May day, May day! It might be a distress call to Marines, but to gardeners it’s the start of the loveliest month of the year, when leaves are fresh and green and spring is at its richest. All you need is a range of plants that will give you their best in this most generous of months.
So if your patch is looking a little underwhelming, get down to your local garden centre or nursery now and give it a shot in the arm – or the beds and borders.
My favourite flowering shrub in May is Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ with its statuesque tiered arrangement of branches, which this month are decorated not only with fresh green, deeply veined leaves but also with the cream confetti of its flower-heads. It is great for dappled shade at the back of the border.
May is also the month for rhododendrons – many of them are huge and they all demand lime-free soil, but even those of us with tiny gardens or backyards, or those who garden on chalk, can have rhododendrons in tubs.
The dwarf varieties may sound unattractive but many are wonderfully generous with their flowers – try the hybrids of Rhododendron yakushimanum. There is also the aristocrat of climbers, wisteria, which will work well on a sunny south or west-facing wall.
If you buy a grafted plant of a named variety, you’ll be assured of flowers within just a year or two – provided you remember to prune it in both January and July.
Tulips will give you instant colour but you’ll have to buy them in pots, which can be a touch expensive. You could also treat yourself to a tree peony.
These beauties, which have an open-branch framework, come in red, yellow, apricot, frothy pink or white and are bound to impress.
They will suit any half-decent soil in a sheltered spot, and they can give you the kind of thrill you need at what is the best moment in the gardening year.
Lunch with the Queen, meeting Mandela and growing his first plant: Alan Titchmarsh reveals his 10 magic moments.
He’s one of TV’s best-known faces as well as the nation’s favourite gardener. From Gardener’s World to Ground Force, Alan Titchmarsh has brought horticulture to the masses. We reveal his 10 magic moments in life.
My first big moment was building my own greenhouse in the back garden when I was 12.
I did also play cricket and football in the street of terraced houses where I was brought up in Ilkley in Yorkshire. But one other lad and I were keen on gardening, too, and we used to go to Woolworths and buy packets of seeds.
The greenhouse was made from polythene and was only about 3ft by 6ft. Walking into it was a very special moment. I remember the thrill of growing my own plants and even now the smell of new polythene brings it all back.
I loved growing things and starting work was a big step. I was a classic late starter. I failed my 11-plus and when I went to secondary school I wasn’t that keen on anything except words; numbers remain a mystery.
I knew I loved being outside and loved nature and wanted to be a gardener. My dad found me a job as an apprentice in the local parks department and on that first day at work I was given three large Victorian greenhouses to look after. I really thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Live TV Buzz
My first experience of television was really exciting. Greenfly invaded Margate and I was invited on to Nationwide to talk about it.
The interviewer was Bob Wellings and I was asked back as a regular, being interviewed by Hugh Scully. After a while they reckoned I didn’t need an interviewer and I could do it on my own.
I had a regular slot which led to me moving on to Breakfast Time but it’s that first time on live telly that sticks with me. I came home thinking it was amazing and I’d quite like to do more.
Learning how carry yourself in the studios and use cameras has been an interesting life skill.
I never imagined I’d meet the Queen but I’ve sat next to her at lunch, which was fascinating. She’s a great conversationalist and getting the MBE from her in the Millennium Honours’ list and taking my wife and daughters up to London was a huge thrill. I’ve done a few programmes and met all the Royals, some more than others, and get on quite well with them all.
In life I’ve always had low anticipation about what might happen, not pessimistically, just realistically. When I find myself in the company of people I didn’t imagine, I’m not star struck but I do think about how I got there.
Being a dad has got to be the ultimate special thing in life. First of all finding someone who’s prepared to spend the rest of their life with you is quite something. And then having children is the most amazingly rewarding and exhausting thing.
My two daughters are grown up and they are a delight. Getting on well with your children is a great blessing. You always have your ups and downs but keeping the channels of communication open is the most important thing.
I have a very close relationship with them both and now I have another joy in having grandchildren, two boys and two girls, aged four, three, two and one. You observe them closely and wonder what they make of you.
You remember what you liked about your own grandparents and try to emulate that. I think grandchildren are a bit like butterflies – if you chase them they’ll run away, if you stay still they’ll come to you!
The Royal Horticultural Society awarded me the Victoria Medal Of Honour, which is only ever held by 63 horticulturists – one for each year of Queen Victoria’s reign – at any one time. It was totally unexpected and coming from your peers made it much valued and respected. I really cherish that.
Talk Show King
Getting my own chat show was another great surprise and delight. It ran from 2007 to 2014 on ITV and I had a whale of a time. I’d done a lot of interviewing on Pebble Mill away back but having a show that bears your name is a lot of responsibility. It’s a treat, too.
I just like people and hearing their stories. The best interviews were the likes of Alan Bennett and Julie Walters, who were prepared to play the game, who knew they had a role to play as well. The worst were reluctant actors and actresses.
I learned very early on that it was a mistake to confuse the actor with the character we see them playing. Some hated being interviewed and only did it as part of their contract – I won’t name names – weren’t very good at it and weren’t cooperative. You just thought; ‘Why did you come along? If you’re not going to enjoy it neither am I or anyone else.’
I can’t leave out Ground Force which took gardening on to BBC1. We had 12 million viewers one Easter and it became the second biggest programme on the BBC after EastEnders. It was astonishing. Gardening isn’t just about tidying a piece of ground, it’s enriching and it reminds us we rely on the earth. Having a garden does change lives. I get teased about decking, but we were doing makeovers in two days.
We did Nelson Mandela’s garden, which was so special. He had the most powerful, calming grace in anyone I’ve ever met. He was very charismatic in a quiet, understated way.
I sat down and interviewed him for half an hour and he was wonderful company. I asked why he wasn’t bitter and he just said there was no time.
Degrees of Success
I was made Chancellor of Winchester University last year. I didn’t go to university, so to be asked to be Chancellor of Winchester, which is closest to where I live in Hampshire, was quite an honour. In October I spend a week in the cathedral handing out 2000 degrees – I have a very sore hand at the end of it. Meeting all these people at the start of their careers is a treat for me.
I’ve made four gardens of my own, from the little 10ft by 40ft garden when we first got married to the garden I used in Gardeners’ World to one other and then where we are now. I’m looking out now on the wildlife pond which we dug and to be able to make something beautiful is the ultimate, the one thing I could never give up.
Above our last house I bought a field and planted trees which is now a wood 20 years on. I’m a great believer in leaving your patch of earth in a better state than when you took it on. To do that has been the biggest pleasure of all.
National Garden Week 2019
Date: 29th April – 5th May 2019
Encouraging everyone to grow-your-own is the theme of this year’s National Gardening Week (29 April–5 May 2019).
The nation’s biggest celebration of gardening returns for 2019 from Monday 29 April to Sunday 5 May 2019 as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) encourages everyone to get involved in grow-your-own. The theme for this year is Edible Britain, with the RHS calling on gardeners up and down the country to share their love of home-grown produce. Now in its eighth year, the annual event has grown in popularity every year with National Gardening Week 2018 seeing hundreds of events taking place around the country and thousands of people sharing their ‘passion for plants’ on social media.
In 2019, the RHS hopes even more people will get involved and has created a brand new website so people can find out how to take part: www.rhs.org.uk/nationalgardeningweek. Registration is now open for this year’s event, with everyone invited to upload their events and activities to the website and discover hints and tips for taking part.
For this year’s Edible Britain theme, the RHS will aim to demonstrate that everyone has space to grow something delicious to eat, whether it’s a single pot of herbs on the windowsill or an allotment overflowing with courgettes and potatoes.
RHS Chief Horticulturist Guy Barter says, “After it was reported earlier this month that the RHS has seen sales of fruit and vegetable seeds outstrip flowers at its Plant Centres over the last year, it’s clear that people are keen to reconnect with where their food comes from. We’re supporting this burgeoning interest by encouraging garden centres, nurseries, clubs, societies and other organisations to showcase their edible expertise, as well as highlighting grow-your-own at our RHS Gardens and Flower Shows.”
Guy offers the following top tips to those who are wondering what they can grow this National Gardening Week:
• There is still time to sow seeds of hardy plants like carrots, coriander, beetroot and parsley. In fact, clay soils may not be dry and warm enough for good results until this time.
• Sowings of salads such as lettuce and radishes, and peas and broad beans, can be made now, and sow again every three weeks until early July for a continuous supply.
• Cold-sensitive but quick-growing plants such as basil, courgettes, French beans, runner beans and sweetcorn can be sown indoors now for planting out in a month’s time (six weeks in the north).
• Although it is too late to sow slow-growing tender plants such as aubergines, chilli peppers, sweet peppers and tomatoes, they are widely are widely offered as potted plants: buy them now to grow on in greenhouses, and set them out later when the risk of frost has passed.
For more ideas and advice on what to grow and how to grow it, see the National Gardening Week website.
The aim of National Gardening Week is to raise awareness of the difference that gardens and gardening can make to the lives of everyone in the UK, and to inspire more people to experience the joy of growing and visiting beautiful green spaces. The four RHS Gardens will be leading the campaign, with other gardens and organisations across the nation encouraged to take part.
(Article source: Various)