Spring Life in a Cottage Garden with Carol Klein


Spring

Series following a year in Carol Klein's garden at Glebe Cottage. March and April bring great change in the garden, as the remnants of winter make way for the hope of spring.


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Transcript


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I'm Carol Klein and this is my garden,

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nestled in the heart of North Devon, 15 miles from the coast

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and surrounded by this tranquil and beautiful countryside.

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I've taken care of my garden for 30 years.

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I know every inch of this place and every plant.

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Each season brings its own delights.

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There are plenty of challenges too,

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but that's what makes it so exciting and so fulfilling.

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Over the next half hour, I want to share with you the huge transition my garden makes

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as it passes from winter into spring.

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March and April is a time of huge changes in my garden, in any garden.

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This time of the year starts with the remnants of winter -

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cold, brown, dank, gloomy.

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But it ends in the middle of spring.

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Moments of apprehension and despair are replaced with feelings of hope

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and it all happens within a matter of weeks.

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It's a really busy time in the garden -

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clearing the last of the debris and detritus

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which makes way for waves of planting.

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Every day is frenetic. There is never enough time.

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And crucially, all pruning must be done by the end of March.

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But one of the most exciting bits of all is sowing my first seeds of the year.

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Although I suppose, chronologically,

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as far as official calendars are concerned, the year starts in January,

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to me, my gardening year really starts with sowing these first seeds.

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I always find it, no matter how many times I do it,

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an extremely exciting activity.

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It's a great leap of faith, I suppose,

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to put this little seed into a tray or a pot

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and believe that it's going to turn itself into a plant.

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This is Nicotiana langsdorffii.

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Langsdorffii is this gorgeous pale green.

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It's got blue anthers.

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Now, although that's just a pinch of seed,

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there's probably a hundred plants in there.

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Sometimes you'll get a mass of poppy seed and you think,

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"I'll bung them all in cos they're bound to work like that," but don't.

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It doesn't work cos your seedlings are so close when they start to grow

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that they're very prone to damping off.

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-MIAOWING

-Here comes the cat.

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So make your sowing fairly sparse.

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I always, always just... put grit over the top.

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It retains the moisture.

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It keeps any sort of weed seeds from germinating.

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Well, from flying in really.

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There won't be any in the compost cos it's sterile.

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It's another reason why you shouldn't use your own compost off the compost heap.

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It's full of pathogens and weed seedlings, so it's not a good idea at all. And then label.

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With some idea of the date too.

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So "March" will do - Nicotiana langsdorffii.

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Afterwards, I'm going to stand this whole lot in water

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because I love them to imbibe the water from underneath.

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That actually pulls the seed down into contact with the compost.

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So...I tell you what.

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Let's sow one of these big seeds.

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Something like...Cerinthe.

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Now, "station sowing" just means quite simply sowing one seed at a time,

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so it's got its own individual place.

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'You look at a piece of garden one week and it's almost bare. There are just a few shoots here and there.

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'You look the next week and everything is thrusting forwards.

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'Within a matter of weeks, everywhere is green.

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'And this border is finally back in order.

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'All the plants that were taken out have now been divided and replanted.

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'All I've got to do is to give them some love.

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'Sometimes you can give a plant all the love it needs,

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'but nature always has the last word.

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'The winter was so harsh,

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'it killed my beloved Astelia.

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'It had grown to such a size that I had to get my husband Neil in to help.'

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-Is it out?

-Yeah.

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-Are you all right?

-Yeah.

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I'm going for this tree through here.

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Well, this is the scene of a... a terrible tragedy,

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but also a wonderful opportunity.

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I'm going to plant this gorgeous Amelanchier - Snowy Mespilus.

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And it's going in here in place of our lovely Astelia.

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-This was just such a magnificent specimen, wasn't it?

-Yeah, it was beautiful.

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-About that big?

-It was. At least.

-Yeah. It'll never be the same again.

-It was magnificent, wasn't it?

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That's the thing about gardening.

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-When something reaches its time, it's better just to take it out.

-And start again with something else.

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Yeah, and the tree roots grow outwards, anyway, don't they?

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-It's very clayey, isn't it? Shall I get some compost?

-Yeah. Do.

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That's lovely compost, isn't it?

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This Amelanchier...

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It's called La Paloma, "The Dove".

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It's a real beaut and it's been grafted on to a rootstock.

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You can hardly see the join now, but I must make sure that it's planted dead level there

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because I don't want any of that graft under the ground.

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-Isn't it a beautiful shape, this tree?

-Yeah.

-It's so lovely. Thank you very much.

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Brilliant roots. I don't need to tease them out because it's just going to find its way here.

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I want to plant it, so it's going to be just level with this soil.

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Dig a bit more out for us, Neil, please.

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Just a bit from the middle. That's it.

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Very heavy soil, isn't it?

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But it's got shillet underneath it, so it's going to drain really well.

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That's it. Just move it around a bit. That's it.

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What I don't want it to do is... Put a bit back.

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Put a bit of that compost in.

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Lovely. Ideal.

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And this is our own compost,

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home-grown at Glebe.

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A few weeks ago, the only colour in the garden was a bit of green and then white

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with snowdrops, snowdrops everywhere.

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But now they've gone.

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They're already setting seed and the foliage is growing.

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They've been replaced by all these sparkling bits of jewel-like colours.

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Pulsatilla and these soft little violets seeded themselves.

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And it's almost like you had to be introduced to colour gradually.

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You've got...not a kaleidoscope of colour, not yet,

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but you've got all these beautiful little sparkly bits everywhere.

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It's typical March weather.

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The sun's been shining. It's been rainy. It can't make its mind up.

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This part of the garden is the brick garden.

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At long last, I've managed to start tidying it up and clearing the debris.

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And at the same time, because the weather is just right for it now,

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I've had the opportunity to start dividing plants,

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especially those that flower really late in the year.

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I'm going to start with this Helenium.

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Now, I've got three big clumps right the way through here.

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But they are clumps and they've been here for a few years now.

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I think if you use a plant in different places around the garden,

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it gives the whole thing a sort of integrity, you know, some cohesion.

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Now, the great thing about dividing heleniums,

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even if they're in claggy soil like this,

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is they pretty well do it for themselves.

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You can use the old stems as levers to sort of prise it apart,

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but they don't need a lot of prising, really.

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Look at that - a perfect little rosette.

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So that's one plant.

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You can swish the soil off these if you want to in a bucket, so you can see what you're doing.

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But look, it's got a really good root system.

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And I can replant that straight away.

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And when I do... That's the old bit. That's no good at all. That's useless now.

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And when I plant these new bits, I shall put them in five or seven at a time,

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so I make a nice, big clump and I can plant them in whatever sort of shape I want.

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It's a wonderful feeling to know that you've given the plant what it needs

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and to watch it expand and do its own thing, to be itself.

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That's what I love to do.

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That's it, down you go. Yeah, that's it.

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Yes, we're going for a nice walk.

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Come this way. Yeah.

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You know when somebody asks you, "What's your favourite flower,"

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it's so difficult to answer, but I think this has got to be mine.

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The primrose.

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It's so typical of Devon, of the place I live.

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And it's just such a perfect sort of simple kind of flower.

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And I love everything about it.

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I love these pale, pale flowers and little, fine pink stems

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and this deep egg yolk centre.

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And I've got it all over the place in my garden at home now.

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But when I started off, I just bought one plant from a wildflower nursery

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and from that, I've grown generation after generation of them.

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You just can't have too many of them.

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It's such a simple and yet exciting kind of process

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because as these petals begin to fade,

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the seed pod expands

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and it turns into a little, fat spear.

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It's bright green and the seed within it is bright green too,

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but it's completely fertile and ready to sow.

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And you just take off a seed head

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and you pop it with your thumb nails. You pop this sort of membrane that surrounds it

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and push out these seeds again with your thumb nail because they're a bit sticky.

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And wipe them on the surface of compost in the seed tray.

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And you just cover it with grit,

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water it from underneath, stand it outside

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and within a matter of weeks, these little plants will start to germinate.

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And very often, they'll flower the year after you've sown that seed.

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BIRDS SINGING

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I keep deluding myself that I'm going to get everything done during daylight hours,

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but even though it's the end of March now,

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and we've got so much more daylight,

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I'm still finding that I'm spending all these evenings in the potting shed.

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But I don't mind spending a very intimate time with this plant.

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These are some of my most treasured possessions.

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They're big, fat, huge eucomis bulbs.

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It's one called Sparkling Burgundy and it's got these deep, rich purple leaves.

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Or it will have. They're all inside, waiting to shoot upwards.

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I always keep the in pots. You can grow it outside,

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but they're so sort of important to me

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that I always want to show them how special they are.

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But I just want to put this one now into a bigger pot.

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Lovely rich compost, so the whole thing is going to get bigger and more bountiful.

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I'm going to put them back in the greenhouse after this

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and then I'm going to bring them out as they start to shoot and these big purple leaves come up.

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A bit of grit on the top.

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It's not just the garden taking up our time at the moment.

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We're doing some major work on the cottage. Still, the scaffolding has come in handy.

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We used to have barn owls, a pair of barn owls here about thirty years ago

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and I'm trying to encourage whatever barn owls are around

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to come back and raise a new generation. So I've built

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a little barn owl box for them. I'm trying to encourage them.

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We'll just have to wait and see and hope if they approve or not.

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I can feel its heart beating.

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I just found it in the kitchen, fluttering about, looking for a new home.

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But I think it'll be all right. Look at those beautiful feathers.

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All that way you've come. Yeah.

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Well, it's April - it's tulip time!

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What gardener could resist growing tulips? I certainly can't,

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even though I haven't got the right sort of soil for growing them.

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What tulips need is light, alkaline, free-draining soil, baking in hot sun.

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I've got the opposite sort of conditions! It's very heavy clay,

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slightly on the acid side. That's why I grow them in pots.

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If they're going to flower to their best, they need a period of cold,

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so I keep the pots up on the top terrace. As they begin to flower,

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I carry them off, quite triumphantly, to different parts of the garden.

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And although I adore them when they're at their peak,

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I also love, even with a little sadness, the way they begin to fade.

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I love it when these petals start to fall and you see the stigma, the ovary, inside

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and it has its own beautiful geometry.

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To me they sort of signify that whole thing about gardening.

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You know, each plant has its time.

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This box hedge has been bothering me for a bit.

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It needs bringing under control.

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Instead of just giving it a conventional prune, I want something special.

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We're getting somebody in today who's going to elevate this hedge into art, isn't he?

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He's going to cloud prune it, but first of all I want to show you something down this end.

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I really want you to see.

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Just in this corner - I'm being very quiet - a hedge sparrow,

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a little Dunnock, has built a nest.

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And it's perfect, absolutely perfect.

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There are several bright turquoise eggs in there,

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but there's one chick who's hatched with this big orange beak.

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So I think when Jake comes to cut this hedge, we're going to leave this bit.

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'Cloud pruning is a real craft. Jake Hobson studied different pruning styles and techniques

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-'so I can't wait to see what he's going to suggest for my hedge.' Oh, hello!

-Hi, Carol.

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-You're Jake I presume?

-Yeah.

-I'm just getting ready for you.

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-Gosh, you're tall! I bet that comes in handy.

-Good for pruning.

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On these tall hedges. Well, this isn't so big, is it?

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-Did you get a good look at it?

-It's great. Lovely and healthy and dense and bushy.

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I don't know about formal cloud pruning. It was supposed to be a big sort of organic line

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linking one side with the other. I want it to fit in with the countryside.

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Yeah, it should be natural and organic looking with just a little definition to it.

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I've got some pictures here. We've got several pictures. This is a yew hedge in Shropshire.

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-That's beautiful.

-English-style cloud pruning.

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-That's hundreds of years old.

-It's sort of lumpy.

-Lumpy and organic.

-Yeah. It's gorgeous.

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We've got a nice Japanese azalea. That's Phillyrea latifolia.

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-Some Mediterranean plants.

-It looks sort of - I don't know. It doesn't look as country-ish.

-No.

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These are all a bit more intentional. That's box, of course. But that's Japanese azalea.

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-Right.

-In Kyoto. It's treated the same as box.

-That's beautiful, isn't it?

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-All these shapes tucked into one another.

-I think a combination of those two, with a few details

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-like this and general sweeps.

-So where do we start?

-If we get stuck in here, it's a good place.

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-Put your photos away.

-OK.

-Am I going to get to have a go?

-Definitely!

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I'd start off with a pair of secateurs, just roughing out the shape like a stone carver would.

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-So a good pair of secateurs. Just taking out...

-The big woody growth!

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If we start off down here maybe and just take a few of those off.

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It's always good to cut to a point where there are small side branches to still have some foliage showing.

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-This is coming up there?

-That's right. A nice sweep down to bulge here.

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-Can you get the same sort of shape and definition with something like box as you can with yew?

-Yeah.

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Small foliage is what you want for this.

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Ideally, you do this in the autumn or spring, before it comes to full growth. It's just growing now.

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-It is. We're quite late, really, aren't we?

-It's good timing.

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We don't want to lose any of the growth that we would have had. We'll now have 6-8 weeks of growth.

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While Jake's finishing that off,

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I've borrowed his wonderfully sharp, beautiful secateurs to do a job I've been meaning to do for ages.

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It's this Cotoneaster here.

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It's horizontalis

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and it's really beautiful, the way it swoops forward over this wall.

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And it kind of replicates or echoes the shapes that Jake's cutting into the hedge.

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But it doesn't know its place!

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It's evergreen so you can see it all the time and it keeps growing.

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What it has done is invade this space. It's really trying to take over.

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In this case it's taking the mickey because what I don't want it to do

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is spoil that glorious Pulsatilla.

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I mean, just look at that.

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The sun's shone just so we can appreciate it. This is a high alpine

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and you can just tell it's perfectly at home in this situation.

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First of all, its flowers are upright like that and then gradually they'll fall over

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until it's pollinated. Then the stem lengthens and becomes erect.

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By this time, these silky seed heads have started to change to fluff.

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Later on, when there's a windy day,

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all those seeds will be carried away on these beautiful little gossamer parachutes.

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I think that's just such a brilliant job. It's beautiful!

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-Oh, thanks.

-I mean, look how it echoes these cumulus. Doesn't it?

-Yeah.

-It really does.

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And all flowing this way. Wonderful.

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-How often am I going to have to maintain it?

-Well, traditionally, people clip it once a year, in June.

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Derby Day, something like that. For you it would be easier in autumn when access is easier.

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-So once a year. I don't need to feed it.

-It should be fine, yeah.

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I might have to restrict it a bit and put some slate in the ground!

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But it's a truly lovely job. It's wonderful.

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-Is this bit for me?

-I left that for you. Do you want to have a go?

-Yeah.

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I feel as though I'm naming a ship or something.

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-Right the way across here?

-Yeah.

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One...

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Look at that. You've got to do this with a flourish, haven't you?

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April's a real time for trees. Everything's beginning to come out.

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You see these buds bursting open,

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but I think my favourites of all have to be my two magnolias.

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This one is Leonard Messel.

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It has deep lilac buds

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and then they open to these much paler, water lily sort of flowers.

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And up at the top near the house I've got magnolia stellata. It's of epic proportions,

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smothered in literally thousands of flowers,

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who were around perhaps 100 million years ago.

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They were in existence before bees,

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so they don't produce any nectar.

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They're pollinated by beetles.

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You'll often see a disappointed bee fly away from there.

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In complete contrast to the levity of the magnolia,

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my dark Trilliums are at their best during April.

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This is Trillium chloropetalum.

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It's sort of dark and dangerous.

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It's a wonderful plant

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and very, very long lived.

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But it takes a whole seven years to grow it from seed to flowering. Well worth it, though.

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Just look at these lovely little Cerinthe.

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They're beautiful plants.

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These are the ones I sowed from seed just a few weeks ago

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and already they've made strong, robust little plants.

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They've got wonderful root systems and they're ready to have their own little homes in these pots to grow

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and grow up into big plants.

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And these Nicotiana. This is langsdorfii,

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the one with those gorgeous long, green, trumpety flowers.

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They've made true leaves and very delicately I'm going to get my chopstick

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and put them into little seed trays.

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I mean, you can't believe the way the garden has changed in the last few weeks.

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We had the most terrible weather to begin with, but when we started these two months

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everything was bare and bleak.

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You really felt some days a sense of disillusionment

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like nothing was going to grow, but now look at it!

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And what's next? May!

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My favourite time. It's froth time in the garden.

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You know, this is the time of sort of hope and growth and everything getting going.

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And May is the time when you just celebrate!

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Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2011

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Email [email protected]

0:28:410:28:43

In this new series, plantswoman Carol Klein shares with us a year in her garden at Glebe Cottage in north Devon.

March and April is a time of huge change in the garden, as the remnants of winter make way for the hope of spring. Carol is busy clearing away the last of the winter detritus to make way for waves of planting. There's pruning to be done, and she sows the first seeds of the year. Snowdrops are replaced by celandines and violets, and along the lanes and hedgerows, primroses abound.

A local hedge pruner, who has come to cloud-prune Carol's box hedge, finds his work interrupted as the lengthening days of April bring a nesting hedge sparrow to the garden.


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