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Gardener’s World Review - 13th May 2011

Back again are Monty, Rachel and Carol for this week’s Gardener’s World!


  • Shows us his ‘damp’ garden

  • The Bay Tree conundrum

  • Jobs for this week

Rachel - Visits the beautiful sloping garden of Coton Manor, in Northamptonshire

Carol – Enters a truly wildlife friendly garden


Monty begins as always in his own garden at Long Meadow and explains how the best way to ensure plants’ survival and growth is to plant them where they are best suited to the conditions rather than trying to force them to grow somewhere they aren’t adapted to.

The Damp Garden

Monty’s whole garden is situated on very flat ground with a high water table and his damp garden is prone to flooding – sometimes as much as 3 or 4 times a year.

Due to this, the plants he chooses to put there have to be suited to these conditions. A double whammy of annoyance is that the water often carries in plenty of weed seeds which means that a lot of time is spent weeding this particular area.

Recommended plants for these conditions are:


Ligularia comes in many forms and perhaps the most common and well known variety is the ‘Foxtail’ which you may have seen in the florists. With its dark green stem and leaves, the long yellow flower makes a striking impact, especially in partially shaded areas.

This variety likes damp and even heavy soil so if you are in an area with sandy soil it may be a good idea when planting to complement the soil in and around the hole with compost. Spent mushroom compost is ideal for this as it tends to be a touch cheaper. It is also a great time saver to put a good layer of composted bark around the plant once it’s in – this will help keep the moisture in and the weeds out whilst also improving the soil. This can be bought relatively cheaply in bulk bags so that you can use it wherever your garden would benefit.

Ligularia Desdemona is another beautiful plant suitable for areas such as these and has bright yellow/orange almost Gerbera-like flowers. Again, when planting, old mushroom compost can be used to improve the soil. If you like to be green then you can buy organic mushroom compost which is also available for delivery online. Mushroom compost suppliers can be found all over the UK.


Hostas provide that instant ‘lush’ look to any partially shaded area and the depth of colour in their leaves depends upon how much sun is available. For example, the less light they have. The darker the leaves will be.

As we all know, Hostas are a magnet for slugs and snails so one solution in to put a layer of grit around them. Grit is available is all sizes from small bags to bulk bags and there are plenty of suppliers out there.

Garden compost is an ideal food for Hostas, releasing their nutrients slowly over time. Too much nitrogen in one go and the Hostas look fantastic but also attract those little critters such as slugs and snails as this is when they’re particularly tasty. If you don’t have any garden compost, compost mulch will do the job just as well, or even bark compost.

Availability of compost is however good and you can buy compost from many places.

The quality of soil in Monty’s damp garden is however excellent due in part to the many layers of silt brought in by the flooding over a long period of time – lucky him!

The Bay Tree Conundrum

One of the most common problems that have been emailed to Gardener’s World over the last few weeks has been that of the Bay Tree.

Bay Trees all over the UK have suffered greatly over the last couple of cold winters and have developed brown / black leaves and a black mould like mark underneath.

Easily fixed, though, as you can prune all the dead growth, shape it as much as you can, and the regrowth will be strong and sturdy again. In winter, try and put your tree somewhere sheltered if it’s portable and in a pot, away from the biting winds to try and lessen the effects of the chill.

Jobs for this week

  • Prune early flowering clematis – if you do it straight away you can cut it back as ruthlessly as you like with no ill effects

  • The pesky Lily beetle abounds at this time of year. A marauding invader, it feeds on the leaves of plants of the Lily family so pick any that you find on the leaves off and get rid of them!

  • We are still at a small risk of a late frost so recover your potatoes with earth or compost to give them a chance if this happens. It also helps protect them from Potato Blight spores


Rachel visits the wonderful Coton Manor, in Northamptonshire. This 17th Century house is built on a slope and its present owner, Susie Pasley-Tyler shows us around.

The slopes have been fashioned into almost ‘mini gardens’, each having its own mood, flow and style, tied in together with a particular choice of colours.

Areas of dry shade have been consistently weeded and treated with leaf mould (bark compost or bark mulch would do just as well) to improve soil and retain moisture to support plants.

A riotous mixture of Erythronium Pagoda, Erythronium White Beauty as well as Epimedium and Euphorbia lighten the space and give it a zesty zing that you wouldn’t expect in these conditions which is testament to the amount of work that has clearly gone into it.

Other areas of this garden include a wet shaded area, populated by Marsh Marigolds, Lyschiton, and more Euphorbias all in a palette of bright oranges, yellows and lime greens. There is however a surprise – in amongst all these citrus colours is a bright blue Himalayan Poppy which cuts through the colour like a knife, giving it depth and a sense of cheekiness.

Other wonderful gardens to visit at this time of year are: Aberglasney, near Camarthenshire, The Beth Chatto Gardens, near Colchester and Castle Howard near York.


Carol is at Teignmouth, Devon, meeting a lady whose garden has made a metamorphosis from simple garden to wildlife haven.

From a pond which is home to Great Diving Beetles, to bird feeders galore, this garden has created a haven for wildlife.

A ‘proper’ wildlife cameraman sets up his equipment and over time we can see that the garden is inhabited by many creatures from Voles to Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The air is full of birdsong.

The owner has even made a ‘toad house’ – three layers of tunnels which has its foundations on wet sand- for the toads to sleep in, she explains.

Whether you would go to the extent that she has in your garden or not, there’s no doubt that there’s certainly benefits in making your garden wildlife friendly – and not just for the wildlife!

Next week it’s off to Malvern Show – watch this space

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