Episode 18 The Beechgrove Garden

Episode 18

Celebrating Scottish gardens.Jim, Carole and Lesley each take a favourite area of the garden to showcase as well as completing routine maintenance in those areas.

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Hello and welcome to Beechgrove. It's dry at the moment. I'm hoping


it will stay dry! The first visit back to see our sweet peas. We're


growing them in the old-fashioned way of cordons up the single canes.


That means taking out side shoots, like this one here, because it's


flowers we want to encourage. It's the same story as the tomatoes.


It's been a difficult season for sweet peas. We've had a lot of


reports of this condition... There you are. I've cut that stem.


There's not an indication of any buds at all on that. Bud drop,


caused by atmospheric conditions. Cut the stems off and move on.


There's not a lot you can do. On the other hand, it's fresh ground,


it's well mucked, plenty fertiliser in. We've got three collections - a


Showbench collection at the top, a Cutflower collection here and a


Fragrant collection at the bottom. In this Fragrant collection,


there's one or two famous people. Here we've got Terry Wogan. I don't


think he'll be too pleased. It's a peely-wally kind of flower. Nothing


wrong with the plant. Good stems, all the rest of it. But not


producing the best of flowers. It's maybe not warm enough for them.


This lot are called the Fragrant collection. I wouldnae give them


house room, to be honest. Take that, for example. The flowers are far


too far apart and they should be half as big. I think you're better


to choose the colours and varieties you want and you'll get the best


results. Now then, we move onto runner beans. I was despairing as


to whether we'd ever get runner beans this year. It's been a bad


season for them in the beginning, here at Beechgrove. It's wet, cold


and windy and they don't like that sort of thing. When I first came to


Aberdeenshire people said to me, "You'll only get a good crop one


year in five." But I think it can be better than that nowadays. We've


got five or six varieties. No point in talking about them until we've


got pods, because it's the bean pods we're interested in. But then


again, flower colour can be quite interesting, too. This one, called


Celebration, is rather pretty. Nice to be seen in a tripod in the


middle of a border perhaps. Anyway, in the rest of the programme...


visiting Douneside House in Tarland, Aberdeenshire, and the garden is


quite spectacular. And how does your garden grow? In a lab? Just


wait and see. Lesley, cooking in the garden! We're going to have a


bit of fun. We're looking at the oriental veg. A bit of stir fry and


salad. Which is what you tend to associate them with. What I'm going


to do, I'm putting garlic in. nice and hot! Two things which


associate really well with oriental vegetables, spring onions and


ginger. I'm popping all that in. I'm just going to get these nice


and golden in the wok. Of course, the secret of stir fry, the oil's


got to be really hot and it's very quick. Which is good, because you


keep all the vitamins and nutrients in, which they are packed full of.


We must admit straight away with sowing oriental vegetables,


sometimes they bolt. This is what's happened and I think it's weather


conditions. It's been very hot and dry, and then we've had rain and


it's been cold. We've picked things, Lesley, like the pak choi. That


came from the potager. How are you doing? Absolutely fine.


Concentrating! I am. I want these to get nice and golden. We're doing


really well. We've got the purple flowering choy sum. That's the seed


heads. We've got mibuna, mizuna. Are you just about ready for this?


I am. I'll put a tablespoon of fish oil in. That gives it a nice


saltiness. And we have actually torn this up, haven't we? Yes.


Recipes will be in the factsheet, won't they? All the details of what


we're doing. They will. This is lovely. It's really nice if you


serve it with duck or with prawns. Really, really tasty. Is that just


about ready to put on the plate? We've got chrysanthemum leaves, but


I don't suppose that matters. could decorate it, couldn't we?


That's absolutely perfect. Put that on. Let's see what it's like.


The fish sauce is really nice and salty, isn't it? The flavours are


nice and strong. You do need to eat it straight away, don't you? Yes.


What about the salad? The same kind of things? It is. We've put some


chrysanthemum petals in, which is pretty. To keep the oriental


flavour going, we've got rice vinegar in here, two tablespoons,


two teaspoons of the sesame oil and, again, half a teaspoon, and this is


chopped up ginger. Mm, which is lovely. Whisk that up and then I'm


going to run this through the salad, teaming it up with grapefruit.


a little handful? Yes, just mix that through. I'll just toss that


through. OK. The fruitiness of that goes so nicely with the greens.


Toasted almonds, and that just gives a nice crunchiness to the


salad. Top it off with raw beetroot. Nice colour! It is. It tends to


bleed everywhere, so you just pop this as a topping. Brilliant. Of


course, the great thing about these oriental veg is that you can sow


them now. And, in fact, the chances are, they won't bolt quite so much!


Ideal time. As we go into autumn, the days are shorter, so they make


more leaves than flowers. If you've peas or beans, that'd be an ideal


site for them. Are we going to try this? Which was my fork? That's


yours. See what it's like. What do you think? It's very different. I


like it, actually. The grapefruit's Here we are, admiring a bunch of


plants that are happy with their lot. They're looking good, and I


would expect them to be because they're growing in soil that's well


looked after. And that is going to be the subject today. We'll look at


one or two elements of that. The first I would draw attention to is


this idea of acidity and alkalinity. We use a pH scale, and it's good to


check every now and again. And you can use little kits, like this one,


which I have been using and have prepared earlier. The whole idea is


that by a colorimeter system, we can check where the pH lies in this


soil. It looks to me as if it's between yellow and green. That


would indicate that it's in the high six. But let's check that out


in the lab. The lab I mentioned is at the James Hutton Institute,


formerly the Macauley Institute for Soil Research, here in Aberdeen.


I'm here to meet my old chum Dr Jason Owen. Well, then, Jason, that


sample of soil I sent to you came from our old strawberry patch.


yes. But before I sent it, I took some and sampled the soil to test


for pH with this little piece of kit that you can buy readily in


garden centres. What do you reckon? It's looking there like neutral.


It's got this green colour, which would come in at pH7, which is


neutral. Yes, yes. Now, it's over an hour since I did my little test.


When I let the soil settle out, it was much more straw-coloured.


risk, leaving it too long, is that things might start dissolving


within the soil. If there was a hint of lime, it may've dissolved


and that would adjust the pH. higher than I thought. But what did


your machine show? Well, we took the same soil sample and we


analysed it on our pH meter. Yes. It's coming in at about 6.3.


this is accurately measuring, and this is an approximation, working


on the colorimeter. I mean, they're accurate according to the scale to


about one pH unit. If you're thinking, "Is it acid? Do I want to


plant an ericaceous, acid-loving plant?" compared to, say, for


example, your soft fruit, this is accurate for a lot of purposes


within the garden. That's the answer I was hoping you would give


me. But you guys have also got a system if you want the full monty.


We can, and we accept soil samples from gardeners. We can analyse them


in our labs if that's what they want. We'll put all the details on


If you expect to grow brassicas as sonsie as these, you have to look


after the soil. You have to keep it fertile and, most importantly, you


have to check that pH regularly because brassicas need lime. The


natural pH of a soil is influenced by a couple of things heavily.


of which is the parent material. So, for example, if your soil is


derived from a granite rock, it will tend towards the acid side.


Yes. If it's in a limestone, neutral or alkali. So in Scotland,


we have quite a lot of granite rock. The other thing is, if you apply a


lot of inorganic fertilisers, especially the ones containing


nitrogen, that has an acidifying effect as it breaks down within the


soil. So in combination, you can start to have a decrease in soil pH


towards acidity. How much at any one time? Here's the raw material.


This is agricultural limestone. It's literally rock crunched up.


It's quite gritty, but it's fine material. Yes. Here we have 400


grams of this. Yes. If you were to apply that to a square metre, you


would probably get an increase in soil pH of approximately half a


unit. And when's the best time to apply? You can put it on in the


springtime, before you start planting, giving it time to do its


work. Or at the back end of the year, round about autumn time.


last, and most important link in the chain, of this wee story about


soil relates to organic matter. As you grow crops, whether it be


herbaceous borders, vegetables, flowers, fruit, lawns, you are


burning up organic matter, that's what fuels the growth, and it


starts to disappear from the soil. If you keep on going, you'll finish


up with very low organic matter level. The soil becomes unworkable,


intractable. It's awful. I've seen it. And the answer, of course, is


compost. Organic matter is very important. It's the driving fuel of


a soil. Yes. The micro-organisms and the earthworms are utilising it


all of the time. So what we have is, we've got sand, and silt with some


clay soil. If you were to compact that, you would destroy its


structure. Hence the old adage, "Never work a clay soil when it's


wet." Exactly. And I've included 10 percent by weight organic material


to both the sand and the silt soil. What this will do, this will help


hold water from what could otherwise be a droughty soil. And


here, what we've done, the actual physically mixing it up has


increased the porosity and the channels from which water can


travel through. And over time, of course, earthworms and micro-


organisms will do that for us. now we're going to give them a


shower of rain. What we have here We've added our rain and instantly,


I hope, what we can see is that the water in the sand soil is starting


to penetrate very quickly. It's very open and porous. Over here,


we've got this silt with some clay in it, and it's already starting to


pool on the top, which is never a good look. Yes. Within the sand,


it's a little slower, but the organic matter is starting to hold


onto that water. Within the silt and the clay soil, because you've


broken it up, we've increased its porosity, the water's now freely


draining through that soil. If we're growing plants in this, it's


this that we should be aiming for. Yes. So the incorporation of


organic matter into soil is absolutely vital to grow plants


well? Yes. It drives the biomass, it's the fuel source, and when it


comes to opening up the structure and porosity - organic matter.


ENGINE WHIRRS This lot's for the As we were saying back at the lab


in the James Hutton Institute, you do have to keep adding organic


matter to the soil. And before I left, I made reference to this bin


here, which, at the beginning of the series, we put the contents of


that one into that one for the final stages of the process. And


now we've got compost. Look at that. It's like good loam. Ready to be


used in the garden at any time. We're at a time of year when, of


course, we're creating lots of material for the compost heap. And


there's two things we always advise. One is, don't put too much of any


one thing at a time. And secondly, if it's large and coarse, if you


can possibly chop it up, it helps. We've got some examples here. Not


too much at any one time. Here we've got some edgings and weeds


from the borders. That can go in, like so. It's a big bin. Spread it


around, like so. This is detritus from the greenhouse - tomato leaves


and bits of fruit and stuff, like so. That can go in. No problem. Not


too much at any one time. That's fine. Spread it about. We have


access to shredded paper. We can get some of that in, as well. Not


too much. This has actually got chicken manure sawdust in it, as


well. Really powerful stuff that helps the breakdown process. Don't


put it all in at the one time. Now we're getting to the interesting


bit. Because we've got comfrey leaves. Stems. This is a harvest to


make compost with. This needs chopping. And I just happen to have


a machine that might do the job. Let's see. We can fire it up.


MACHINE WHIRRS How's that, then? A little bit of


twiggy stuff, as well. Look how that copes. I had one of these at


one time and it would never have taken the soft stuff. That will


start to...work, start to make the compost rot down very quickly.


There we go. Lesley, I think the lavenders are really set off nicely


with the gravel. It's going to be a sea of fragrance. Punctuating this


are these obelisks. I think you and Jim had the idea of putting


clematis up. We thought about you! I concur! What we've got to make


sure is that they're a good size to go up these obelisks. They've got


to be nice and compact, patio variety. They're only going to grow


to, what, five, six feet? This one is called Picardy. The flowers are


exquisite. Stunning. A lovely, lovely purple. Really nice texture.


We've pulled the gravel back. thing to bear in mind, when I put


this here, people might be horrified, but look how deep that's


going down, and that's quite important. It's ideal for planting


clematis. We've got four to six inches of stem buried. If it


happens to get wilt, it'll regrow from those stems below ground. Also,


make sure they've got a really nice, cool root run. Sunny tops and cool


down at the roots. When we've planted that, we'll put the gravel


back and train it up. We've trained one further along. That's another


patio clematis called...? "Ooh La La". The French theme, because the


French lavender... The bees love that! I'm not sure how they'll cope


with the winter. I don't think they'll like the winter, but we'll


just have to see. Shaping up the U, it has been shaped up once and it


needs another bit of a trim. We're going to make these into pyramids,


which will be architectural features in the winter. This will


look lovely with frost on. This is a cheap way of doing it - four


canes. Absolutely. You just make the shape. What we need to do is


use the secateurs rather than the shears, because it's quite woody.


If you take off the odd piece, you can stand back, and you just have


to keep going down over it. The yew is very forgiving as a conifer. You


can cut into old wood and it'll regrow. You couldn't attempt this


with some conifers. You couldn't. Once you go into the old growth, it


doesn't come back. Also, you say this is a cheap way of putting up a


frame, we've got the lovely metal frame behind us. It can be a


permanent fixture. It'll look so nice with frost on it when there's


nothing else in the garden. It gives you that shape. I just love


this. Yes, the pleached lime is wonderful, isn't it? I love this as


a look! It's like a hedge on stilts. It could screen something and then


you can get views through. It's quite a job Ben's got at the


moment! It is a good time to trim it, though. Once a year, perfectly


OK. It's an opportunity for us to maybe have a look at one or two


plant combinations. I'm going to check up on my blue and gold


Wildlife planting. OK. I have to say, one of my favourite plants


definitely has to be that elder, and the variety is "Black Lace".


Beautiful dark foliage just about to flower. And in front of that,


the lovely white flowers of the lychnis are really set off against


the dark foliage. And then this little ground cover plant here,


it's a sedum, and it's great the way it's closing that corner and


following the wooden edging. I'm pleased how this bed has come


together. It's been planted for eight weeks. We delineated the


spaces with sand and it's knitted together beautifully. We've got


some new varieties. This is "Coreopsis Be Bop" and it's got


that lovely ring in the centre. Remember, everything is good for


wildlife. It's buzzing at the moment with bees. The sunflower is


"Little Dorrit", which is a dwarf one, and it's already flowering. It


looks really pretty. This slightly strange flower at the back is a


phacelia, and this is so good for bees, butterflies and hoverflies.


Just think, if everyone planted plants like this every year, how


good it would be for wildlife. I've been very restrained on the colour


palette. It's just gold and blue. And this is lovely. We've got


cornflower here. Typically, it's dark blue, but I think these little


pale ones are really pretty, just as a little contrast. And there's a


lot of buzzy activity down here. This is limnanthes, or the poached


egg plant, and you can see why it gets that name. Bees, butterflies


and hoverflies love it. The nasturtium at the front is a new


one, "Banana Split". When we put it in, it was looking a little bit


scratty. It's bulked up beautifully and flowering its socks off. I


pronounce this a resounding success. Well, this is definitely my kind of


greenhouse. What a display. It's absolutely full of colour with the


busy lizzies and the geraniums. A lovely contrast of foliage. No


signs of pest and diseases. Well, And the reason we're not surprised


is that here Douneside House, the head gardener is Stephen McCallum.


How you doing? Hi. 'He was our head gardener at Beechgrove for seven


years.' Is this quite a contrast to Beechgrove? It is in a number of


ways, but probably most significantly is the sheer scale of


these gardens. We've got 17 acres, for example. It's a lot to look


after. It is. A little bit about the history. We're standing in what


is the original development, carried out in 1911 - so it's


exactly 100 years - by Lady MacRobert. You can see this has


been laid out as alpine beds. She, in the 1910s, had a master


collection of about a thousand alpine species. Obviously, it's


changed over time because the plants have grown. Exactly. We've


got shade and free roots. It's changed the conditions. But it


lends itself now, not to alpine beds, but much more to a woodland


glade almost with these moisture- loving hostas and ferns. They're


loving it, aren't they? The rodgersia next to the Primula


florindae there. And obviously you've been here a few years, and


new developments are going on further up stream. The first


development I carried out when I came here was to remove a bank of


sasa palmata. Very invasive bamboo. Exactly! And it was a huge job. But


we've completed that, we've relandscaped and replanted and it's


looking well. I can see a bit of colour just through there. It's


Douneside House was Lady MacRobert's family home, Carole,


and her three sons were all pilots and, very sadly, all died as pilots.


Two of them were killed in the Second World War on active service.


So on Lady MacRobert's death, she put the estate in trust and she


requested that Douneside was used for members of the armed forces,


both serving and retired, as a holiday home. That is still the


same case today. It's a lovely place to come to. I can see what


you mean now about the 17 acres because of this lawn and the superb


view. It's a fairly extensive lawn, absolutely. You can see that it's


not natural, the level, this tabletop level has all been raised


at some point. So manmade? Yes. to bring in tons of top soil.


Effectively, then, it's a little bit like a ha-ha. It gives exactly


that effect. It continues the garden into the surrounding


landscape and beyond, so the whole estate becomes part of the garden.


Talking about the landscape, let's have a sense of place. Well, just


round here we've got Clachnaben, and then we come across a bit and


this pyramid one is Mount Keen, and further round, looking at the edge


of the Cairngorms, that's Loughnagar. We've even got the


sunshine. Yes! The purpose of the garden, though, presumably several


fold. We're maintaining these gardens and developing them in a


manner that Lady MacRobert would be proud of. It's important that we


secure them for future generations. The other obvious uses for the


guests that are here at Douneside, we use the gardens and the grounds


for charitable fundraising, such as our annual open day. We had one


recently and raised �3,000. That's And another important aspect of


these gardens is training. I run a horticultural training scheme in


which we employ up to four trainees in any one year. These gardens lend


themselves so well to training because they cover all the


principle horticultural disciplines. We're doing lawns and propagation,


ponds, streamside. Don't forget the productive garden, as well. Indeed.


Vegetables, cut flowers, fruit. The trainees will, from propagation of


the seeds, see these vegetables through to completion and harvest.


That's brilliant. Just having a look at the vegetable patch, one or


two techniques that they're obviously picking up, like using


the landscape fabric to keep down the weeds. Absolutely. And that's


something we trialled at the Beechgrove, numerous landscape


fabrics. The one that we use is a woven fabric and we can re-use that


year after year. It's cost effective, but saves a huge amount


This is a fine example of mixed planting, your herbaceous trees and


shrubs. Yes, this is what we call the terraced borders. Although


there's a huge amount of plants, it's relatively easy to maintain


through the summer months. What we need to make sure we do is, lift


and divide a couple of borders every year so that in five years we


come back to the start again. That's what keeps them vigorous.


it's important not be lifting and dividing every border in one year.


We would spread the load. Spreading the load, this isn't the only


garden that you look after! It's not. This is our flagship garden. I


have four gardeners. But we need to cover here, as well as six acres,


plus policies at Alastrean. We've got one acre at Tarland Lodge. We


help maintain the gardens for the pensioners in the village, and


footpaths in the estate. We've just, in the last four years, planted


about 5,500 trees across the estate. So all of that needs maintained.


That's absolutely brilliant, because what you're doing is


Our living willow arbour in the Equinox Garden has made loads of


growth. It's time to give it a bit of a tidy up. But I want to be


steady with the secateurs, because it's an opportunity for the younger,


flexible stems to be woven in and that will help thicken it up. When


we've done that, we'll give it a nice trim all over. Over the next


few weeks, you'll start to see bulbs coming into the garden


centres and I just want to highlight one or two of our Asiatic


Lilies that we have flowering in the Calendar border. This one -


look at the size of the bloom! That one's called "Yellow Electric". In


comparison, much smaller, but a gorgeous colour. This one is


"Patricia's Pride". But my favourite is this one in the front


here - "Vivaldi". It really is beautiful. This is a nice sheltered


corner, isn't it? It's lovely. We've been telling bad-news stories


about plants that have died and plants that have died, maybe it's


the shelter. But, I mean, celmisia there, New Zealand, it's hardy as


anything. Come through beautifully. And such a lovely time of year


because you can start picking so much from the garden. Not just the


vegetables, but look at the flowers, too. This is a bit of a potager for


me. That's the leaf beet, as well as the lovely flowers. This is


lovely. It's got the astilbe with that metallic blue, a little


scabious. Just gorgeous. And the perfume of the sweet peas, Jim.


Smashing. I'll put in a word for the hebe behind you, "Sapphire".


Not a mark on it. You see, it's in the right place. Just shows you.


Good news. If you'd like any more information, it's all in the


factsheet. You might want more information about Jim and the soil


science. It's in the factsheet. The easiest way to access that is


online. Next week, none of us will be in the garden. We're all going


to be away, helping out with our first community garden in Glasgow.


Great stuff! Yes, indeed, we'll be taking time out. We're off to the


In the Beechgrove Garden, Jim, Carole and Lesley each take a favourite area of the garden to showcase as well as completing routine maintenance in those areas.

Jim is with Dr Jason Owen at the Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, looking into the science of soil. The condition of our soil is vital to understand to make us better gardeners. And now for the science - Jason has set up some experiments to show what effect organic matter has on soil drainage as well as showing how different pH measurements affect what you can grow and looks at the effect of lime on the soil.

Carole is in Tarland at Douneside House which boasts a spectacular garden. The Head Gardener there is Beechgrove's very own Stephen McCallum who used to be the Head Gardener at the Beechgrove Garden. He now maintains and nurtures 15 acres of grounds, and since he moved there he has added to the existing gardens by creating a wonderful pond and bog garden, and expanded the interest in the wooded areas. The greenhouses house an amazing display of houseplants and the vegetable and fruit gardens provide the house and guests with fresh food for many months of the year.

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