Nardozzi: In an English garden

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(HOST) When commentator Charlie Nardozzi travels, he likes to collect new ideas for his garden at home – and best of all – he’s willing to share.

(NARDOZZI) If you’re a gardener, England is a paradise. On a recent visit I was struck by the beauty and diversity of the plantings in that country. Like any good gardener, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and varieties. After a week in Britain I came away with a few handy tips to try.

Since I was in England in late spring, the sweet peas and garden peas were growing vigorously. One great idea I saw was the use of live saplings fashioned into a trellis for these aggressive climbers. They cut  one-half inch diameter live saplings of easily bendable trees, such as poplar and willow, from the forest. Then they pushed the thick end of 4 or 5 saplings into the soil, so they formed a dome-like, peaked teepee, and tied the tops in an arching fashion with string. Any side branches were left to fill in between the sapling pillars. The sweet peas, garden peas, pole beans, and clematis I saw growing on these rustic trellises were thriving. Plus, they were much more appealing to the eye than my green-coated metal poles.

At the Chelsea Flower Show, one of the big trends I noticed was the use of green walls in the show gardens. These walls were made of plastic, metal, or wood and had spaces to plant a variety of greenery. In one shady garden I saw ferns, coleus, and begonias covering the wall. In a sunnier garden, different colored and textured lettuces were the featured plants. Green walls are a great idea for those gardening with limited space.

Pests are always a concern, and in one formal garden I found a very informal slug control: wool. In seems the scratchiness of the wool repels these little creatures. I saw hosta plants encircled with sheep’s wool. The plants seemed cozy, and the leaves were damage-free. I thought of all the sheep in Vermont and how, if I had a neighbor raising these wooly animals, I might ask for some of the trimmings.

Finally, there were many new varieties of plants to discover. Obviously, England is much warmer than Vermont, so many of the rhododendrons, camellias, and wisteria varieties that were in full bloom wouldn’t thrive in our climate. However, annual plants are definitely worth a try. I’m a big vegetable gardener, and I was struck by the beauty of the fava or broad bean. These cool-weather-loving plants thrive as a fall, winter, and spring crop in England. With Vermont’s cool summers, they can be planted here right now. At one historic garden they were growing an heirloom variety called ‘Crimson’ with strikingly attractive red-colored flowers. I was so taken by this variety, as soon as I returned home I scoured the Internet and actually found a source for the seeds. They’re growing in my vegetable garden as we speak – with the promise of beauty and tasty beans to come.

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