Garden experts turn over a new leaf for 2016

Alan Titchmarsh.
Alan Titchmarsh.

If your New Year resolution involves spending more time in your garden, whether working in it or enjoying some valuable downtime, you’re not alone. These popular garden experts have big plans for 2016...

:: TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh, Waitrose gardening expert, says:

“ My New Year resolution is to be more restrained when I visit nurseries and garden centres. Like all gardeners I can’t resist an impulse buy and so I end up with a group of plants in containers that sit alongside my potting shed for weeks or even months waiting for a home. This year, I will only buy a plant if I know where I can put it. It’s a noble aim, of course, but I very much doubt that I shall live up to it. I mean, if you see a gorgeous plant - especially if you don’t already have it in your garden - it is hard not to take it home. As Oscar Wilde famously said: ‘I can resist everything except temptation’. Especially when it comes to plants!”

:: Garden designer and TV presenter Joe Swift, who will be designing Horatio’s garden (www.horatiosgarden.org.uk), a charity garden at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 2016, says:

“I’ve only got a small garden and have put in a tiny garden office and I’m hoping to do some of my writing and garden design from the garden to change my perspective. I will be changing the garden significantly next year, putting in shrubs and some exotics, including a hardy Vietnamese schefflera and pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’, which is a lovely mounded evergreen plant, and a buddleia or two to attract butterflies. For years my garden has been quite grassy and flowery and I’ve decided I need more structure because I look out on it 12 months of the year and it needs a bit more permanence in the winter.”

:: Christine Walkden, The One Show’s resident expert gardener, says:

“My New Year resolution is to put far more organic matter on to my vegetable garden. I tried the ‘no dig’ method this year as I’ve hurt my back gardening and it seems successful. I’m virtually self-sufficient in veg, but I’m going to put three inches of compost on the vegetable garden to keep that going.”

:: Pippa Greenwood, a regular on BBC Gardeners’ Question Time, who offers advice from her website www.pippagreenwood.com, says:

“This year was not my best gardening year and I’m determined to make 2016 so much more productive. First I must stop putting off boring jobs and start tackling problems immediately. This includes putting up a better deer barrier around my vegetable plot. Last year, the runner beans were eaten to ground level and, because I wasn’t quick enough in my attempts to find and block their entry point, they got in again a few days later and did a lot more damage. I ended up having to buy runner beans from the supermarket - horrible compared to my usual delicious, stringless home-grown beans!”

:: Plantsman and designer Chris Beardshaw, who is designing The Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, says:

“Living in the high Cotswolds means that spring is often quite late arriving with us and, for many years, I have wanted to have a glasshouse built which would be invaluable in helping me get a head start with all my seedlings each year. Also, at the end of the year, a glasshouse would be perfect for overwintering some of my more tender specimens which struggle with the Cotswolds’ often freezing temperatures. So my resolution has to be to make a glasshouse a reality for 2016!”

:: James Wong, horticulturist, author, ethnobotanist and ambassador for Fiskars, says:

“I am not one for making New Year resolutions. However, one of the most notable observations for me this summer was how many of my annual veg crops self-seeded, and more importantly, actually produced an edible harvest from these ‘spontaneous’ seedlings. Everything from tomatoes to New Zealand spinach, rocket to tomatillos popped up in a bed I hadn’t got around to weeding, providing small but tasty harvests. Next year instead of sowing all these from scratch, I am going to run an experiment to see if weeding between these self-sown plants will provide me with comparable harvests for far less work. Watch this space.”

BEST OF THE BUNCH - Winter cherry (Solanum)

These fruiting houseplants are widely available over the festive season, their tiny white flowers followed by orange-red berries above deep green leaves, which brighten up any windowsill. The plants should be kept in a cool place in bright light and the berries can last for several months in the right conditions. They should be watered moderately, keeping the compost moist, but not wet at all times, and the leaves should be misted regularly. Solanum can be pruned back in late winter and kept almost dry until spring. You can stand them outdoors in summer, bringing them back inside in autumn.