BBC Gardeners’ World – Your Questions Answered

Reading time 12 minutes

Before I begin, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who posted a comment following the garden’s appearance on Gardeners’ World last Friday. It’s been uplifting reading the many kind, appreciative messages that have popped up here and on other forms of social media. I am delighted that so many people have found my garden interesting, inspiring, curious or simply pleasant to look at. After all, that’s that what we strive to achieve in a ornamental garden: a pleasing picture. The BBC’s cameras captured the essence of the garden, giving viewers a genuine sense of what it’s like to potter about in my little green tropical ravine.

As our nation becomes more and more urbanised, tight pockets of flora and fauna will increasingly be relied upon for repose and recreation. Bounded by reasonably tall buildings, my garden is an example of what can be achieved and of the challenges to be faced in town and city gardens. If you have a small garden, let no-one suggest it’s an easy gig … but let me convince you that it’s a rewarding one.

The weekend following my appearance on Gardeners’ World turned out to be bittersweet. My ironwood tree (Lyonothanus floribundus subsp. aspleniifolius), which everyone so admired on screen, blew down during the gales that swept across Kent on Sunday. Friends tell me that there were trees and fences felled across the county, with one of our local supermarkets losing its roof. Little changes make a big difference in a small space. As you can imagine, the toppling of this beautiful tree has already had a dramatic impact and will take some time to address. I should feel more bereft than I do, but I knew this moment might come and must have subconsciously prepared for it. This cloud has a silver lining, even if I can’t see it quite yet.

Along with the comments, after the programme came a whole host of questions. I have been trying my hardest to reply to them all individually, but please accept my apologies if I have overlooked yours. Since many were along similar lines I thought I would share the answers in a post in the hope they might satisfy a broader audience. Let’s start with an easy one:

– What is the name of the species fuchsia that featured on the programme?

If you’d asked me a fortnight ago, I’d have told you confidently that it was Fuchsia splendens. It was purchased from a well known fuchsia specialist as Fuchsia splendens, and I have been tending to it lovingly ever since. Various expert visitors have also recognised it as Fuchsia splendens. However, a BBC researcher questioned my naming whilst working on the final cut and so now I am starting to doubt myself. Whatever its name, it’s a beautiful, treasured plant which I’d highly recommend for a semi-shaded spot. Not winter hardy but Fuchsia splendens survives for me in an unheated greenhouse.

– Is your garden open to the public?

Yes it is! I open the garden annually for one weekend in support of the National Garden Scheme. This incredible organisation, the likes of which exists no-where else on earth, orchestrates the opening of thousands of special, personal, private gardens every year. I am proud to be included in the famous Yellow Book and looking forward to meeting more of you August 3rd and 4th when I open the garden next. My expectation is that the garden will be busier than normal this year, especially if the weather is fine, so please be patient and make the most of Broadstairs during your visit.

Click here for more details on the NGS website.

– How do you keep your tropical plants alive over the winter?

Let’s clear one thing up – my garden is not tropical (I wish!). It’s probably not even technically subtropical, but I have a microclimate that helps me to create that illusion. Many plants we consider tropical or exotic in the UK are in fact species that grow in the cooler parts of warmer countries, for example at high altitude, hence they are hardier than their looks might suggest.

That said, even these are likely to require some winter protection and I won’t mislead you by suggesting this does not involve some planning and hard work. Most of my plants are in pots, so those that die down in winter, such as lilies, dahlias, gingers and roscoeas are stored in the workshop from December. They don’t require light or water during their dormant period and can be left alone until early spring. The workshop is unheated but frost free and well ventilated.

Plants that require temperatures above 15ºC to stay in good shape, in which I count coleus, streptocarpus, papyrus, sparmannia, philodendrons, tillandsias (air plants), aechmeas and some begonias, come indoors. They occupy every windowsill and ledge I have at my disposal, as well as crowding into my garden room. I don’t let them go back outside until June or even July, when the nights are reliably warm.

Plants that don’t die down in the winter but need basic frost protection – geraniums, plectranthus, nerines, succulents and tropical ferns – are stashed in a small unheated greenhouse. If it gets exceptionally cold then I may cover them with some fleece, but rarely is that necessary.

It is a lot of effort, especially in spring and early winter, but I’ve never been interested in low maintenance gardening.

– How can I replicate the jungle look in my own garden?

In milder parts of the UK we are spoiled for choice, with nurseries, garden centres and specialists offering a good range of exotic-looking plants. Typically we think of big leaves when we speak about jungle gardens and these are offered by bananas, castor oil plants, gingers and trees such as catalpa and paulownia. However I have found it’s just as important to consider texture, shape and colour when choosing foliage plants. Flowers are perhaps less important than in a traditional English garden, but are nevertheless essential for creating little ‘moments’ during the growing season.

In colder parts of the UK the same plants can be grow outside during the summer months but will need protection for longer. Hardy shrubs such as fatsia and aucuba give a jungly effect and are useful for creating permanent structure. This is important as no-one wants a garden that is completely bare during the winter.

Wherever you live you should be prepared for a jungle garden to excel in the summer and autumn and make provision for an alternative winter and spring display. I do this by planting a huge quantity of bulbs and attractive evergreen trees.

– Where can I buy coleus seeds and plants?

It is surprisingly tricky to get hold of coleus in the UK, especially named varieties. Seeds are easy to germinate and widely available from all the major seed companies, mainly in mixtures. Plants grown from seed have a tendency to go to seed themselves, especially if the summer is hot or they are not watered regularly. The best place to shop for named varieties is Dibleys, who send out rooted cuttings from April.

If you’d like to read more about the trials of sourcing good coleus, you may enjoy this post I wrote last year.

– Have the BBC asked you to present again?

Let’s just say ‘not yet’, but if I was asked, the answer would definitely be ‘yes’. With all the encouragement I have received I’ll be endeavouring to record more videos this year and will be posting them to my very underused YouTube channel.

– Why is one of your gardens called the Gin & Tonic garden?

It’s called the Gin & Tonic garden because during the summer it catches the sun at precisely the time I need a G&T. That’s not all day I might add!

– Where can I buy the Catalina ironwood tree that featured in the show?

Architectural Plants in Chichester is my ‘go to’ supplier for trees, not that I have space for any more. They are a great source of unusual and large specimens. Pan-Global Plants also offer Catalina ironwood trees for sale. Despite my unfortunate experience this weekend, this is a great tree for exposed coastal conditions since it is native to a series of rocky islands off the coast of California. TFG.

The Gin and Tonic Garden

Categories: Coleus, Flowers, Foliage, gingers, Our Coastal Garden, Photography, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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52 comments On "BBC Gardeners’ World – Your Questions Answered"

  1. I think that GW rarely gives enough time to do justice to any of the gardens it highlights. That said, you are an absolute natural when it comes to presenting. They should sign you up tout suite in place of one or two of their current crop (no names).

  2. I was so excited to see you on GW ! I loved the way you presented your plants, in the learned and enthusiastic manner you have on your blog. Needless to say, your garden is wonderful. I am always struck by how perfectly healthy your plants look. Well done Dan !

  3. An inspiring garden! Sorry to hear about your tree but an opportunity to try something new or will you just replace it? Did we see much of the gin and tonic? If not, what sort of plants do you have? Sue

    1. Hi Sue! The poor G&T garden always seems to get left out. It is the less polished and composed garden, but it’s a project and I don’t want it finished too quickly!

      It was meant to be Mediterranean in feel but it’s slowly becoming jungly. You’ll find a few posts I’ve written about it, including this one:

      First priority with the tree is to salvage it. If I could not I would tend to replace it as it’s so beautiful and fast growing.

  4. It was lovely! So nice to see your garden in the flesh, so’s to speak. And I agree with the first comment, you’d make a great presenter on the show. Your plants always look so fabulously healthy! A same about the tree though. Awfully windy here today and supposedly worse tonight, but so far no casualties, touch wood!

    1. Main issue for me with the tree was that the ground was wet and the tree was like a sail. The wind so rarely hits us from that direction but it ripped around the house gathering speed and took the tree out.

      Never mind, worse things happen at sea! Looking forward to visiting some Cornish gardens this weekend 😊🤞🏻

  5. You did a fantastic job on GW – sitting there chatting about it as though you did tv on a daily basis! Fabulous garden. Love the idea of more videos.

    1. I think my professionalism was down to good editing!

      The Beau starts his training to be my official cameraman / producer / director this weekend. Let’s hope he’s still my Beau afterwards 😂

  6. Just managed to find your segment on GW on youtube. Magic! Agree with others that you should be signed up pronto. Such great enthusiasm and knowledge, it makes me want to get out there and into it.
    My only quibble is the segment was way too short, there was so much more I wanted to see and hear so roll on the videos.
    Devastating about your beautiful tree but I don’t doubt that you find the silver lining. Cheers and so well done.

    1. Thank you Anna! The segment had to be short as it was in one of the 30 minute shows rather than the 60 minute shows that are aired later in the season. It would have been nice to have included more of the footage as there were some good bits that did not make it, but that’s TV and I am not disappointed at all.

      Enjoy your garden – spring will be underway in no time!

  7. Your garden is fantastic! I always admire jungle gardens safe in the knowledge that I would never attempt one myself, so they are a completely uncomplicated pleasure.

    1. Thank you Ruth. There is that advantage. I could never have one of those painfully contemporary gardens myself. I can view those with detached admiration for the levels of constraint required to make them. Dan

  8. I was excited to see that your segment was on youtube. It was fun to hear your voice. I will hear you now as I read your postings. You speak so clearly and you know your plants intimately so it is quite the pleasure to hear you speak about them. Now we anxiously await spring. It is taking its time getting here this year.

    1. The British climate likes to tease us about the arrival of spring. It offers us a number of false starts before finally getting things underway. This time last year we were heading back into the deep freeze ourselves.

      So pleased you can now put a voice to the words and that the two tally up. Lovely comments, thank you Lisa.

  9. I was interested to see that you bring lilies indoors during the winter. I live in the mountains in British Columbia and grow all sorts of lilies (Asiatics, Orientals, etc) here which stay in the ground all year round. I am in zone 5 so temperatures down to -20C but usually, not always, good snow cover. Dahlias, fuchsias and begonias are lifted and brought indoors but not the lilies.

    1. It’s purely because they are grown in pots, and these can freeze from the outside. Also I want to clear the space for spring flowering bulbs. Many of my lily pots are stashed down the side of a fence in the open, where they are protected from the worst of the weather.

      The reason I don’t grow all my lilies in the ground is that I am on chalk, which is only good for martagons. In pots I can use ericaceous compost and grow orientals. Dan

  10. I just found the program on YouTube last night and was thrilled that it was the episode with you in it. It was lovely to see your garden “live” and especially after you gave us a preview of what shooting for TV is like compared to what shows up. You were relaxed and so pleasant to watch and listen to on camera. Nice job and great garden!

    1. Thank you Linda. Very kind. It’s crazy how much effort goes into these short snippets of TV. I’m glad you got the flavour of the garden. I’d love to do more presenting, although I am not sure where I would find the time from! Have a super weekend. Dan

  11. I was very excited to catch you on GW. Your Garden looks just as good on film as it does in stills. Thank you for sharing on the blog, instagram and now TV. (Have I missed anywhere else?)

    I have a question please- you’ve said that your garden is small and mostly container grown. How do you manage your green waste and spent compost from the containers? Do you have a well hidden compost heap?

    1. I don’t, no. I wish I had. I keep considering options, but small compost heaps are notoriously difficult to maintain successfully and I have no-where to put one.

      Spent compost I put on the beds, but I can only do that so often without them overflowing. I also have to watch for vine weevil. Everything else goes to the tip for composting.

      I do also have a Frustrated Gardener Facebook page on which I share some content that does not fit elsewhere, then your social media suite will be complete 🙂 Dan

  12. Dan, your garden is what we all seek but rarely achieve oasis. You are a natural GW presenter ! Excellent camera work meant . ..feels like we’ve all visited your garden. Where can I ask did you get that Coleus Henna from? Might fit in a trip around your local plant nurseries around your NGS open day. P.S: sorry to hear about your tree.wait to hear what you do with the space

    1. Hi There. Thanks for the lovely comment. As for Coleus ‘Henna’, I doubt you will find it available commercially anywhere until later in spring. Then a few wholesalers carry it, mainly to sell on to nurseries. When I can track down a source I will write a post and let everyone know. I will also endeavour to have some plants for sale at my next opening, no promises mind! Have a lovely weekend. Dan

  13. The (fernleaf) (Santa) Catalina ironwood is an odd one. They are grown from seed, so are all genetically variable. Some do quite will in the garden, while others never get going too strongly. It seems like an odd choice for your garden, where you grow so many unusual plants. No one seems to know why that particular ironwood is the popular one, or even where it came from. The one that it native to Santa Catalina Island looks nothing like that, and has simple leaves. We know that one as ‘fernleaf Santa Catalina ironwood’. It is a big name for a tree that does not get too big.

  14. I don’t have a tv but I eventually managed to catch up with the programme. Your garden looked fantastic and I was very impressed with your confident commentary. You are a ‘natural’.

    1. Thanks very much. I get quite a lot of practice with work, so fortunately I don’t find being in front of the camera too daunting. I’m so pleased you managed to catch up with the programme.

  15. i did enjoy seeing your garden on Gardener’s world and I was wondering if you open your garden for private visits. I run a gardening group with my WI and we visit many local gardens and we would love to see yours.

  16. Hi, loved seeing your garden on GW. We are just revamping our own garden and it’s given me so many ideas. Although trying to implement some of those in Manchester might be interesting!!! So sorry to see the storm damage though. I hope you manage to salvage what you want to.

    Can I pick your brains and ask what is the plant to left of the tree that has come down – the one with the long, almost spiky leaves?

    1. Hi Dawn. I think you’re looking at Beschorneria yuccoides if it has silvery leaves. It produces amazing pink and green flower spikes.

      Good luck with your garden plans Dawn. Try a few things and see what happens. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Dan

      1. Thanks for getting back to me Dan. It looks greener in your photos but it could just be the lighting. If my garden looks half as good as yours I’ll be very happy. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Dawn

  17. Hello, I really enjoyed seeing your garden on GW – its an inspiration! I recently watched the programme again and would love to know where you got your main garden table and chairs from – the wooden rectangular one? Would ask you in person at your open day, but unfortunately I can’t make that date. All the best, Rachel

    1. Hello Rachel. The main garden table was from John Lewis. It’s reclaimed teak. I believe they sold it for one season only unfortunately, and that was some years ago now. The chairs are called Air by a company called Magis and are available from lots of places. They come in various colours, they stack and are incredibly easy to keep clean.

      I’m sorry you can’t make my open garden and hope you’ll come another time. Dan

  18. Hello Rachel, love your programme, I wonder can you through any light on an occurance I came across recently, I bought some what I thought were flower seed recently from a well known high street shop , I sowed them as per normal last year, I noticed some of them were very unusual, at least to me as I’m no expert, I didn’t think much of it, however, yesterday I was in the garden and I noticed a bee was ‘traped’ in one of these plants, it looked intoxicated and what looked like ‘lashes’ had enclosed around it not unlike a ‘Venus fly trap’ is the best way to descibe it, I released it and it came around and it flew of, but in light of the rarity of some bees in recent times, what do you think?

    1. Hi David. I’m most certainly not Rachel (de Thame?) but nevertheless I don’t think you have a problem here. Very few plants trap bees for food although some have evolved to keep them captive while pollination takes place. The nectar of some plants can also have a narcotic effect.

      Keep sowing those bee-friendly flowers but perhaps try a different variety next time? Dan

  19. Can anyone tell me why wasps are drilling through the closed buds of my Mortimer Sackler rose bush which I have planted in a Huge half beer barrel. The wasps seem to be burrowing into the centre of each bud and eating the unfired petals before it opens. Can you tell me why and what I can do to stop them please?
    Regards, Christine, hugely disappointed!

  20. Hi. I saw a green lavender on GW, with an unusual scent. I believe Monty was planting it. I’ve forgotten the name of it. Would be able to tell me what it was please? Many thanks.

  21. When I bought this house I ‘inherited’ a taller than house holly tree.
    A right bugger when the kids were running round in bear feet and finding dead leaves I’d missed but…it’s wondeful (normally).

    I’m used to it being ‘looking dead’ at time but this year it seems ‘very dead’ – no berries for Christmas and little sign of life now.

    Anything I should/might be able to do to ‘invigarte’ the old girl !

    1. Hi Mike. A holly tree should not look dead at any time of the year – I am imagining you are observing brown leaves and no sign of green buds or shoots? That is not usual in an evergreen tree. If that’s the case then you should leave your tree until the summer before giving up hope as it may reshoot in spring. If you can reach a branch and scratch away the bark surface with a finger nail that would help. If it’s green underneath the tree is alive. If it’s brown underneath it could be dead. Try a few for good measure.

      If your tree is still green then it should be fine. There are many reasons for non-production of berries, including drought, late frosts in spring, heavy pruning and lack of male hollies to pollinate. Female hollies bear berries and need a male holly to pollinate them. If you had one nearby that’s been removed or has died, that could be the cause. Dan

  22. In season 6 there was a pink flower featured frequently. I describe it as kind of an upside-down tulip with textured petals which on screen appeared nearly a checked pattern. Please help me identify this flower. I’m not big on pink flowers but I love this one.

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