cover art for Planting Ahead for Christmas

Two Good Gardeners

Planting Ahead for Christmas

Season 2, Ep. 4

In episode 4, Dan and Julia offer advice on filling your home with plants and flowers this Christmas, including how to force bulbs and buy and care for seasonal plants such as poinsettia and cyclamen. Julia explains how to grow a crop of spuds for your Christmas dinner, and Dan shares his favourite garden-inspired Christmas decorations. Julia champions the humble beetroot (pickling recipe below), and Dan is elated that others are finally joining his crusade to revive the much-maligned chrysanthemum.

Julia's recipe for pickled beetroot, adapted from a recipe by Clodagh Mckenna 


  • 6 small beetroot 
  • 4 sprigs of thyme 
  • 160 ml white wine vinegar 
  • 150 ml cold water 
  • 110 g caster sugar ( Suggest adding 90 g, then taste if you want it sweeter, add the rest) ½ tsp mustard seeds 
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns 
  • ½ tsp sea salt 


  1. Cook the beetroot in a saucepan covered with cold water for 30-40 mins or until tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. 
  2. Peel the beets and cut them into small wedges. 
  3. Place in sterilized jars 
  4. Put the thyme, vinegar, caster sugar, mustard seeds, peppercorns, sea salt and 150ml cold water in a saucepan and heat until all has dissolved. 
  5. Pour this vinegar mixture over the beetroot and allow to cool completely. 
  6. Seal and store in the fridge for up to one year. 

Dan's favourite chrysanthemums:

  • 'Dixter Orange' - very early, starting late June / early July and over by September - completely self-supporting and makes a terrific low hedge.
  • 'Percy Salter' - the colour of a well-baked custard cream, pretty and long-lasting.
  • 'EH Wilson' - produces delicate sprays of butter-yellow single flowers.
  • 'Breitner's Supreme' - lax form with white daisy-like blooms - use to flop over other plants.
  • 'Burnt Orange' - fiery orange quilled petals that are yellow inside.
  • 'Dulwich Pink' - neat and smothered with cranberry red flowers in November.

Dan's Christmas decorations -

Dan & Julia's jobs for the next fortnight

  1. Start planting tulip bulbs and indoor bulbs to be forced.
  2. Keep gutters clear of leaves and moss.
  3. Gather fallen leaves and store them in hessian bags to break down into leafmould.
  4. Clean bird feeders thoroughly before filling them with fresh seed.
  5. Sow sweet peas, broad beans, peas, radishes and rocket.
  6. Cut away the old stems of autumn-fruiting raspberries, blackberries and loganberries.
  7. Reduce excessive top growth to prevent wind damage.
  8. Plant up, tidy and wash greenhouses and clear benches.
  9. Continue to mow lawns but on dry days.
  10. Visit arboreta to enjoy the blazing autumn colours.

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