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Gardener’s World Review – 10th June 2011

Well, today it was just Monty and Carol but with their unique mix of tips and information, we the viewers didn’t miss out!
Monty


  • Shares some herb growing tips

  • Visits Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny

  • Helps out some problem currants

  • Protects his strawberries


Carol

  • Propagates plants in her Devon garden


Monty
Herb growing tips

As usual we begin with Monty at his Longmeadow Garden; and this time he is in his herb garden.

He wants to keep his herbs fresh and available for the kitchen for as long as possible throughout the year. When planting herbs you should remember that in the most part they like poor soil so he adds grit when planting to improve drainage and impoverish the soil. If the soil is too rich, herbs will grow fast and lush which means that the intensity of flavour just isn’t there in the same way – not only that, the plants themselves will be a lot less hardy.

Size is important

Herbs should be allowed to grow as big as they want, providing a hungry gardener with rich and generous pickings. Of course, they aren’t strictly for cooking and in particular the prettier ones amongst them can be picked and put in a pot or vase to brighten up your kitchen whilst also giving off a wonderful scent.

Did you know that in the UK, more people grow herbs than they do vegetables? This is probably due to the ease of growing these plants in pots on windowsills and the like.

Don’t mints your words!

Anyway, back to Monty. He plants his three favourite types of Mint – Peppermint, good for Mint tea, Spearmint, great for cooking, and Applemint, superb on new potatoes.

As you may well know, Mint is notorious for putting out runners and growing out of control so there are two approaches you can take with this herb. You can either plant it into a pot then bury the pot in the garden soil, or, if you’re happy for it to spread, just plant it like any other plant straight into your garden.

Quantity and quality

Herbs such as Chervil when bought in pots are usually numerous tiny plants put in together to create some quantity. Monty however shows us how you can prick out these tiny plants and grow them on separately in pots or seed trays so that you end up with many little plants, each of which is easily double its original size.

Fussy little herbs

Some herbs however are a bit more fussy when it comes to their ideal living conditions. Well, not fussy as such, but just the fact that they enjoy richer soil are garlic, parsley, coriander and chives. These he plants in rows in his vegetable garden and are easy to grow from seed.

Claude Monet’s Garden, Giverny.(Details)

If, like me, you’re a bit of an art buff as well as a keen gardener, then this will have had you enthralled.

A garden obsession

Monet was an obsessive gardener, preoccupied with intensity of colour from his plants. The first new Head Gardener is an Englishman, James Priest, and Monty gets a guided tour of Monet’s garden, which receives half a million visitors a year.

Famously recorded as saying ‘Apart from painting and gardening, I’m no good at anything’, Monet funded his garden through his painting sales and after his death in 1926 the garden sadly became abandoned.

Restored to its former glory

Thankfully, in the late 1970s, the garden was restored.

Monet was fascinated by the gardening styles of both the English and the French and hence his garden is a wonderful mixture of the two, of the straight lines of the French influence and the sweeping curves and informal feel of the English.

The garden was planted in order to be painted, and Monet created ‘views’ which he could later paint. He often painted in thick layers of paint which reflected the light but also produced an intensity of colour and texture.

Water lilies

Of course, the most popular area of the garden is the water garden, where Monet painted his famous water lily masterpieces over and over again.

Behind the scenes

What many people don’t realise is the huge scale of the work required to keep this garden looking like a painting every day for seven months of the year. Two off site nurseries are dedicated to growing all the plants needed – and in fact, 75% of the plants in the present garden wouldn’t have been available in Monet’s time. That said, the gardeners do everything they can to source old varieties of plants and to use plants that would have been at home in a garden back then.

Current Affairs

Monty’s currants were looking a bit sad last year and as a result he chopped them right back, meaning that the growth this year is all new growth and of course won’t bear fruit until next.

He prunes away the centre of the bush, explaining that this type of fruit needs to be pruned to create a ‘bowl’ shape, letting light, moisture and air into the middle of the plant.

Fingers crossed for next year!

Strawberries

As you will know if you’ve ever grown strawberries, the trick is to keep the fruits clean and away from voracious slugs, snails and birds whilst they ripen – no mean feat.

Monty uses straw to put in a layer around the plant to keep the fruit clean but I wonder if it’s that effective at keeping away slugs and snails?

To keep the birds off, he constructs a ‘cage’ of stakes and fine mesh – this must be kept taut to avoid the hapless birds becoming stuck and tangled – no strawberry is worth that!

Carol

Cuttings

At her own Glebe Cottage in Devon, the indomitable and ever cheerful Carol is taking some cuttings and explains that every plant has an optimum window of time in which it is best to take the cuttings.

She has a Black Elder that she cut back hard last year, and now it has responded with a superb dense fresh new growth. These are termed ‘softwood’ or ‘greenwood’ cuttings.

The first cut is the deepest

Well, okay, maybe not but I couldn’t think of another sub heading to keep you all reading!

The best way to take a cutting is with a sharp knife, just below a leaf node – this is where the roots will grow from later. Particularly in hot weather, these cuttings need to go straight into a plastic bag to help them retain moisture until you’re finished.

Remove the leaves just above where you’ve cut, and also the tips so that the plant concentrates on putting all its energies into growing roots – not growing upwards. Use fresh, gritty compost with plenty of loam in it and plant the cutting in deep, up to the base of the next set of leaves. Add a topping of grit, and water thoroughly. They will inevitable wilt to begin with but will soon recover. You can help this along by spraying them with water.

Seed Collection

Another way to keep your garden flourishing year after year is to regularly collect seed. Of course, the optimum time for collection is just as, if not more important here. Too early and the seeds won’t have formed early, too late and the plant will have also extremely unhelpfully released their seed with none left for you.

Aquilegia and Hellebores are satisfying to collect seeds from. Simply empty the seed pods when they are literally bulging at the seams into a paper envelope or small bag and keep dry and cool until you want to sow them.

Jobs for this week:

  • I’m afraid it’s time to do some weeding, but at least you can save some of those self sown seedlings

  • Tie in your sweet peas


‘Til next week…….

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