Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wearing dark glasses post tv appearance

As I sat watching Gardeners World on Friday I was thinking that it just wasn’t as interesting as it usually is (apart from Carol of course), and I couldn’t really think what was missing, till I suddenly realised it was me!

Yes......believe it or not my ego has inflated significantly since the show went out last week.
I was quite nervous about how it would look and how I would come across, not helped by the fact that I was away in Stockholm last weekend and couldn’t actually see it till Monday evening. Before I saw it for myself, I didn’t know how much I wanted to know and didn’t turn on my phone or look at Facebook until Monday... As I turned on my phone on 10 messages came through, all of which were positive and some from people I hadn’t seen in ages, same with Facebook.
What happened on Facebook was unexpected as I also got 5 friend requests from people I didn’t know.... now I don’t even automatically say yes to friend requests from old school friends as feel that a re-establishing contact message is basic manners, so was rather bemused by random requests without even an email, but was glad I was attracting at least a few hotties!
There was also 5 pages of discussion about the Gardeners World episode on HTUK which was very odd, but everyone was very supportive although I know that people who are exotic enthusiasts would probably want a lot more from an episode on jungle gardening.
My seen on Gardeners World
It was Monday evening when I watched the recording, 5 mins from when I got through the door. It is so odd seeing yourself on tv, and also to see how edited it all was. Although Carol and I were having a ‘natural’ conversation when it was a shot of my face, or hers, or a plant the footage was all from different takes....even the vocal was a little bit chopped up and edited down. The African music was also amusing, and I have found myself humming it when walking around the garden.

Overall I thought it looked ok, but it was amusing how huge the garden and house looked. Polite friends who said I came across as very knowledgeable and a natural so we already planning a pitch to the TV people for our own show with me doing the garden, my friend Pip doing the weather and Steven doing a baking section.
I haven’t quite got the ‘noticed in public’ effect that I thought may have happened although it is odd which of the people I know/work with saw it as it has outed many secret Gardeners World watchers.

On my way home on Tuesday evening I did think that I had been noticed as when I walked onto my road a stranger came up to me, and you know when you think someone is coming up to you to say something and you prepare, and I was all ready for a ‘yes it was me on Gardeners World, would you like me to sign a packet of seeds for you’ however it was merely a drunk person whom was returning from their friends wake who wanted to tell me about how they had died at 34 from a drugs overdose.

I did wonder if I should take this as some type of divine message as I have also just turned 34, however the divine meaning has been a little lost on me as I didn’t take it as a message to not do drugs (I don’t beyond the odd aspirin and medicinal gin). But perhaps gardening is my drug and I need to calm down/deflate the ego before it kills/bankrupts me?

I have now watched the clip  a few times, the most embarrassing being the last time which was actually when I sat down to watch the whole episode as I hadn’t seen the beginning or end. However as soon as my bit came on before I could fast forward it Steven came into the room and gave me a ‘OMG are you really watching yourself on tv again’ he then left and my brother also then came into the room to call me a saddo.

It’s all been a very amusing experience and I still chortle to myself when I think about it all....certainly something to tick off the list.

Anyway....plant and garden things....

I have been doing some hard digging again and had the slaves out over the weekend to help...its now back to the clearance routine, especially as my waist line is begining to expand again...

Clerodendrum trichotomum.....beautiful large shrub/small tree with gorge flowers, strong scent and now these crazy berries....
The oddest recent visitor to the garden was a female pheasant or grouse?! very odd as we are in the middle of London

Cobea scandens...annual climber, flowers start white and fade to purple. lovely but so late to get going....thank you Mark and Gaz for the Cobea tips as i will hunt down a Cobea pringlei next yr!

Dahlia merckii now looking great after much abuse by foxes and falling spades, thank you Sue for the plant!

Tetrapanax about to flower..... I have never had it flower as the frosts always get the flower buds, perhaps this will be the year?!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Preparing for winter (and an imminent tv appearance)

I was thinking that as I am about to be on tv talking about overwintering plants I should actually start doing something myself! the way looks like I will hopefully  be on Gardeners World this Friday (21st)

One of the problems with jungle gardens is that it is very hard to start preparing for winter, as a lot of the plants you grow are just getting better and better through the year. Natives/traditional plants often are a lot more cyclical reaching their peak for their high society appointments at Chelsea and Hampton Court and then winding down through the rest of the year to when winter is a welcome relief.  Exotics just build momentum, showing off more and more until they are caught unaware by the frosts.

A lot of the garden is still looking good, particularly the Ricinus, bananas and Kangeroo apple however loads is looking well manky especially the Dahlias which is why I’m very jealous of many people who still have them looking pristine... I have a feeling I probably need to keep feeding them to keep them going.

Its also still rather warm and sunny, in a moment of madness I even whipped my top of for a bit of topless sunbathing to get my vitamin D levels up. I also had to get the hose out to water some much abused looking plants as the soil is so very dry in much of the garden, and was incredibly hard to dig.

I was compelled into action this weekend as the boot load of plants I bought last weekend, along with those from the RHS show are just sitting there looking dry and should really go into the ground before winter. It is always so dull to just buy plants to go in places where you have gaps, far more of a challenge to just buy buy buy! but the prospect of squeezing in 20-30 new arrivals is a little daunting.  Often the first thing I do when planting is to see if there are any bits of lawn that can be slowly eeked away to enlarge beds...this always has to be done a little secretly to prevent strife with the non believers, but this weekend I just couldn’t break new ground it was too hard.  I then got into a vicious circle where I would move things as they weren’t working and put something new in, but then the maths didn’t add up as I would dig three things out to put one in, so I then had to find new homes for those three things.
I don’t do a huge amount to prepare for winter....Dahlias just stay in the ground although I will add a thick layer of mulch to a few faves, especially my new Dahlia imperialis which from a 30cm plant I bought in July is now up to about 8ft.  I did have a Carol moment and went around the garden collecting seed, as seed is getting more and more expensive. I have been protecting the bananas more as although Basjoo and Sikkimensis are both root hardy for me their stems can be lost if the winter is hard. As they are also quite young I’m trying to help them thicken their stems before taking a chance.  I’m also increasingly seeing how it is the wet that kills things over winter, and am making the most of a covered side passage which is open to the elements at the end, but will keep things dry. I also think it is warmer than the cold greenhouse.

My initial approached to jungle garden was a bit lazy, as I don’t want to be someone who relies upon a huge amount of tender stuff to have a nice looking garden. This looks great but is then expensive and a huge amount of work to over winter. My basic approach is to have a structure of hardy exotics (I just counted and I now have 12 young Trachycarpus) this is mixed in with hardy perennial things that look wild/jungly in the right context. I then have loads of annuals like Ricinus, and the odd tender thing...  It is getting this balance right that I’m aiming for, whilst not being too distracted by tender things that I don’t have space to overwinter.
Saying that there are lots of plants I take chances with, and opening for the NGS I’m perhaps less prepared to take risks so will be moving lots of things to the side passage such as Geranium maderensis (almost hardy, usually pegs it in Feb), Opuntia (hardy but the cold makes its pads skanky), Cyperus alternifolius and Musa lasiocarpus (which is hardy for me but i want a head start next year), Musa sikkimensis (to save the stems), some of the 1yr old Albizzia seedlings and a few of the new Salvias. We also have a meter room cupboard which is quite warm where I will cut back and store the Cannas, Bugmansia and for the first time a Musa ensete.

There is a lot on the internet about overwintering Musa Ensete, my favourite being a random german posts, but in essence you chop all the leaves and roots off, turn it upside down to dry it out a bit and then keep it dry and frost free till spring.  There is a lot on HTUK about overwintering including one guy who has done loads of videos.
So I think I will wait a couple of weeks until the first frosts are imminent or blacken a bit of the foliage....I can’t quite bring myself to cut things back yet whilst they are still looking good so will cross my fingers and hope that things will be ok. I guess I should also see what Monty and Carol say on Gardeners World..............

Anyway, I hope me and Carol on tv will amuse you, I’m rather apprehensive about what it will look like and if I look like a twat/idiot/overly camp (all the pictures Mum took seem to have me standing with my hands on my hips!). Self awareness/how you look/sound on tv is always odd. I was filmed this week by the lovely Sunil for a funding bid for work, and he did a great job creating a very high quality video and I was relieved at how I looked and sounded ok and didn’t seem to be much of an idiot although I do pull a huge amount of faces. Who knows how I will feel next week!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

What a weekend (aka I love Carol Klein)

Look at me and my NBF!
I think I need to pinch myself as I have just had the most surreal and wonderful birthday weekend. It all started at 8am on Friday morning when Carol Klein and the BBC Gardeners World film crew arrived to film my garden for a slot which was about jungle/exotic style gardening and putting the garden to bed for the winter.

I have always loved Carol Klein, and having her come to film was a birthday wish come true. For my non UK readers who have no idea who she is, she is basically British gardening royalty, and the most famous and recognisable of lady gardening presenters. Even the young builder from upstairs recognised her ‘ey, isn’t she that bird from telly?’ he asked as he swept the front porch for the third time that day.....

Whenever you watch tv you always wonder whether off screen ‘stars’ would be like you imagined them to be, and if nice people are actually real divas. Carol was just as I had imagined (lovely and not a troublesome diva) and great fun to spend the day with, as were the whole crew as they were just genuinely nice people.

The whole operation was a lot more slimmed down than I had thought. I wondered if I would hear Carol’s arrival as I imagined the house shaking as her Winnebago pulled up, but she stayed in a Travel lodge with the others. There wasn’t even a makeup crew or catering van... I had to get over my fears of how I would look on HD with my forehead shine, and Carol had to sort herself out once she found her lippy in her tea bag box. She clearly is not getting the recognition she deserves!

I knew that TV takes a lot longer to film than you think, but I was amazed at how many takes each section took as you have to do it a few times to get it right, then remember what you said and repeat it, do shots from different angles and then if you touch a plant/do something with your hands they then want a close up of this too! This was all to a backdrop of a very noisy garden as next door to the right the builders were drilling, to the other side they were piling and digging with a JCB, then there were airplanes overhead and the railway. The poor sound guy looked a little frustrated at times.  Each time they shot they also did say 'Action' which always made me giggle and feel just that little bit Hollywood!
Carol and my big banana

I had a funny feeling that we were being followed
The essence of the slot was about how to sustain/use plants for the exotic effect so we looked at how you could use annuals with a shot of  Ricinus and Kangeroo apple, then close up at Tithonia and collecting seeds. Then we looked at hardy plants you could use to get the effect looking first at the Calla lilly and then Clerondendron bungeii (wich sounds fabulous said in a Lanacshire accent). We finished with digging up a Musa sikkimensis which was then wrapped for the winter (to protect, not put under the Xmas tree)....if we had more time we would do a tepee for the Basjoo which stays in the ground but we decided against this.

I think the only part where my enthusiasm began to wane was digging up the banana (then replanting it twice) then wrapping it, unwrapping it, wrapping it again a couple of times. When I thought we were done we then completely unwrapped it again in order to reattach a couple of leaves to do a close up of cutting the leaf off....ah the magic of tv!

The most amusing bit was the last part of the day as it was getting a bit late and the light was going, but they hadn’t yet managed to do the introduction sequence walking up to the house...they had to keep re-filming as cars kept coming up the road with their headlights on ruining the magic.

So all in all a fabulous day...with all the repetition it could have been very dull, but I was lucky that the film crew were some of the nicest people I have met in ages. Carol was also a real hoot to spend the day with, and it was great to talk plants and have a giggle.

That evening I went for my bday dinner eating Kazakhstani food complete with bellydancing in a bit of a surreal haze, and had to remind myself what had actually happened. The next day we then went to Norfolk to spend the weekend making the pilgrimage to Will Giles garden, Amultree exotics and Urban Jungle.

I love Will Giles as his book is pretty much my gardening Bible, and seeing his garden in the flesh was a real treat. He has a lovely collection of plants, and spookily my own garden felt quite similar. He uses his spaces well with lots of different areas including a great covered passage, huts, fountains and flint walls.

Will Giles's fabulous treehouse

So beautiful! I want it all starting with the Schleffera....
I also took the opportunity to see Urban Jungle which I have used for mail order. It was a great nursery packed with well grown and cared for plants and I would recommend a trip. They also have a little garden and it was inspiring to see things I hadn’t seen in the flesh before but want to grow including a Tamarillo, Leonotus and Eryngium pandanifolium.

Finally we went to Amultree exotics, which I didn’t have a hugely positively opinion of as last year I wasn’t that impressed with their mail order but figured I should go as we were in the area, however it was great! As we walked round and chatted to the owner I was really impressed by his diversity of plants including many things I had no idea about. They also have a 50% sale, and it was my birthday so there was a huge amount of impulse buying and the car was so full by the end. I got loads of things I’m excited about including Cyathea brownei, Musa Chini-Champa, some Musa’s I’ve never heard of, Phyllostachys Shanghai 3, Phyllostachys propinqua  and lots more

Urban Jungle garden

I thought I may have to ask Steven to walk, but we managed to fit it all in!
So all in all a rather fabulous weekend, I couldn’t have asked for better. Whether or not the filming makes it to the program I’m not sure (if it does it will probably be on 28th Oct) however I had a truly fabulous day with Carol and the team on Friday which is still bringing a smile to my face.