Episode 28

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Gardeners' World, 2011 Episode 28 of 28

Duration: 1 hour

It may be frosty outside but there's still plenty to be getting on with in the garden and fun to be had in the great outdoors. In this Gardeners' World Christmas Special, Monty Don, Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Rachel de Thame celebrate the festive season from a gardener's point of view.

At Longmeadow, Monty and Rachel have a good clear up, cutting back some plants but leaving others for winter structure and wildlife. He also rejuvenates his rhubarb patch and introduces a local Herefordshire heritage variety apple tree to his orchard. Monty also enlists Joe's help to move a holly tree that has outgrown its situation.

Out and about - Carol Klein discovers some of Britain's best winter walks; Rachel de Thame gets tips on how, with a bit of ingenuity, anyone can make beautiful Christmas decorations from their own garden; and Joe Swift visits an urban vineyard, in Hackney, East London to find out which grapes you can grow at home. As a special Christmas cracker, Pam Ayres, poet and gardener, shows us how she encourages wildlife into her garden and provides for seasonal visitors during the colder months.

As the programme draws to a close, Rachel, Joe, Carol and Monty gather round the brazier for a glass of wine and to reflect on a fabulous year's gardening and to toast Happy Christmas to one and all.

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    This year Monty has already planted a lot of tulips in the Jewel garden. Now they are planted it is an ideal opportunity to mulch the soil. Before mulching both Monty and Rachel clear the area of annuals and perennials. Annuals such as Tithonia can be lifted straight out the soil, roots and all, and put on the compost heap. Some perennials such as Helenium can be cut right back to ground level. They will grow again next spring. Some plants such as Salvia can be cut back and then lifted, potted up and stored in a frost free position over winter.
    Mulching is great for the soil as it not only feeds but insulates against the worst of the weather. Heavy winter rain can wash or leach nutrients from ‘unguarded’ soil.
    There are a few points to remember when mulching:

    Weed and clear any unwanted plant material before mulching;
    Only mulch onto damp soil – mulching dry soil will stop moisture from penetrating the soil;
    If you can, mulch to a depth of at least 10cm. This may take a lot of mulch – but any mulch is better than no mulch;
    Don’t place or push mulch right up against stems and tree trunks. Mulch around stems can trap water and induce rotting.

    The actual mulch used at Monty’s is home made garden compost. This is best because it completes the cycle of the garden and doesn’t cost anything! However, not everyone has room for large compost heaps, or if you are waiting for your own compost to mature, there are alternatives:

    Free mulch is available in the form of fallen leaves. Place leaves on the surface of the soil and let the winter weather and worms work hard. By spring the leaves will have broken down or have been dragged into the soil;
    Mineralised straw is available costing around £7 per bag. This is a great mulch for using on beds and borders adding organic matter and added iron nutrients to the soil;
    Cocoa shells are a popular choice as mulch but if ingested by dogs can cause sickness. Keep dogs away from such mulch for at least a month after placing on the soil. The shells are great for mulching on beds and borders. Bags are available from most garden retailers and cost around £10 each.


    Gardeners play a vital role in the support of wildlife in the garden and everyone can make a difference. Pam Ayres gardens with wildlife in mind and her simple yet effective methods have encouraged all sorts of critters into her garden:

    Cutting small sections of hollow stems and placing these in cut off plastic bottles will provide cosy homes for insects. Place the stem filled bottles in dry, quiet parts of your garden and insects will quickly find them;
    Bird baths are great for birds as sources of drinking water but it is vital to clean the water out and refill every week;
    Bird boxes make great Christmas presents (Pam used a bird box made out of Woodcrete – a mix of wood (for insulation) and concrete (for strength and durability). Make sure you place boxes in a position out of strong, direct sunlight (south –facing is a bad choice) and away from any prevailing rain (to prevent young birds from being deluged) Wooden bird boxes look good and will last many seasons. Most garden retailers and many online companies sell a range of great bird boxes;
    Plants play a vital part in the success of wildlife, and plants with berries provide food for birds. Pam adores her Firethorn (Pyracantha) for its robust nature and ability to produce plenty of berries. Ivy is also great for providing cover for birds, nesting sites and berries on mature plants. For even more information, check out the following link

    Gardening for wildlife

    It is the perfect time to replant (or plant for the first time!) rhubarb crowns. If you have room, choose a couple of different varieties to help produce a continuity of supply of the tender stems. When planting crowns there are a few points to remember:

    The crown or root should be planted between autumn and spring;
    They require planting about 1m (3 feet) apart to prevent crowding and to allow the plant to establish a large root system;
    Rhubarb grows best in well drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It is happy in an acid soil;
    Before planting, work plenty of rotted manure or compost into the soil to enrich it;
    Dig a hole slightly bigger than the plant or crown;
    The top of the crown should sit just above the surface of the soil;
    During the first year after planting the stalks should not be picked as this can affect subsequent crops as it weakens the plant. The young plant needs to establish itself and form a strong healthy crown;
    It is beneficial to an established plant to apply composted manure or leaves in autumn or early winter, being careful not to cover the crowns, to prevent any rotting. One or two shovels full would be sufficient. Too much nitrogen can make the plant flower which is undesirable unless the rhubarb is an ornamental variety;
    Rhubarb is fairly pest and disease resistant. The only thing to watch for is rot - this can be avoided by planting in well drained soil and not burying under compost. If rot is caught early the rotten piece of root can be cut away and replant the rest. This will hopefully save the plant.

    Monty divided his existing plants of a variety called ‘Timperley Early’. This variety is the most popular in the UK and produces long, bright, red-based sticks that average 60cm long with a delicious, sweet flavour. It’s a fantastic variety for outdoor production and for forcing in late winter.
    The other varieties Monty planted are:

    Victoria: The greenish-pink stems of Rhubarb ‘Victoria’ have tender flesh with an excellent balance of sweetness and acidity. Once established, this popular, traditional variety will produce a heavy crop, year after year;
    Hawke’s Champagne: Renowned for its thin stems and excellent flavour. Originally grown for making sparkling wine, hence the name. Delicately thin, long, scarlet stems that have a sweet flavour from early spring. An old variety, it’s easy to grow, reliable, early and ideal for forcing. Its deep red stems make this one of the most attractive varieties;
    Stockbridge Arrow: Monty planted this variety ‘off camera’ and you will be able to watch its development in 2012. The variety was bred in Yorkshire and is considered by many to be the best of the modern varieties. The long easy to pull sticks, up to 60cm in length, are bright red in colour. The leaves are small and a distinctive arrow shape. Once established will produce up to 3kg of sticks each season, less if forced.



    Dunham Massey is a National Trust garden in Cheshire (near to Manchester airport)

    Quick contact details:
    NT Dunham Massey
    Cheshire WA14 4SJ
    Telephone: 0161 941 1025
    Fax: 0161 929 7508
    Email: dunhammassey@nationaltrust.org.uk

    Carol looked at the following plants:
    Hedera helix (Common ivy)

    Cardiocrinum giganteum (Giant lily): large columns of brown seed pods look sensational in the winter garden.

    Betula utilis ‘Doorenbos’ (Himalayan birch): stunning white stems make this a favourite at Dunham Massey.

    Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ (Dogwood): orange stems and buttery yellow leaves make this a winter wonder.

    Callicarpa bodinieri (Beautyberry): metallic purple berries are stunning.

    Cyclamen hederifolium (Ivy-leaved cyclamen)

    Iris foetidissima (Stinking gladdon): bright orange berries and sword like leaves make this stunning in a winter garden.

    Sarcococca ruscifolia (Christmas box): small white flowers fill the garden with strong perfume throughout winter.

    For full details on opening times and admission charges please see the following link:

    National Trust Dunham Massey

    Many gardens around the UK are open throughout winter and are wonderful places to walk off any excesses and blow the cobwebs away.
    Please check with each of the gardens before visiting to ensure opening times are correct:


    NT Anglesey Abbey Gardens
    Quay Road, Lode,
    Cambridge, CB25 9EJ

    Tel: 01223 810080

    National Trust Anglesey Abbey

    RHS Garden Rosemoor
    Great Torrington
    Devon EX38 8PH

    Tel: 01805 624067

    RHS Garden Rosemoor

    NT Mottisfont
    Mottisfont, near Romsey,
    Hampshire SO51 0LP

    Tel: 01794 340757

    National Trust Mottisfont

    Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
    Jermyns Lane
    Ampfield, Romsey
    Hampshire SO51 0QA

    Tel: 01794 369318

    Hillier Gardens
  • FIFE

    Cambo Gardens
    St. Andrews
    Fife, KY16 8QD

    Tel: 01333 450 054 or 01333 450 313

    Cambo Estate Gardens

    Aberglasney Gardens
    Carmarthenshire SA32 8QH

    Tel: 01558 668998

    Aberglasney Gardens

    Joe and Marko talk about making wine in Hackney and the varieties suitable for growing in North London.

    The varieties Marko grows are:

    • Regent
    • Madeleine Angevine
    • Kubishevsky

    Ideally the grapes will have a sunny position and be protected from summer rain and the attentions of the birds.



    The apples that John Harrris (Head Gardener) talks about are:

    • Apple ‘Tommy Knight’
    • Apple ‘Cornish Gilliflower’

    For full details on opening times and contact details please visit the following website:

    Tresillian House

    The winter period is a great time to plant bare-root apple trees. Bare-root simply means plants that have been grown in a field, lifted and are sold with no soil around the bare roots. There is always a great choice in bare-roots and you get more tree for your money.
    Monty plants a heritage apple called ‘Pitmaston Pine Apple’.
    The best way to plant a bare-root tree is to dig a wide hole that is just deep enough to take the roots. Never plant too deeply – the union between the rootstock and the desired apple (the graft) should be just above the finished soil level.
    Before planting, use a garden fork to make holes in the bottom and sides of the planting hole. Do not add organic matter to the hole as this will encourage roots to stay within the planting hole area and not explore the surrounding soil.
    Always stake young trees – securing the stake in position before planting to avoid any damage to roots.
    Place the tree roots in the hole and gently backfill with soil. Firm the soil around the soil, water and finally add a mulch of homemade garden compost or a shop bought alternative. Do not push mulch directly up to the trunk of the tree.


    Andrew Ingram is British Christmas Tree Growers Association grower of the year and is supplying the Christmas tree to Downing Street.
    He talks about the best three trees for the house:

    Picea abies (Norway spruce): a ‘traditional’ Christmas tree with spiky needles, and with care, capable of holding its leaves throughout the Christmas period;

    Abies nordmanniana (Nordman Fir): the ‘no needle drop tree’ (but Andrew points out every tree will drop a few leaves. This tree has softer needles and a blue tingle to the leaves;

    Picea omorika (Serbian spruce): a slender tree that often produces cones.

    Andrew’s top tips for making the most of your cut tree are to bring it into the house at the last minute; cut off the bottom inch or two of trunk and ensure the tree is in a reservoir of water – this prevents trees from drying out.

    Contact details:
    The Tree Barn, Greenfield Farm, Christmas Common,
    Watlington, Oxon, OX49 5HG
    Email abingram@hotmail.co.uk

    The Tree Barn

    Rachel visits Rachel Siegfried to discover the delights of making a Christmas wreath.

    Plants Rachel picks for her wreath are:

    Ligustrum vulgare (Common privet);
    Clematis vitalba (Old man's beard): fluffy seed heads look great twining in the wreath;
    Hedera helix (Common ivy);
    Physalis alkekengi (Chinese lantern): bright orange lantern seed pods are colourful in the wreath.

    Contact details for Rachel Siegfried are:
    The Cutting Garden
    Little Stoke
    OX10 6AX
    Tel: 01491 824128


    Joe’s highlights from the year included:
    Les Jardins de Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France and the dahlia garden in Bournemouth,Hampshire.

    Carol’s highlight of the year was finding and growing Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata – and she gave the other presenters a packet of seeds to grow on next year.

    Rachel’s highlights of the year included visiting RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey and Sir Roy Strong at The Laskett Gardens, Much Birch, Herefordshire.

    Monty’s highlights of the year included Monet’s Garden at Giverny,
    Normandy, France and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden Cape Town, South Africa.

    Gardener’s World is back on air in spring 2012.


Monty Don
Carol Klein
Joe Swift
Rachel de Thame
Pam Ayres
Louise Hampden
Series Producer
Liz Rumbold


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