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Dig It - Discussions on Gardening Topics

March '24 in the Garden

Season 4, Ep. 1

The traditional starting point for many gardeners - Easter - falls early this year, so there’s much to be getting on with. Dig It’s Peter Brown and Chris Day bring us the latest events, news and topical advice for the month.

Plants mentioned: Forsythia, Snowdrops, Winter Aconites, Narcissi, Ulmus wredei, Buxus, Euonymus Jean Hugues and Green Spire, Daffodils, Dahlias, Gladioli, Freesia, Tuberous begonias, Sunflowers, Zinnia, and Cosmos. Veg plug plants, seeds of Cabbage, Tomatoes, Runner beans, Courgettes, Squashes, Rhubarb varieties Timperley Early, Glaskin’s Perpetual and Victoria. Onion Stuttgarter Giant, Hercules F1 and Centurion F1.

Products mentioned: Garden hoe, Compost mulch, Hotbin Composter and potato polybags.

What’s on

Tuesday 2nd March The Woodland Trust, our charity of the year will be joining us at the Garden Centre.

Tuesday 2nd - 10th March: Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Centre, Philadelphia, US

Sunday 17th March: Rare Plant Fair at The Bishop's Palace, Wells, Somerset, 10am - 4pm.

20th -24th March: Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton

Wednesday 20th March: Orchid Day at the Garden Centre with Manos Kanellos, 11am-3pm.

Saturday 23rd March: Digby Hall Plant Fair, Sherborne, Dorset. 10am-2pm. Free admission.

Saturday 23rd – Sunday 24th March: Falmouth Spring Flower Show. This historic show features 100 classes, expert talks and activities.

Monty Don’s Spanish Gardens on BBC iPlayer


TV Dr Amir Khan's thoughts on gardening and mental health

A new study by the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research highlighting useful evergreens which are best to clean the air.

Plant Heritage are asking gardeners across the UK to search for any rare or unusual plants in their Threatened Plants of the Year 2024 Competition.

New naturally resistant Elms are planted in Scotland.

Help for hedgehogs as robotic lawn mowers create a new safety concern.

Garden Centre highlights extent of current retail crime and violence.

A garden planned for Queen Elizabeth.

A call to arms from Monty Don encouraging shoppers to buy peat-free.

Lichens on the International Space Station.

Stink bug causes chaos Down Under.

Name your plants from Westland research.

Seiont Nurseries embrace peat-free production.

A new magnolia discovered in northern Honduras.

Garden resilience is set to change Sheffield Park and Gardens in major re-vamp.

Floral clock to be restored at Weston-Super-Mare.

Brogdale; One of the world’s largest fruit tree collections sold.

Blueberry blues as scientists reveal the secret of its colour.

Welsh gardeners are offered £20 vouchers to remove Cotoneaster horizontalis.

Time to get spotting with the RHS Bumblebee Trust survey.

Celebrating 125 years of the HTA.

Mr Plant Geek is the host for the new RHS Urban Show in Manchester.


Dig It’s top 5 top selling composts of last season. Top seller Jack’s Magic All Purpose Improved, 2nd The Gardeners Multi-Purpose from Westland 3rd Levington Multi-Purpose plus John Innes, 4th Miracle-Gro Peat Free Compost and 5th Westland New Horizon All Plant Compost

Our thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music.

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  • 4. Uncovering the legacy of Stowe Gardens with Head Gardener Barry Smith

    In this edition of Dig It, Peter Brown and Chris Day chat with Barry Smith, Head Gardener at the National Trust’s Stowe Landscape Gardens, near Buckingham. Barry has been at Stowe for over 40 years and head gardener for over 25 so he knows this garden with immense passion and understanding. Stowe, a world-famous 18th century garden was created by such luminaries as Charles Bridgeman, William Kent and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. For over 300 years these spectacular gardens have been welcoming tourists far and wide.Plants mentioned: Roses, annuals (bedding), Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Pinus (pine), Honeysuckle, wildflowers, Snake’s head Fritillary (featured in Barry’s funny story), Lime, Beech, English Elm and Dutch Elm resistant varieties and Snowdrops (Galanthus).The Gardens Trust, National Trust and the Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust (for networking, sharing knowledge and celebrating success stories locally and beyond).Barry’s top two favourite gardens: Stourhead Gardens near Mere, Wiltshire and Stackpole, near Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales.Monuments, specific areas and statues mentioned at Stowe. Grecian Valley Ha-Ha, Oxford Water Lake, Lamport Garden (on-going project), Temple of Concord and Victory (Grecian Temple), Stowe School, The New Inn (old coaching house), Grand Avenue approach to the Corinthian Arch, Buckingham Parish Church, Marble Arch, and The Ice House.Stowe gardens and school have been used for many film locations including The Crown, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Slaughterhouse Rulez, Stardust and in the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.Barry’s Desert Island luxuries Felco secateurs and a Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).To find out more about Stowe Landscape gardens click on this link and maybe become a volunteer.Our thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music.
  • 3. April '24 in the Garden

    Many of our gardens are enjoying much earlier blooms this spring due to the mild and damp weather conditions. Peter Brown and Chris Day bring us the latest gardening news, what’s on’s and topical gardening advice for the busy month of April.What’s on6th -7th April: Cornwall Garden Society Spring Flower Show at Royal Cornwall Show Ground near Wadebridge, features a Grow Your Own space and Tipi Talks as well as dazzling displays and exquisite exhibits.Saturday 13th April: Hanami Blossom Day at Brogdale Farm, Faversham, Kent. Open 10am-3pm. Discover Japanese art and culture amidst the breathtaking blossoming orchards, plus so much more.15th – 28th April: A celebration of Spring: from blossom to bluebells at Hever Castle Gardens in Kent.18th - 21st April: RHS Urban Show set in the heart of Manchester (Depot Mayfield), celebrates your own oasis in this new immersive gardening experience.Sunday 21st April: Plant Fairs Roadshow at Arundel Castle in West Sussex. Open 10am-5pm. Expert nurseries will be displaying their plants in the grounds of Arundel Castle as part of the Plant Fairs Roadshow.Monday 29th April: Rachel de Thame: A Flower Garden for Pollinators talk at the Garden Museum in Lambeth, London, by Rachel de Thame and botanical artist Lauren Lusk yours about her new book.Plants mentioned: Comfrey (for tea), Hebe, Narcissi, Muscari (grape hyacinths), Tulips, Hydrangea ‘Cherry Explosion,’ Rose ‘Munstead Wood’, Magnolia ‘Stellata’ (Star magnolia), Primulas and Polyanthus.Seeds to sow: Cosmos, Cowslips, Gazanias, Geraniums, Marigolds, Nasturtium, Sunflowers and wildflowers. Veggies: Parsnips, Carrots, and salad crops.Products mentioned: Lawn seed mixtures including Johnsons Any Time, Tuff Lawn, Shade and Meadow wildflower mixture, feed Vitax Q4, Empathy Afterplant, Sulphate of Potash, Fungus Fighter for preventative box treatment. Box alternatives - Euonymus ‘Jean Hugues’ and E. ‘Green Spire’, Evergreen honeysuckle hedging. Flowering hedges including Lavender and Hedge Germander. Garden hoe. Water retaining gel, Vitax Q4 and continuous (slow release) control fertiliser.Peter and Chris’s bluebell wood recommendations: Hazelborough Woods (Silverstone, Northamptonshire) and The Woodland Trust’s College Wood (Nash, Milton Keynes).News101 Charles Darwin lookalikes gather at threatened 550-year-old oak tree in record attempt protest.Global tree of the year winners announced.Sycamore gap tree updateCalifornian Redwoods make it big in the UKGovernment dashes hopes for horticulture with underwhelming reformsMore Scottish gardens open under the SGS to help the Perennial charity.Finalist of the RHS Britain in Bloom competition announced.International Orchid Show moves to Gardeners’ World Live.Glow-in-the-dark Petunia ‘Firefly’ launched in the United States.A new Rose ‘With Courage’ in conjunction with RNLI from rose breeder Peter Beales.A change in shift of food production with wider diversification of crops.The NHS could save £6.7 billion a year if everyone ate plant based food.New Backyard Biodiversity Report from Garden Organics.Top RHS plant diseases ranked from results in 2023.Dig It Top 5: This month Grass seed best sellers.Our thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music.
  • 2. For the love of Chillies, with Jason Breed

    The temperature rises in this edition of Dig It as Peter Brown and Chris Day chat with passionate chilli grower Jason Breed. Jason, a seed specialist from Moles Seeds, gives a full rundown of the growing of these popular fiery fruits, a look at what makes chillies so hot, plus some insightful advice on getting the best from your plants and using them in the kitchen. Chilli peppers are varieties of the berry-fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, which are members of the nightshade family Solanaceae, cultivated for their pungency. Chilli peppers are widely used in many cuisines as a spice to add ‘heat’ to dishes. There are many health benefits associated with chillies too. The Scoville Scale is a measurement of pungency (spiciness or ‘heat’). Jason famously created a Chocolate Chip Chilli Cookie featuring Habanero chillies at the Garden Centre. Products mentioned: Products derived from chillies including sprays for bears, elephants (using barriers of chilli plants) and as an effective squirrel deterrent. Use Vermiculite at seed sowing time. Use a decent seed and cutting peat-free compost such as Levington’s. LED plant lights to help growth. Hydroponic systems lend themselves to chilli production. Use Organic contact sprays for caterpillars, greenflies, flea beetles, sawflies and whitefly control. Fertilisers including Chilli Focus Premium Liquid Concentrated Fertiliser. Chilli varieties mentioned: ‘Apache’, ‘Quick Fire’ (30k on the Scoville scale), F1 hybrid, is the fastest maturing chilli available from seed with the prolific fiery red fruits produced in as little as 50 days from sowing. ‘Red Air’ (Bird’s eye type, Scoville Scale 70-80k), ‘Red Flame’ (Cayenne type, 30-50k), ‘Rocky’, a Jalapeno hybrid, 8k and ‘Santana’ (hybrid Anaheim, 2.5-3.5k).Open pollinated types include Scotch Bonnet, Habanero and Tabasco, where seeds can be successfully saved from these plants. Guinness World Records declares Pepper X as world’s new hottest chili pepper. A garden axe would be Jason’s essential castaway item. The latest Guinness World Chilli eating record. Useful linksChillies available from the Garden Centre including Padron Chilli Pepper and De Cayenne, South Devon Chilli Farm and Chilli Ranch. Jason also mentioned a Bedfordshire commercial chilli grower. Our thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music.
  • 24. The Orchid Expert Peter White

    In this edition of Dig It Peter Brown and Chris Day chat with orchid supremo Peter White. Peter began growing orchids in 1980 and he has received many awards including RHS Gold medals for his orchid displays at RHS shows and he is a qualified judge of the RHS Orchid Committee. He is currently involved in the breeding of miniature Cymbidium and miniature Phalaenopsis. Peter White is a popular speaker on orchid growing and has supported Buckingham Garden Centre over many years.Plants mentioned: Cymbidiums, Phalaenopsis ‘Sogo Yukidian’, Kalanchoe, Echeveria, Streptocarpus, and Saintpaulia (African Violets).People, places, and products mentioned: Peter took us back to the large orchid collection at Aynho Park House, with his mentor gardener and orchid enthusiast Ted Humphris. Between 1938 and 1965 Ted showed plants he had grown to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Shows at Westminster, and he won 25 awards. Ted’s most famous plant was an orchid, Cattleya Portia which Peter discusses. Ted tended it for almost 50 years, and the second time he exhibited it at Westminster in November 1948 there were over 520 blooms, making it the biggest orchid in the world (at the time). Ted wrote two books: Garden Glory about his life as a gardener, and Apricot Village, a more general book giving snapshots of life in Aynho during Ted’s lifetime.Solihull Orchid Society.Orchid Judging and The British Orchid Council.RHS Orchid Committee. The Dutch company Floricultura are the biggest propagator of orchids with the largest laboratories in the world. The 23rd World Orchid Conference and the 20th Taiwan International Orchid Show. Orchid Focus Repotting Compost and Orchid Focus Bloom and Orchid Focus Grow fertiliser. Make sure you use a fertiliser on your orchids which contains no urea (Uric nitrogen). Use clear pots for Phalaenopsis - so light gets to the roots and you can observe the roots easily.For cymbidiums use Chempak® High Nitrogen Feed - Formula 2. A soluble rapid growth feed which gets leaves and stems off to a strong start in summer and then follow with a Tomato Feed in autumn. Houseplant Compost, Vermiculite, potting grit. Opti flora – producers of extra-large and special Phalaenopsis. Dibleys Nursery – streptocarpus specialists. The Dutch Flower Auction in Aalsmeer, Netherlands.How dyed blue orchids are created on YouTube.Peter’s Orchid accessories website.Desert Island mentions: Phalaenopsis and a decent Swiss army knife with plenty of gadgets!Our thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music. 
  • 23. February '24 in the Garden

    It’s February and the garden is starting to awake. In this edition of Dig It Peter Brown and Chris Day bring us the latest events, plants and people making the headlines as well as some topical advice on getting the best from your garden this month.What’s on1st - 29th February: Snowdrop season at Waterperry Gardens featuring over 60 different snowdrop varieties. Gardens open 10am - 5pm.3rd February: Graft and Grow Day at Buckingham Garden Centre and held in conjunction with The Mid-Shires Orchard Group, 10am - 4pm. Scion wood swap, fruit tree grafting demos, rootstocks, and fruit trees to buy and much more.3rd February - 10th March: Explore RHS Wisley's glasshouses for their annual Houseplant Takeover with the theme 'Plants Before Time'.8th February - 1 May: Danger and Desire: The Seductive Power of Orchids. Exhibition at RHS Wisley.Saturday 10th February: ‘Golden and Delicious - Edwardian Gardens’ A lecture by Caroline Holmes. Writtle University College, Writtle. 11.30am - 13.30pm.Top selling potatoes in 2023 1st Charlotte (2nd early) 2nd Desire (main) 3rd Kestrel (2nd) 4th Cara (main) 5th Arran Piot (1st).Plant mentions: Arbutus unedo, Betula (Himalayan birch), Broad beans, Dogwoods including ‘Midwinter Fire’ (Cornus) Hardy orchids, Fargesia (clump forming bamboo), Hedera (ivy), Mahonia, Mentha (mint), bedding Geraniums, Garlic, Sweet peas, Lettuce, Chinese money plant, Sansevieria Cylindrica Braided and Witch Hazel (Hamamelis).People, places and product mentions: Ashridge Forest, Gertrude Jekyll, Edwardian Garden style, Georgian Parks and Gardens Round-Up weedkiller, Kathy Brown’s Garden featured on BBC Gardeners’ World, Landscape weed-suppressing fabric, Melcourt peat-free composts, houseplants fill one of the Malvern Garden Buildings at the Garden Centre, Nest boxes, Tim Chafor, Composted Bark and Hot Bin Composting.NewsDormice under threat from wetter weather and climate change.Bamboo is the new Japanese knotweed.Kew experts predict horticultural trends Grapes in, apples out – RHS predicts garden trends as climate changesBumper year for British wine growers as output almost doubles.Dutch growers benefit from increased energy subsidies.The Dutch Flower Association acknowledges peat-free growing medium for the first time.First skatepark incorporated into a Chelsea Flower Show garden sparks debateA Tasmanian garden wins the world’s ugliest lawn competition (video)DEFRA launches Forest of the National competition with the overall winner receiving £10m to fund their project.The RHS launches an AI chatbot called Chatbotanist to provide advice for members through their phone or PCOldest fungal plant named after children’s book author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter.Biochar start-up Earthly Biochar has come up with a government-funded project that’s setting out to help save Britain's ash trees.New Mr Fothergill’s wildlife seed mix launched by BBC Children in Need.New findings suggest flowers are evolving to self-pollinate2023 was a record year for the National Garden SchemeOur thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music
  • 22. Val Bourne, a natural approach to organic gardening

    In this episode of Dig It Chris Day and Peter Brown chat with Val Bourne - a lifelong gardener and award-winning garden writer whose name will be familiar to readers of The Telegraph, Country Life, Gardens Illustrated, Amateur Gardening and Saga magazine amongst others. As well as writing and lecturing, Val is an organic hands-on gardener and by her own admission a committed plantaholic.Plants mentioned: Agapanthus, Artemisia, Antirrhinums, Aquilegia, Aster, bee orchid, Daphne Bholua, Camassia, Cosmos, Foxgloves, flowering cherry trees, Dahlia, Dierama, Lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle), Hellebores, hardy ferns, Narcissi, Nasturtiums, Paeonia, Pears, Penstemons, Rose Champagne Moment, Rose Wildeve, Red trefoil, Yellow Rattle, Phlox, Snowdrops, Trilliums, Whitebeam, Winter sweet and Zinnia.People, places and products mentioned: Aphids, Buglife, Adam Henson, Ann-Marie Powell (garden designer), Long tailed bees, caterpillar control in salt water, earwigs, Blackspot, Hook Norton Brewery, Ground beetles, Thames Valley radio programme Dig It (no longer broadcast), ladybirds (two, seven spot, meadow species), Book English Pastoral by James Rebanks, Jennifer Owen (zoologist) and her book Jennifer Owen - Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-year Study (published by RHS). Andrew Halstead, retired RHS Principal Entomologist. Rothamsted Research Station, Cedric Morris garden at Chelsea, and No Mow May.Val’s desert island tool - Cobra headed weeder tool. Castaway plant Amsonia, the eastern blue star plant.Val’s book’s The Living Jigsaw, (Kew Publishing), The Natural Gardener: The Way We All Want to Garden, (Francis Lincoln) plus Val’s 10 Minute Gardener’s range of books covering vegetable, fruit, Grow your own and flower growing.Our thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music.
  • 21. January '24 in the Garden

    The month of resolutions, new starts, and big dreams for the coming year. Peter Brown and Chris Day take time to delve into some of the talked about trends of 2024, plus the usual mix of gardening news, events, and gardening advice for the month ahead.What’s onMonday 1st January Sir Harold Hillier Gardens Guided Tour. Romsey, Hampshire.Thursday 18th January: Rose Pruning Masterclass with Michael Marriott at Borde Hill, Haywards Heath in West Sussex. Saturday 20th January: National Tulip Day in the centre of Amsterdam, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Saturday 27th January: Talk ‘Puzzle Pictures’, 2.30-5pm organised by the Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust and to be held at Aylesbury Methodist Church and Centre.26-28th January: RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.27-28th January: Houseplant Weekend at RHS Garden Bridgewater.Saturday 3rd February: Buckingham Garden Centre’s Graft and Grow Day featuring fruit tree grafting in conjunction with The Mid-Shires Orchard Group. 10am - 4pm.Looking to get out and about? There’s plenty of great winter gardens around the UK to visit on the Great British Gardens website.Dig It top 5 selling trees of 2023 Sharing the top slot Malus ‘Aros’ and Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’, joint 2nd place with Malus ‘Red Obelisk’ and Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ and in the third place Acer ‘Brandywine’.As we start the year, here’s our followers top most popular guest podcasts to date. Top slot is No Dig with Charles Dowding, in the second slot is Cottage Gardening with Rosy Hardy. In third position The Queen of the Herb’s Jekka McVicar followed by Cherry growing with Vikki Grainge and at the 5th slot Composting with Rod Weston.NewsEnd of the line for peat composts at Evergreen after 22 years.Arit Anderson, in her new book, highlights a range of garden trees that can stand up for our changing climate.Scientist calls for new ways to understand plant durability in recent RHS talk.Low-level offenders will clean up graffiti and plant trees instead of being sent to prison as ministers try to solve major overcrowding crisis in UK.Global action to save Aussie ‘living dinosaur’ tree. International conservation charity Plantlife secures £80,000 campaign target to increase lichen research.UK bans giant rhubarb after study finds popular garden plant is invasive species.Plant fossils are remains of ancient baby turtles.The Young People in Horticulture Association (YPHA) reach a membership milestone of over 700 members.Peach Fuzz is Pantone colour of the year. A velvety gentle peach whose all-embracing spirit enriches mind, body, and heart. Expect to see plenty of peach tones and hues this year! 2024 is the year for Edimentals. Garden ornament turns out to be live bomb.Plant mentions: Box, Cyclamen persicum (large florist cyclamen), Broccoli, Purple and white sprouting broccoli, Globe artichoke, Reindeer moss, Mixed Native Hedging, Gunnera maculata, Honeysuckle hedging, Pansies, Swiss Chard, Chinese lanterns, Lettuce ‘Lollo Rossa,’ ornamental grasses, Pea ‘Feltham First’ and ‘Meteor,’ Geraniums (from seed), Liliums, autumn fruiting raspberries, strawberry runners, and seed potatoes.Product Mentions: Kelkay trends for 2024, terracotta pots, lawn aerator, mower service, Haxnicks Fleece jackets and organic winter wash.Our thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music. 
  • 20. Alan Sargent - Confessions of a Great Gardener

    In this edition of Dig It we chat with multi-award-winning Garden Designer and Landscape Contractor Alan Sargent, a Fellow of The Institute of Horticulture and Founder of The Association of Professional Landscapers. Alan Sargent is a proper landscape gardener who over the past five decades has won countless awards, including over sixty Royal Horticultural Society Show Garden medals at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Tatton Park and Gardeners’ World Live.Alan’s latest book, Confessions of a Gardener, helps support the fantastic charity Perennial - the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society. £4 will be donated to Perennial. You can order it here.Product mentions: Consider a Hydrological survey which documents the source (inflow), route, and flow (outflow) of springs, brooks, streams, rivers, and culverts. The report also notes water depths, seasonal flooding, and the significance of surface water runoffs on your land and beyond. Lasers for levels rather than water levels. Butyl pond liner, Bradstone paving and stone, Porcelain, Indian sandstone paving, importance of permeable materials for drainage.Plant mentions: Palm trees, wildflowers, and re-wilding to help attract birds, bee friendly plants for pollinators and Japanese maples.People mentions: Alan Titchmarsh - mentor to Alan, Peter Seabrook, Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Alexandra, Patron of Action for Blind People as well as being President of Sightsavers. Garden designers Robin Williams, Mark Gregory, who has been involved with 99 gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show, with a total of 160 show gardens for the RHS, making him the most medalled garden builder within the RHS. Peter Rodgers, garden designer. TV presenter and botanist Dr David Bellamy. Peter Rodgers, garden designer.Desert island tool: A Swiss army knife.Alan Sargent’s website Landscape Library (educational resource)The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL, Find a Landscaping Professional) The Professional Garden Consultants Association The Chartered Institute of HorticultureOur thanks to Chiltern Music Therapy for supplying the music.