out in the open,
and when they finish flowering, take those old flowered stems
right down to the base of the bulb and snap them off or cut them off.
But when it comes to the leaves, leave them alone.
Those leaves need to photosynthesise and send all that goodness
back down into the bulb to produce the flowers for next spring.
The easiest way to increase stock is to dig up a clump
once the flowers have finished.
Remove any spent flower stems, separate the bulbs,
plant them in nice deep holes - 4"-6" isn't too much.
That way, you'll have a lovely clump by the next year.
Bulbs are fascinating organisms.
Within them, they have everything needed to produce roots,
leaves and flowers. It's a tunicate bulb.
It's got layer after layer, just like an onion,
and each one of those layers will produce either a leaf
or part of a flower in the centre here or part of the outside skin.
There are so many exquisite daffodils
and everybody has their own favourites,
but here are some of mine.
You don't have to be big to be beautiful.
One of the most charming of all daffodils is...
..and it often grows on acid soils.
It's a great bulb to naturalise
because it has many more seeds than other daffodils -
more seeds, more bulbs.
Bath's Flame is a heritage variety, dating back to before World War I.
It was a favourite in the Cornish cut-flower trade.
Perhaps my all-time favourite has to be our own wild daffodil.
It's a beautiful flower.
Such a wondrous plant is the daffodil.
It's a star that shines in March.
Of course, daffodils are the most potent symbol of March,
but another less likely seasonal visitor
are frogs, and this little pond that I made a couple of years ago -
and it's really not much more than a scrape in the ground
with a lining - has got dozens of frogs.
That croaking can grow and swell
and sometimes I can hear it from the house.
Right, then, we'd better go and do some serious pruning. Come on.
The four purple hazels here
in the centre of the Jewel Garden have looked fantastic.
They're a hazel called...
But they've got too big
and they're shading out plants
that need as much sunlight as they can get
so the answer is to cut them back,
but because they're hazels, they will respond to coppicing.
Now, the whole point of coppicing is you don't just cut back halfway up
or take the top few feet off or whatever.
You reduce the plant right down to the ground,
and hazels lend themselves to this brilliantly.
So does willow, so does dogwood - you can do this with shrubs,
you can do it with quite large tree-like plants like this,
and that suddenly floods the area with light,
the flowers around them grow much better, and they will regrow.
That's the crucial thing.
Well, the first thing I want to do is to get a sharp saw,
and, in this day and age,
sharp saws are one of the delights of the garden and, come on,
be honest, who is not going to LOVE using a bit of kit like this?
Right, let's take this one out here.
You can do this with a chainsaw and just cut right across
and it will regrow perfectly well, but if you're cutting by hand,
it's actually better to cut each one individually
at a bit of an angle so water doesn't collect on it,
leaving a stump or what's actually called a stool with coppice
and then from below the cut mark, you'll get new shoots.
You don't need to seal it. That won't do any good at all.
But it is important to leave a clean cut so you've got
a nice smooth surface and that will heal over in its own good time.
Now to manage the new.
The first thing to do is to take out any damaged or weak
or crossing growth, so things like this,
straight away I know it's going to be no good, so that can come out.
I can take that out and that out and that out
and I'm going to take that out.
Well, that's left me eight stems.
Some are a little thicker than others,
but I'm going to leave those.
I might reduce them down a bit in a year or two.
And of course these will become the great thick branches
in very short time, literally two or three years.
The one thing I would say is do do it now if you can
because to prune a plant like this so radically is stressful
and if it's trying to put on leaves or even flowers at the same time,
that's a double whammy, so this is a job that can be done any time
between Christmas and Easter, but, to be honest,
the nearer to the new year it is, the better,
so crack on with it if you're going to do it.
Now, I'm sure you are aware that this is the 50th year
of Gardeners' World and to celebrate our golden jubilee,
we are looking for our golden jubilee plant -
that's the plant that has had the most impact on gardens
in the last 50 years. It may not be anyone's favourite,
it's just got to be really significant,
and all the Gardeners' World presenters are picking one plant
that they think is the one that has changed the world most,
and then we will be asking you to vote and at Gardeners' World Live,
we'll be having a big party to celebrate our 50th birthday.
We will announce the one that you think most fits that bill.
Remember, it's not a favourite, it's the one that's had the most impact.
Now, last week, I put forward the case for bedding.
This week, it's the turn of Nick Bailey.
Dahlias are fantastic garden plants.
They've been around in Europe in common cultivation
for about 200 years, but, in the last 50,
they've made an incredible transition.
They've gone from being strictly the preserve of the allotmenteer
growing them for cut flowers to being mainstream border plants.
Now, these plants, of course,
are amazing in their range and diversity -
all sorts of flower forms and every colour you can imagine, except blue.
There are now these short, squat forms which work brilliantly
at the front of borders and also in containers.
People used to lift them in winter.
Now, with warmer soils and changing climate,
they can be left in the ground as they're incredibly easy to grow.
They'll flower all the way through from July to November.
Some people might think of them as being retro.
I think they're absolutely now.
What's not to love about dahlias?
Nick is absolutely right
that the way that we view dahlias and use them in our gardens
has changed so much - not just in the last 50 years, actually,
in the last 20 years.
I can remember at the end of the '80s, beginning of the '90s,
they were very unfashionable,
and perhaps the Bishop of Llandaff
was considered suitable for a garden.
So it's really good that more and more of us are growing dahlias.
But whether they're the most important plants
in the last 50 years, with the most impact,
that's something that you'll have a chance to vote on and decide
when you've seen all the potential plants
that we here at Gardeners' World are putting forward.
But dahlias are something I'm going to be growing here at Longmeadow
with a vengeance, because I love them.
And where I disagree with Nick
is that it may be fine in London to leave them in the ground,
but here in the wet West Country and the West Midlands,
you lose too many. It's too risky.
And they hate sitting in cold, wet ground,
and it got to -9 here in January.
Much safer to store them, and this is how we do it.
We put them into crates, we lift them
and pack them in old potting compost,
and if you carefully take each one out like that,
and what I want to check is that they haven't dried up,
and they're shrivelled, and they haven't rotted.
So when you feel the tubers, they should be nice and firm,
and if you're buying dahlias at this time of year,
you want big, firm tubers.
Look at that.
A nice, lovely, healthy, strong set of tubers.
That is going to flower beautifully.
And now we'll pot these up.
So if we've got a large one like this,
we need a large-ish pot.
And the idea is to put them in a plastic pot at this stage,
which is just big enough.
They don't need much room to grow,
we just want a root system to develop
so they start to come out into the light,
a little bit of protection,
and then when the top growth is about a foot high
and we get to mid-May, they can go out into the garden.
So I've got some good-quality compost.
Dahlias are greedy plants.
That can go on there.
And then I'll just put some soil around it.
This will start to grow straight away.
Put it somewhere sheltered, water it, and keep it moist.
Water it once a week, don't let it dry out.
You'll very quickly see new shoots, and just keep an eye on them.
If it turns really cold, you might have to put some fleece over them.
Of course, however much dahlias feel part of our very English gardens,
they are exotic.
They were introduced in the 16th century from Mexico.
And they're one of many plants from that region
which have enriched and delighted our gardens ever since.
And Frances Tophill has been spending her winter
in that part of the world.
Only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide,
with the roaring Atlantic Ocean to the east
and the serene Caribbean sea to the west.
This is Barbados.
With its perfect tropical climate, it's a gardener's paradise,
and home to some really remarkable yams,
christophines, and even locally grown bananas.
And some spectacular gardens, too.
Which is why I'm here. This is my walk to work in the morning.
Quite incredible, isn't it?
I've studied gardening and botany back in the UK
and botanical conservation is one of my passions.
So when the chance came up to work as a volunteer
at the famous Andromeda Botanic Gardens,
I jumped at it.
The Andromeda Botanic Gardens cling to the rocky cliffs
of the wild and rugged east coast.
The six acres of stunning botanic gardens
were created by plantswoman Iris Bannochie,
who started the garden way back in 1954.
Iris was born in Grenada, but spent most of her life here in Barbados.
She collected and nurtured hundreds of plant species
from all around the world, some of them very rare,
and brought them back here to Andromeda.
When Iris died in 1988,
she left this garden to the Barbados National Trust,
of which she was a founding member,
for all the public to visit and learn from.
Andromeda is a place that I've dreamed about coming to for years.
I've only been here a week, and already I've fallen in love
with the island, and with this garden.
I'm volunteering here for a month,
so that I can learn as much as I can about the flora, and the people,
and their gardens.
As a gardener, I find I'm very busy in the spring and summer,
but I love to spend my winters travelling around
and learning about horticulture and conservation
in different countries around the world.
And it's amazing the similarities that you see.
Here at Andromeda, one of the first things I did was working down here
in what will become a very beautiful White Garden.
And I was planting begonias and busy lizzies,
which are two plants I know very well as bedding plants back home,
but here, they grow much, much bigger
and they live for much, much longer.
This is a big garden, and is now looked after,
along with her small team,
by head gardener, and my mentor, Sharon Cooke.
So, this is the Palm Garden. Yeah. It's beautiful, isn't it?
It's absolutely magnificent.
What people assume about palms is "a palm is a palm is a palm",
but they're not. They are so uniquely different.
Some will have a smooth trunk,
others will have leaf scars on the trunk.
Different fruit, different leaf shape.
And quite difficult to identify, of course. Yeah. And you have
the help of this, which is amazing.
Yeah! This is Iris Bannochie's accession book,
where she wrote down basically everything that she collected.
But there's one in here in particular,
the lipstick palm,
collected on 14 November 1983.
Sealing wax? Yes. Is that a name for it?
Yeah, so some people call it lipstick palm,
other people call it sealing wax palm,
and basically the colour of the red crown shaft
is very similar to the wax that they would have used...
On letters and things!
Exactly. Yeah. And we have a wonderful native plant
called the macaw palm. Which is lethal.
That's the spiky one. Exactly. Yes.
You don't want to get too close to it. No, no.
There are hundreds of fantastic plants in this garden.
A couple of my favourites are the enormous bearded fig tree,
the national tree of Barbados,
with aerial roots that dangle down from the canopy.
And the ghost cactus,
which is actually a euphorbia.
So Sharon, is this a cultivar
that you really want to keep going in the garden?
Oh, definitely. It's Heliconia stricta Iris,
named after the curator of this garden,
which is such a wonderful honour to have.
So we are taking out some of the weaker plants that are growing
and we're also cutting off some of the leaves,
just to expose the flowers.
And these are actually modified leaves called bracts,
and the flowers are the things that sit inside.
So those are where the hummingbirds go to, those little things in there.
Amazing, isn't it? Hummingbirds in the garden.
I recognise the flower from, like, bouquets and things like that.
Yeah, and they're quite stunning.
Yep. That looks wonderful. Cool.
Yay! Another job done. Yes. Moving on to the other 500...!
I mean, it doesn't really need saying, does it,
that Andromeda is in such a beautiful setting. It is.
But not without its problems,
which I can see here.
I mean, we have pests and diseases in the UK,
but nothing like this. Unfortunately, monkeys.
I mean, that's a lovely fruit - it's a mammee apple,
from the mammee apple tree.
Tastes of peach and apricot, absolutely delicious. If we ever
got a chance to eat them ourselves, because the monkeys love them.
And this is the national flower of Barbados.
It's the pride of Barbados. It's so beautiful.
We have things like this in the UK with that kind of mimosa,
that kind of leaf, but usually with the little yellow pompom flowers.
Nothing like this with the beautiful red flowers.
I love this. It's absolutely lovely.
You love it, I love it, and the butterflies love it too.
You come and take this. To here?
You have that.
She's got it, not you.
You've got it, haven't you? Yeah. You've got it.
It's been mild today, but we could do with some of that sunshine.
Anyway, let's see what weather is in store for us gardeners this weekend.
There you go.
Well, whatever the weather this weekend,
there will be an opportunity to get out and do things in the garden,
so here are some jobs that you can be getting on with.
It's a good time to prune roses.
But don't be precious about this. These are tough plants.
Concentrate on removing any deadwood,
any branches that are crossing and rubbing,
and cut back hard all weak and spindly growth.
Finally, reduce all the remaining stems by about a quarter to a third.
That'll do the job fine.
An early sowing of peas now should give you a crop in June,
and then you can sow successive crops thereafter.
Either sow them in double or triple rows,
leaving room between the rows either to walk and harvest them
or reach in on a raised bed.
Push them into the soil,
rake them over, label them, and leave them to grow.
Although ornamental grasses look wonderful in winter,
their decorative time is over.
They need to be cut back to allow the new growth to come through.
Deciduous varieties like miscanthus can be cut,
whereas evergreen ones, like stipas,
shouldn't be cut, but combed through,
using your fingers, removing dead material.
All this material will compost, but very slowly on its own.
What you have to do is put it to one side, chop it up if possible,
then mix it in with very green material
like lawn-mowings or maybe kitchen waste.
That way you get a balance of brown and green, carbon and nitrogen,
and it will all bulk out the compost heap.
Clear it all, tidy it, mulch it, weed it,
add plants if you want, but don't move any grasses yet.
They really won't like it.
Wait until you see them growing vigorously -
here at Longmeadow that can be well into May -
and then that's the time to move them.
But we'll come to that sooner or later.
But I'm afraid that's all we've got time for today.
I'll see you back here next time. Till then, bye-bye.
He believes himself to be your equal.
We would have no quarrel with Aelfric.
I need 200 Christian men of Bebbanburg.
In return, I shall require the head...
Monty Don is mulching the borders in preparation for spring and potting up dahlias for the year ahead.
Carol Klein celebrates her plant of the month - the daffodil - while Frances Tophill is brushing up on her horticultural skills as a volunteer at Andromeda Botanic Gardens in Barbados.
As part of the programme's 50th anniversary, Nick Bailey reveals the plant he thinks has had the most impact on British gardens over the last half century.